Ambev’s canmaking plant in Brazil still on target

Ambev's canmakig plant in Brazil will be completed by the end of 2020. Picture: Ribeiro Caram

Brewer Ambev expects to complete the construction of its beverage can plant in Brazil by the end of 2020, despite delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The US$175 million self-manufacturing project, first announced last August, is a first for a brewer in South America, where canmakers Ardagh, Ball, Canpack and Crown are competing for a growing market of almost 40 billion cans a year.

The plant has been constructed on a 45,000 sqm site near Ambev’s Sete Lagoas brewery, which it will supply with cans along with the brewery at Juatuba, near Belo Horizonte in the central Minas Gerais region north of São Paulo.

Two high-speed canmaking lines and an end-making facility are being installed with initial capacity expected to be about 1.5bn aluminium cans and ends a year, with room for expansion.

A spokesperson for Ambev told The Canmaker: “In Sete Lagoas, due to the pandemic, Ambev had to reduce the speed of the construction, respecting all security and hygiene measures put in place, but we will be finished by the end of the year.”

The civil engineering for the plant is being provided by São Paulo-based company Ribeiro Caram. It has not been revealed which project engineering firm is installing the canmaking lines.

At the inauguration of the canmaking plant’s construction last year, president of Cervejaria Ambev Bernardo Paiva said: “We are very happy to announce the start of construction of the first can factory for a beverage company in Brazil, which will initially supply our operations in the south east. This initiative will help us to deliver the growing volume in Brazil.”

Ambev’s leading beer brand is Brahma, but because the brewer is a part of the Anheuser-Busch InBev global brewing empire other brands such as Budweiser could be produced.

Brazil is the world’s third largest beer market after China and the US, but Ambev’s leading share slipped from 68 per cent in 2014 to 59 per cent last year as competitors have made acquisitions. In 2017 Heineken bought Kirin’s loss-making brewing business, doubling its share to 17.8 per cent, since when the Dutch-based brewer has increased this to 21.7 per cent.

Over the past five years, beer demand has increased by 6.5 per cent a year, but this growth has been interrupted this year by the coronavirus pandemic.

The canmaking plant investment is one of many that Ambev has made in the Minas Gerias region, allocating R$2.2bn in its operations at Uberlândia, Juatuba and Sete Lagoas, in addition to distribution centres.