Changes in Ball Canning can destabilize the Craft Beer Industry | MCU Times

Changes in Ball Canning can destabilize the Craft Beer Industry

A shortage of aluminum cans that has hampered craft breweries across the country for the past twelve months took a turn for the worse this week as Ball Corporation unveiled new order restrictions that could have far-reaching – perhaps devastating – consequences for both breweries and consumers.

The Broomfield-based company is one of several major manufacturers that have not been able to keep up with the demand for cans due to changing drinking habits among consumers caused by the pandemic – basically that people drink at home more often than at. rods, resulting in a great need for more cans.

For many small and medium-sized craft breweries – some of which had never packed their beer before the pandemic – conservation was a lifeline for their businesses during repeated shutdowns and closures of taps by 2020. Being able to continue selling beer to go helped them get also until 2021.

But this week, Ball began announcing dozens, if not hundreds, of breweries across the country that they will now be required to order five times as many printed cans as before to continue trading with Ball.

click to enlarge Ball Corporation is the nation's largest can manufacturer.  - BALL CORPORATION

Ball Corporation is the nation’s largest can manufacturer.

Ball Corporation

“Demand for sustainable aluminum beverage packaging continues to grow at an accelerated pace. Ball is making investments to bring additional capacity online, and in the meantime we will remain in a tightly limited supply environment for the foreseeable future,” the company wrote in a letter received. of Colorado Breweries this week. “To more efficiently serve our non-contracted customer base, with effect from 1 January 2022, when supply is available, we will require a minimum order of five truckloads per SKU for printed cans and we will no longer be able to store stock on behalf of our customers. ”

Previous order minimum was 204,000 – enough to fit on a single semi-truck. This minimum is now 1,020.00 cans, far beyond what most beer producers need or can afford or even store. Even some of the largest craft breweries in Colorado do not need a million cans of each of their brands printed in a year, while many smaller ones do not go through a million cans in total in a year.

Ball said customers who do not want to order as many cans can instead go through one of four distributors who will be able to store and resell cans. These companies can also add shrink wrap labels, even though shrink wrap makes the cans non-recyclable. (That part is ironic, breweries point out, given how much public push Ball makes for recyclability at the newly renamed Ball Arena.)

But going through one of these distributors will make canning and labeling extremely expensive, say the owners of breweries like Dry Dock, Denver Beer Co., Upslope and others.

“It triples our spending,” he says Denver Beer Co. co-founder Patrick Crawford. “It would be cheaper to buy five truckloads of cans and send four of them back to the recycling plant … and that means breweries will have to raise the price of a six-pack by thirty percent just to be able to stay in business.”

It also means breweries may not be able to make and sell as many of the fun but limited beers that people enjoy as DBC’s Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Porter, he adds.

Kevin DeLange, co-owner of Dry dock brewing, says the impact will be huge. “It’s going to be painful. Prices are going to go through the roof.” Dry Dock has several planned new releases coming out in 2022 that DeLange is not sure he will be able to launch now. “For them to drop this for us six weeks out, I can not believe the short notice, especially after craft breweries really embraced cans.”

To keep things going, breweries in Colorado and across the country are now struggling to come up with alternatives. Some try to find other can manufacturers, though many of them either do not take on new customers or even experience capacity shortages. Breweries are also exploring other ways to label their cans, but most of these options are unaffordable or may not work from a time point of view, says Henry Wood, director of sales and marketing for Upslope Brewing.

click to enlarge Breweries like Dry Dock are struggling to find alternatives.  - TØRDOCK BREWING

Breweries like Dry Dock are struggling to find alternatives.

Dry dock brewing

A few breweries, such as River North Brewery and Sleeping Giant, have been notified who will not be able to order new cans with effect from October 15, 2021 and for the foreseeable future.

“First we will look for alternative sources of cans. We are lucky to also have a bottler that we can switch to if the shortage lasts too long. I hope we do not have to go that route,” says Nordfloden founder Matthew Hess. “[It] is frustrating because the largest breweries can continue to thrive, while medium-sized and small breweries can be shut out of one of them … the rapid shift from bottles to cans. ”

Ball spokesman Scott McCarty did not return emails for comment.

On Thursday, the craft beer industry’s industry group, Bryggeriforeningen, issued a warning to its members, and said that “Moving a large proportion of sales of small brewery aluminum cans to brokers has the potential to increase prices for small brewers (through increased brokerage fees, additional labeling costs and increased transportation costs), increase delivery times and potentially reduce the availability of cans for smaller brewers. , which can no longer meet the minimum requirements. ”

BA said it will continue to monitor the situation and is committed to “acting where possible.”

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