​Dealing With a Can Crunch? Check Out These Options

Although a mass majority of breweries across the US don’t order printed cans by the truckload, some do and the crunch of changes in the industry are being felt. Ball’s initial announcement followed by changing the timeline to alleviate some snafus still doesn’t impact most breweries directly, but as Colorado Brewers Guild Executive Director Shawnee Adelson pointed out, working with brokers who are controlling ordering and supplying cans to many will be felt.

“No matter how you look at it, the costs of cans will be going up for Colorado’s craft breweries,” she said to Brewer. Speaking on behalf of the state, it echoes a sentiment that is heard around the country. “As an industry, craft breweries have been severely impacted by the pandemic. Many of them have put more energy and resources into canning their beer, as a way to safely get their product to consumers.

“Given the increased costs they have already experienced since the pandemic started, most of them will likely not be able to absorb the 30-40% cost increase and will have to increase their prices.”

During conversations over the past few months, we have heard some options for the future and wanted to share those here.

Digital Printed Cans

Kevin Walke, the Packaging Director for Rhinegeist, mentioned this new idea and how it’s starting to catch on during a session at the 2022 Ohio Craft Brewers Conference recently.

“A 12-ounce can might be as high as 17 cents, or more than that for blank or bright and then a label on top of that,” he said. “The cool thing about these digitally printed cans is you can order by the layer, and there’s no minimum order quantity. You can order four layers of cans for an IPA or lager or it could be a rarity thing, or it could be your bulk. And that’s huge.”

In fact, if you start weighing the price per can, plus excess labels it may be just as cost-efficient.

The proof process has been about two weeks and there’s no minimum order quantity. It can make for a pretty attractive option.

“The problem with labels is you have minimum order quantities,” Walke said, “and you’re going to have tiered pricing on that. So you could be paying less per label as you get more volume, but there’s still gonna be a minimum of 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 labels that you need to hit certain price tiers.

“I guarantee, if you’re anything like us, we have this problem too, that you’re probably ordering more labels than you need. And you have more loss in that way. “

Back to Bottles?​

There is a possibility that 12-ounce bottles could come back into play.

“Breweries that still have bottling lines will more easily be able to make this shift,” said Jim Mackay, the CEO for Ska Fabricating. “Others that scrapped their bottling lines to install can lines, will have to deal with those challenges.

“In general, I don’t think that there will be a massive shift back to glass.”

Large format glass, like bombers, coming back into play will be a stretch, and Mackay said that 22 ounces of a higher ABV product aren’t as appealing as it used to be.

Invest in a Labeler

Mackay said that adding labeling capabilities in-house is the cheapest, fastest, ROI in this situation.

“Can decorators are going to have to expand rapidly to meet the immediate demand,” he told Brewer. “Some of them have already opened up sales of blank cans where they were not previously offering that as an option. Cost and space sharing for bulk can purchases with other local breweries will help.”

He added that digital can printing is an option that is rapidly coming together.

“The cost savings are not comparable to a Ball printed can, but as the technology continues to develop and as they ramp up their speed, costs will come down and they will be a great option in the future,” he said.

Look Overseas

Looking at companies overseas or in Mexico may hurt to look at the price per can, but you have to sell beer to make money, Walke said. Just be sure to check specs prior to ordering.

“Weigh them against the specs for your normal cans supplier,” he said. “If they’re within a couple thousandths of an inch [in the can flange], you’re probably going to be okay. … And make sure it runs the lid that you know you’re compatible with, but you shouldn’t have any issues as long as you’re consistent with your lids.”

​The biggest takeaway is that with new can manufacturers looking to ​build new plants, making it through these next two to three years may feel a pinch and prices could rise. The hope is that these prices will stabilize and smaller breweries won’t have to feel as much of the pinch in the end.

Photo courtesy Champion Brewing

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