The can shortage continues. To be more correct, the everything shortage continues, but aluminum packaging in particular for craft breweries is becoming a strangle point in the supply line. The shortage has many factors. It actually has deeper roots than the pandemic, starting nearly a decade ago as beer packaging has steadily shifted away from bottles to favor cans. Aluminum manufacturers were barely keeping up with demand pre-pandemic. Read our previous article on it.
But our new COVID economy has amped up demand for cans in multiple beverage industries (especially small breweries, which shifted heavily to packaging when pubs closed). Intensifying all these factors, Ball Corp., the world’s biggest manufacturer of aluminum beverage cans, announced last November a new minimum order requirement for aluminum packaging — five truckloads per SKU for printed cans for non-contracted customers. That’s a minimum order of one million cans, folks. A lot of breweries use/used Ball. Plus, Ball announced it would no longer warehouse inventory on behalf of customers, begging the question where are small breweries going to store one million cans? In summary, it’s tough to find cans right now.
Indianapolis’ Sun King Brewing is feeling the can pinch, so they’re being innovative. If you’ve purchased a Sun King beer lately, you may have noticed a printed label placed over another one of its brands. The brewery explains:
Sun King has been labeling old cans intermittently for the last year or so due the shortage. We have been forced to be as resourceful as possible, which means using every available can we have in order to keep our beers on the market. While it may look a little odd, it has no effect on the flavor of our award-winning craft beers.
To make matters worse, our long-term can supplier announced at the end of 2021 that they were raising their minimum order of printed cans from one truckload (or 200,000 cans) to five truckloads (or 1 Million cans) per label/design. This new policy favors large breweries, brewery groups, and beverage companies who can afford not only to purchase such large quantities, but who also have floor space to store large quantities of cans. As a result, Sun King has gone from working with one can supplier to five-plus suppliers, each with their own minimums and label requirements.
If you have come across a Sun King beer that was labeled over, please know that there is nothing different or wrong with the beer inside. We have not attempted to relabel a different beer; It is because we are doing everything possible to overcome adversity and keep our beers flowing!
To explain any sticker shock, Sun King produced the excellent video up above. I love its clever detective vibe. It’s worth noting Sun King has an awesome video production team and an awesome YouTube page, which you should subscribe to right here.
Alas, the can shortage looks to continue. Like computer chips, lumber, steel and food of all sorts, aluminum packaging is listed on everyone’s Top Shortages of 2022 list. Breweries will need to work hard and be innovative. Sun King shows us a good example of both here.