Changes at Ball Canning Could Destabilize the Craft Beer Industry

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by snaotheus, Nov 19, 2021.

  1. snaotheus

    snaotheus Poo-Bah (5,380) Oct 6, 2008 Washington
    Society Trader

    https://www.westword.com/restaurants/ball-beer-can-shortage-12815172

    Mostly seems to be talking about upping the minimum order of printed cans from 204,000 (one truckload) to 1,020,000 (five truckloads), and no longer warehousing cans for buyers, which seems like it'll be a big challenge for those brewers doing printed cans and not going through a million of them in a relatively short period of time.
    Also, related to another ongoing thread, apparently yeah, shrink-wrapped cans shouldn't be recycled.
     
  2. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,253) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    We've previously read in these forums that Ball was responding to the demand for cans by installing new equipment. I wonder if they installed it in former warehouse space, thus they no longer are able to keep much of a supply on hand.
     
  3. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,253) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    For clarity I should have added at the end of my last paragraph, 'for the small orders'.
     
    Squire, BillAfromSoCal and Bitterbill like this.
  4. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,317) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    They've announced new plants, like this one in Nevada:
    and two others earlier this year:
     
  5. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,160) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    "Mostly seems to be talking about upping the minimum order of printed cans from 204,000 (one truckload) to 1,020,000 (five truckloads),..."

    That may be impactful to some of the larger, distributing craft breweries that use printed cans.

    Most of my small(er), local breweries use cans with paper labels glued on or shrink wrapped labels.

    Cheers!
     
    #5 JackHorzempa, Nov 19, 2021
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2021
  6. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,093) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    IIRC, when they announced the AZ plant last year, they said they were gonna focus on the tall, skinny 'energy drink' cans there. Not sure how much relief for the beer industry there would have been there anyway.
     
  7. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (4,543) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Society Trader

    Non-industry member here, but what would using these cans require as opposed to the standard 12oz or 16oz cans? Is it a lengthy process to convert equipment to the different shape? Is it a completely different set of equipment?

    It seems like Sixpoint uses or used these cans at one point too.
     
  8. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,093) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    It depends on exactly which equipment a given brewery has. 2 breweries in my town have the exact same filler, but one is set up for 12oz and the other 16. There's no practical way to switch back and forth. There are other machines that are set up for an easier change-over, but, as one would expect, they're much more expensive. Most smaller breweries who buy their own line, just choose a size and go with it.

    As to the Sixpoint cans, yeah, it would have to be a whole different line; the conveyors, guiderails, and chutes would have to adjusted, you would need a different filler altogether, a different inventory of lids, etc. And, there's no guarantee that Ball isn't gonna put the same order size restrictions on those cans.
     
  9. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (4,543) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Society Trader

    That's what I anticipated, but just wanted to verify.

    Thank you.
     
  10. dcotom

    dcotom Poo-Bah (2,823) Aug 4, 2014 Iowa
    Society Trader

    Seven-ounce brown glass bottles: It's Time.
     
  11. zid

    zid Poo-Bah (1,648) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

  12. woodychandler

    woodychandler Poo-Bah (12,122) Apr 9, 2004 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    I CAN't believe what this has all devolved into. I am sure that I will get blamed for all of it, but I had no CANcept of what might transpire when I beCAN The CANQuest (tm)! :astonished:
     
  13. snaotheus

    snaotheus Poo-Bah (5,380) Oct 6, 2008 Washington
    Society Trader

    Yeah, I think that's a key point.
     
  14. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,093) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    And, as mentioned in the recycling thread, a lot of smaller breweries deal with re-sellers. A brewery I'm familiar with only puts one beer into printed cans. The rest get labeled by a reseller up in the Vancouver BC area. It's more expensive, but if you only need 500 cases (12,000 cans) it's the only realistic way to go.
     
  15. Todd

    Todd Founder (6,510) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society Trader

    [​IMG]
     
  16. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (1,906) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader


    If ball had a plant dedicated to producing those cans wouldn't that free up capacity at their existing plants for making more typical beer can sizes?
     
    snaotheus and PapaGoose03 like this.
  17. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,093) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    According to the article I read a year ago (so, grains of salt) the demand for energy drink and seltzer cans is so great that the new plant isn't much relief.
     
  18. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (1,906) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Weird how easy it is to ignore the things we don't partake of. I never woulda guessed those skinny cans were soaring in demand
     
  19. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,317) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Wait a minute - I don't have access to their books, but an increase in the cost of an aluminum can triples their expenses? All their expenses? What about labor, ingredients, rent/mortgage, Federal and state taxes, marketing, shipping, wholesaler and retailer mark-up, etc. And that alone would increase the retail price by 30%? Just doesn't make any sense...

    Yeah, there's no doubt that "packaging" in general (usually estimated to account for 15 - 20% of the retail cost of beer on the macro level) is an often overlooked brewer's expense by consumers but it not the ONLY expense.

    IIRC, correctly a 7 oz. bottle costs about the same as 12 oz., so, essentially nearly doubling the packaging cost per ounce for the brewery. AB, MC and Constellation can probably afford it (although even those brewers' brands 8 X 7oz. packs are usually priced about the same as as their 6 X 12's aren't they?)

