Apr 29, 2021 - News
Can demand, aluminum shortage continue to plague beverage industry
Ska Brewing is putting labels over preprinted cans to manage the shortage.
Ska Brewing is putting labels over preprinted cans to manage the shortage. Photo courtesy of Ska Brewing

The prolonged aluminum can shortage won't end anytime soon, the chief executive of Ball Corp. tells Axios, quashing the hopes of brewers for a return to normal.

  • "This year is going to continue to be challenging," says John Hayes, the CEO at the Broomfield-based can giant.

What's happening: A surge in demand for cans amid the pandemic, paired with a shortage of aluminum, continues to plague the beverage industry.

  • The lighter weight and convenience of cans makes it the preferred packaging for new beverage lines, from carbonated water and seltzers to wine and cocktails.
  • The competition is pinching brewers, particularly small ones who've shifted from serving beer over the bar to packaging brews due to pandemic shutdowns.

Flashback: Some Colorado brewers adapted by affixing new labels on preprinted cans and others even moved back to glass bottles last summer.

  • "It's certainly not going to be the clean look we're known for," Dave Thibodeau, Ska Brewing's founder, said at the time.

What's new: Ball Corp., the world's largest supplier of beverage cans, is investing more than $1.5 billion to increase capacity to meet demand that Hayes says the industry hasn't seen since the 1970s.

  • Ball makes more than 350 million cans a day at its facilities around the world.
  • Yes, but: "Until the new capacity is up and running, it's going to continue to be challenging" to meet demand, Hayes added.

Of note: To address the supply shortage for can makers, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican whose Colorado district includes more than 50 breweries, reintroduced legislation to investigate price setting and ensure a fair market for purchases.

  • "These breweries and other beverages companies are currently experiencing unfair market prices for aluminum prices," Rep. Buck said in a statement.
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