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Hunter Brown, Brown Distributing Company

Episode 15 | August 14, 2018

Hunter Brown explains how his dad’s purchase of a single Budweiser truck in 1962 has become the #1 beer distributor in Austin today. Brown Distributing Company is also a leader in environmental sustainability and community support. Hunter talks to hosts Kyle Frazier and Sherren Harter about the company’s efforts to reduce costs and protect the environment with LED lighting, solar power from Freedom Solar Power, comprehensive recycling programs, and fleet management.

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Growing Up in the Beer Business

J. Dan Brown started Brown Distributing Company in 1962 at the age of 26 with a single truck delivering three Anheuser-Buch brands, and today his business is the number one beer distributor in Austin with a portfolio of craft, import, and non-alcoholic beverages. His son Hunter Brown grew up in the family business and began driving a route in La Grange. Today, Hunter is helping to lead the company into the future with sustainability initiatives that are improving the bottom line and helping to protect the environment.

A Cleaner, Greener, More Efficient Warehouse

Hunter explains that the company’s largest energy consumption comes from their controlled environment warehouse (CEW), which is required to stay below a certain temperature. That requires a lot of power, especially during the hot summer months. The company has worked with Austin Energy to reduce some of that usage through the utility’s Load Cooperative voluntary program and an LED lighting retrofit. Hunter notes that the changes have not only made the warehouse more energy efficient, it has also improved the working environment. “The overall lighting for our warehouse is much better,” he says. “The coverage is better. The visibility is better. The cost of electricity has been less. It’s more sustainable.”

In addition to reducing electricity usage, Brown Distributing Company is powering its warehouse with renewable energy through a combination of Austin Energy’s GreenChoice® program and a brand new 481-kilowatt (kW) commercial solar power system, which was just interconnected last week.

The array of 1,458 SunPower® commercial solar panels will generate 658,014 kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable electricity each year, the equivalent of switching 16,389 incandescent light bulbs to LEDs. It will also save the company almost $2 million over 25 years. The system will pay for itself in less than five years and provide an internal rate of return of more than 14 percent.

To Hunter, solar power is remarkable in providing “renewable energy while allowing us to make a return, which is huge.” The improving paybacks on solar and the prospect of sunsetting local rebates made the decision easy. He has even put solar on his own house!

A Cleaner Community with Less Waste

Brown Distributing Company has worked closely with Balcones Resources to set up programs to recycle as many materials as possible in their supply chain and operations. That includes the plastic wrapping around the pallets of beer that are delivered, all returns and empty boxes, and since last year even broken glass recycling. “We do as much as we can recycling-wise.”

A Cleaner Fleet

The next big sustainability challenge for the company is their 420-vehicle fleet, which includes 65 delivery trucks covering 60 routes. Hunter notes that they have been exploring a transition to natural gas fuel, a cleaner-burning and less expensive alternative fuel as compared to gasoline. Unfortunately, the infrastructure to support a fast-fill system is not yet available in Austin.

In the meantime, the company has invested in software systems to reduce idling time and optimize routes for peak efficiency.

A More Sustainable Future

Brown Distributing has already taken significant actions that position the company as a sustainability leader in the beverage distributing industry, including LED lights, a peak load management partnership with the local utility, renewable energy, onsite solar panels, and fleet management. As they continue and expand these initiatives, their positive impact on the environment and our community will continue long into the future.

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