Can shortages prompt craft brewers to seek alternative sizes

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The beverage can shortage in the US has left craft brewers scouting for whatever metal packaging they can lay their hands on to supply growing home consumption of their beers.

Makers of micro-canning lines for the independent brewers said they’ve been overwhelmed with calls from customers asking if their equipment can be adapted to fill cans of different sizes and even asking them to bring in cans from overseas clients.

“What we’re seeing is people starting to look for other can sizes that aren’t in as short supply,” Josh Van Riper at Twin Monkeys Canning in Colorado told The Canmaker. “They ping us to see if the canning line they have – or want – can run that can size. Luckily our machines are quite versatile when it comes to setup for different can heights, diameters, and even different lid sizes, so often it’s pretty easy to accommodate them.”

Codi Craft Canning System, also based in Colorado, echoed the comments.

“The can shortage has raised some interesting questions – ‘Can we run 330ml cans from Asia, Australia, or Europe?’, for instance,” sales manager Jared Jones told The Canmaker. “We are working with some of our larger customers outside the US to help bring some cans into the country to help our customers based here get their hands on cans.”

Despite canmakers in North America ramping up capacity to meet demand for canned beverages smaller customers are still struggling to source cans. Even soft-drinks giants such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are reportedly feeling the pinch, limiting output of some of their less-popular beverages. The Can Manufacturers Institute, a US-based trade group, said the shortfall was such that about two billion cans will need to be imported into the US this year.

The shortage has been caused by surging sales of new low-calorie soft drinks and hard seltzers, as well as the growing popularity of ready-to-drink products such as pre-mixed cocktails and coffee. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem as lockdowns have encouraged shoppers to buy more packaged beverages to consume at home.

Craft brewers have been particularly affected, having less financial clout than their larger rivals to secure dwindling can supplies. Many had recently switched to packaging in cans when lockdowns forced the closure of the bars and restaurants that had provided the majority of their keg- and cask-based revenue.

Micro-canning equipment is favoured by craft brewers because it is relatively inexpensive for the short runs they generally need. The in-line fillers can handle up to 100 cans per hour and are often mobile, enabling them to be shared among smaller brewers.
Jones said that with beverage sales increasing, Codi had seen a rise in orders for its equipment.

“It is hard to tell if the pandemic is impacting business because internationally sales are extremely strong,” he said. “In particular, Europe and Australia have recently picked up ordering. With the Southern Hemisphere moving towards summer we typically see the uptick in orders for the next three months in those areas.”