Trappist Westvleteren now also delivered to Belgian homes
Monks launch e-commerce pilot project
19 January 2021
Since a year and a half, fans of Trappist Westvleteren can place an order via the website trappistwestvleteren.be. Until now, every order had to be picked up by the customer at the Abbey’s gate. This system continues to exist, but in addition, the monks of Saint Sixtus Abbey yesterday evening launched a pilot project whereby the beer can also be delivered to the home. Sales with collection at the gate remain the leading distribution channel. Only a limited quantity will be delivered to homes each month.
“About half of our Belgian clientele lives in the provinces of West and East Flanders. The other customers from Belgium often have to come from much further to pick up their order. That is why a working group at the Abbey has been thinking for some time about a wider customer reach,” says Brother Godfried, prior of St. Sixtus Abbey.
The sale of Trappist Westvleteren is the only source of income of the brothers of Saint Sixtus Abbey. In the spring of 2020, the monks were also confronted with the consequences of the economic lockdown. Brother Godfried: “For two months we couldn’t sell any Trappist beer at the abbey gate because only very essential travel was permitted. All kinds of alternatives were considered in order to bring Trappist Westvleteren to the consumer in case of another general lockdown. This resulted in a modified e-commerce pilot project, whereby we will have some of our beer stock delivered to the home via a parcel service. For the time being, we are only offering this new service to addresses in Belgium.”
Environmentally friendly packaging
The technical adjustments to the webshop were not that complicated. The project was a lot more difficult on the production side since both the bottling and the refermentation process are fully designed to the wooden crate. However, the monks were mainly concerned about shipping the beer without breakage and the sustainability aspect. Would it be wise to ship bottles in the iconic Trappist Westvleteren crate? The monks feared that a large number of the poplar wooden crates would never return to the Abbey.
“That is why, in cooperation with VPK, we designed a crate and a box made of 100% recycled cardboard, which passed the necessary drop tests. Together they weigh considerably less than a wooden crate,” says Brother Godfried.
“Thanks to the cooperation with a parcel service, less kilometres will have to be covered to get our beer to the consumers. Customers who live relatively far from the Abbey will be more inclined to choose the home delivery service. We expect that the new system will also contribute to an even wider and fairer distribution of our beers.”
Due to the labour-intensive nature of the recyclable cardboard crate, only a limited quantity of beers will be delivered to homes. The bulk of the production will continue to be sold by the monks in wooden crates at the gate.
As with all other sales of Trappist Westvleteren, no prior publicity was given to the start of the pilot project. In this way, the monks wanted to avoid the rush to the website becoming too great and the online shop crashing. Each sales session is announced a few days in advance on the brewery’s website.
About Trappist Westvleteren
According to the Rule of Saint Benedict, Trappists must earn their own living by manual labour. Brewing and selling beer is the only source of income for the monks of Saint Sixtus Abbey.
The Trappist beers of Westvleteren are in great demand. In June 2019, the monks replaced the 14-year-old ‘beer phone’ by a modern online reservation system. To give as many people as possible the chance to buy a crate, the monks have had a ‘smart’ waiting room built into the webshop. The system prioritises consumers who have placed an order some time ago or who have never placed an order, over customers who have ordered a crate more recently.
Every month, there are, on average, two sales moments with pick-up options. From now on, sales sessions with delivery options in Belgium will also be scheduled. Meanwhile, almost 110,000 private individuals have already registered. Usually, between 3000 and 5000 registered visitors log in during a sales session. The smart waiting room can handle these numbers relatively easily. However, there are proportionally many more prospective buyers for each online session than there are crates available. Those who would like to buy Trappist Westvleteren may therefore have to be patient.
Message to the editor: pictures are available via https://pr.trappistwestvleteren.be/media/album/11127.