Everyone’s familiar with the supply chain issues that have become a pandemic all their own, and consumers everywhere are feeling frustrated with the new “normal.” From toilet paper in 2020 to things like our favorite snacks, meat, and now aluminum, it seems there’s always something missing from the shelves these days.
The industry most affected by the can supply chain shortage, however, is craft beer. Breweries small and large are finding it near impossible to keep up with the demand for cans that have become a favorite since the pandemic started. Now, the main supplier of cans in the US has delivered another blow to these already delicate businesses.
Ball supplies the majority of canned beverages to merchants in the US, and that includes craft beer. On November 1, 2021, the supply giant announced: effective January 1, 2022, the minimum order for printed cans of beer would be increased from one to five truckloads per SKU. Obviously this is devastating to small brewery owners that have no way to keep up with that level of inventory.
On top of this, Ball added that they would no longer warehouse inventory for customers. Which has left breweries across the country scrambling to figure out what their next move will be. Though this decision has been postponed until March, breweries are still wondering how they’re going to keep up.
Below are a few suggestions on how brewery owners can handle this new rule, and hopefully keep their businesses alive amid the supply chain shortage:
How Brewers Can Combat the Can Supply Chain Shortage
Consider Sizing Down (Or Up)
As supplies dwindle with the aluminum shortage not showing any signs of improving in the near future, some breweries have made it work by changing their can sizes. This is a good temporary option for a lot of breweries. Especially when there’s only certain sizes available and you’ve got beer that needs to go somewhere before it stales.
This move could mean the difference between wasting tanks upon tanks of beer and getting it into the hands of customers. However, it might mean retrofitting your crowler to adapt to the change. It could even be a temporary fix if the new size doesn’t end up working out, as long as cans are being filled for the time being.
Change Your Labeling
In addition, some breweries have started buying blank cans (or brights) and creating their own labels. While this means spending money on labels or sleeves, it also means your beer gets canned. This is a great option to consider since printed aluminum is in greater demand than blank cans.
This is an opportunity to make cans more unique. You could change branding artwork and offer special prices as the new design is unveiled. This could help cans leave the shelves even faster! Keep in mind that plastic sleeves and vinyl labels aren’t recyclable which contributes to waste. However, it’s possible to avoid this by including printed recycling instructions on the packaging.
Mobile canners are another option. However, they will likely be more costly than the traditional suppliers that brewers regularly use. These companies will print and fill cans for breweries all over the country. This means that breweries get their beer into cans instead of watching it stale in the tanks. The reason for the mobile canners’ uptick in costs is to cover their shipping prices. They have to ship and import aluminum internationally due to the shortage in the US.
Breweries will also have to take care of commissioning their own artwork for these labels. This will add to cost. However, it could pay for itself in the branding sense. Unique labels that are eye-catching and fun spark interest and ultimately lead to sales. And who doesn’t want more of those?
The decision made by Ball to increase the minimum can order from one to five truckloads has been postponed until March. This is largely due to the public opposition they received when delivering the news. If brewery owners, staff, suppliers, customers and anyone else involved in the supply chain shortage get involved in this matter, it could make a difference in changing the decision.
As they say, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Now is the time to make opinions mean something. The very livelihood of breweries — small and large — is on the line thanks to this new rule. So, it’s definitely worth speaking up about. Having customers sign petitions, as well as writing letters to local politicians and even Ball itself can bring extra attention to the matter. Ultimately, this could lead to a change in heart.
Look Into Alternate Storage Options
There is also the possibility of acquiring additional cold storage to accommodate the new ordering rules. Assuming they go into effect, brewery owners might want to start looking into this as soon as possible.
This might not work for smaller breweries out there. But larger operations might find that the rent on additional cold storage is covered by the sales that come from having more canned beer available on demand. Facilities within a short distance will cost less to transport cans from. But even if the costs are higher, the cans will at least be moving in the right direction.
Making It Through the "Can-demic"
While the supply shortage and Ball’s new rules are understandably frustrating for breweries everywhere, there are ways to keep up through the supply shortage. Hopefully, the tips in this post will help those who deliver smiles through their craft beer to keep their doors open and continue selling their product — even during this challenging time.
Thankfully, this time will end eventually, and with it the supply shortages will also disappear. If breweries can somehow keep their heads above water for the time being, in the (hopefully) near future they can look back on this time and be proud of their companies for making it through.
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