Is a can shortage the next bump in the road for craft breweries?

Is a can shortage the next bump in the road for craft breweries?


By Mathew Muncy for Indiana On Tap

As the craft beer industry has grown, their suppliers have scaled along with them, but it seems the aluminum can industry has hit a wall.

Back in October, Crown Beverage Packaging started informing some of their craft beer clients that they would no longer be able to fill their printed can orders, according to a Brewbound article.

Craft breweries have turned to using cans over bottles partially because they can be more creative with their label designs. Limited shelf space in stores – something that might be dwindling even more with Anheuser-Busch’s incentive program for distributors – has pushed craft brewers to think outside the box, with more than just their beers. With labels, craft breweries are able to use the entire canvas to create an inviting design that catches the consumer’s eye.

In the past, Crown would sell small quantities of cans to their smaller craft brewery clients, but that’s changing. Now, Crown has upped their minimum orders to the industry standard of a truckload: 155,000 to 200,000 cans.

“Certainly we’ve seen some of our brewery members struggle in recent months,” Bart Watson, the chief economist at the Brewers Association, told the New York Times. “This has proven to be a real challenge for members that have built their business model around getting these cans.”

For smaller breweries, finding the extra storage space for that many cans causes a huge problem. In the same New York Times article, Ethan Long of Rockaway Brewing Company estimated they use around 6,000 cans a month. That would be 72,000 cans in a year, nowhere close to the truckload amount.


Here in Indiana, one brewery luckily has the storage space to store a truckload of cans, and likely won’t be affected by any can shortage.

“We have adequate storage, so it won’t impact us directly, but I can see it how it will create a huge bottleneck for smaller breweries,” said Simon O’Keeffe, head brewer for Evil Czech Brewery.

Breweries aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch from the can shortage; mobile canning companies have also been affected.

Andrew McLean, Owner/Operator of Indiana Mobile Canning and Michigan Mobile Canning, told me they’ve been impacted, but because they saw the shortage coming, they were able to adjust before it came to head.

“We have close relationships with several different can manufacturers in order to stay on top of the quickly-changing industry,” said McLean. “We’re pleased to say our clients have been minimally impacted thus far and that remains our goal going forward. We do as much of the legwork as possible to allow them to continue focusing on making the beer we enjoy so much.”

Currently the canning industry is dominated by large corporations, but could this canning shortage open the door for entrepreneurs? McLean thinks so.

“The fact that this shortage has been so well-publicized should result in some smart business people recognizing a need in an industry with extremely strong growth.”

Eventually things will work themselves out, like they did after the 2008 hops shortage, but until then consumers may have to grab their favorites brews at their respective brewery, instead of their local store.

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