    Most every US brewery in the pre-craft era offered their flagship brands in 7 oz'ers BUT those were typically returnable/refillable bottles, used on average 10 - 25 times, so the initial expense of the new bottle was spread out.
    And those were pretty damn expensive - both for Anchor, I imagine, and then the consumer. I kinda remember them sitting (and sitting and sitting) in sixpacks for around $10-11 and when they started using the standard Anchor 12 oz. bottles the price remained the same?
     
    #19 jesskidden, Nov 20, 2021
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2021
  20. BillAfromSoCal

    BillAfromSoCal Devotee (400) Aug 24, 2020 California

    I sense hyperbole in the the original statement you referenced, because I agree with you that tripling total production cost seems highly unlikely. I suspect he was thinking of packaging costs and he was thinking of his related statement that it would be cheaper to send 4 of the 5 truckloads to the recycler, which means he only intended to use 1 truckload and the others were wasted because they hugely exceeded his need or ability to store them.
     
    Squire and snaotheus like this.
  21. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,317) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Yeah, I get it. But the "Chicken Little" reaction to such events (similar things were said back during the last hop shortage) by "craft" brewers starts to get tired. These guys are selling beer for 3 or 4 times what the macros are going for - "We don't have the economies of scale that AB has!" they moan. They now pay less Federal Excise Tax on a barrel of beer ($3.50 in 2021 dollars) than brewers did after Repeal ($5 in 1934 dollars), many sell a good portion of their barrelage from the brewery - thus pocketing the money that goes to retailers' and wholesalers' expenses and profits - and often rely on the use of "volunteer" labor, despite it being illegal under US labor law.

    So, as the industry moved to more and more can usage, the pandemic hit, Ball and the few other US can manufacturers (pretty much limited to Crown and Ardagh at this point IIRC ) were overwhelmed with increased demand and whatever shutdowns they experienced, so Ball felt they had to institute moves to protect their own business.
     
  22. snaotheus

    snaotheus Poo-Bah (5,380) Oct 6, 2008 Washington
    Society Trader

    I was curious about the manufacturing process, mostly because I was wondering about the practicality of delivering cans in a less fully-formed format that might take up less space. Unsurprisingly, one step in the process of making a can appears to be a flat disc (which seemed great in terms of shipping and storage). But there are many, many steps to go from a flat disc to a can, and I doubt that there are small, manageable devices that brewers could use to locally do it. This video seems fairly old, but probably the fundamentals of can manufacturing haven't changed much.



    Also, as a curiosity, an empty twelve ounce aluminum can weighs 14.9 grams according to quick and dirty Googling. A truckload of 204,000 cans would weigh 3,039,600 grams, which is about 6,700 pounds. A 16oz can would weigh more, but not much more.
     
    jonphisher and BBThunderbolt like this.
  23. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,654) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    Bring back the little guys, I'm in favor.
     
  24. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,093) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Back when I was an OTR driver, I ran a couple loads of plastic pop bottles from the manufacturer to the producer. And, they were shipped in miniature. The pop maker had a machine that would expand them into the full size just before filling. IIRC, 1 truck load replaced 4-5 truckloads.
     
  25. snaotheus

    snaotheus Poo-Bah (5,380) Oct 6, 2008 Washington
    Society Trader

    That's so cool!
     
    ChicagoJ and dcotom like this.
  26. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,654) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    I've know women whose shoe collection did that.
     
    dcotom, PapaGoose03 and Harrison8 like this.
  27. WthrmanStan

    WthrmanStan Initiate (69) Feb 10, 2011 Connecticut

    Is it time to merge the 12 oz. and 16 oz. formats together to make , just 14 oz. cans? And make 5 packs?
     
    rgordon, Squire, officerbill and 2 others like this.
  28. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,317) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Schlitz beat you to that, late '60s.
    [​IMG]
    Well, given that the standard "case" of beer is 24 units (8 X 3, 6 X 4, 4 X 6, 3 X 8, 2 X 12 have all worked), that'd be a tough one.
     
    BBThunderbolt, Rug and PapaGoose03 like this.
  29. WthrmanStan

    WthrmanStan Initiate (69) Feb 10, 2011 Connecticut

    I understand the packaging would be inconvenient with 5 cans. I’m just trying to figure out how consumers would win. If you have a 14 oz. 5 pack that is 70 ozs. of beer. So that is 2 ozs. less then a 6 pack of 12 ozers. Would you be opposed to considering a reduction from 24 units, to 20 units in a case? Or increase to 30 units?

    (5x4, 2x10 / 6x5, 3x10, 2x15)

    Just brainstorming. Because if you go to a 4 pack 14 oz format, the consumer loses 8 oz, when comparing to the 16 oz. 4 pack format

    Imagine a 5 pack holder where it is a regular 4 pack stringer, but the top is two extra loops where a 5th beer could be attached as a handle. Most beer fridges at liquor stores have room or space to accommodate this if they double stack, which really isn’t advantageous, since people don’t want to move the top pack to get to the bottom one usually. The rest is just cardboard packaging as usual for the large formats.

    I was not around for the Schlitz 7 pack, but that is innovative!!! Thanks for sharing.
     
  30. WthrmanStan

    WthrmanStan Initiate (69) Feb 10, 2011 Connecticut

    My idea for the handle is a stretch, and wouldn’t ship well. The 5 pack holder style could be engineered by some college students who might have a passion for craft beer. Not to mention all of the other packaging formats, too!
     
  31. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,654) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    Makes sense to me but I'm not the one making decisions.
     
  32. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,093) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Packaging and shipping would be horrendous. How would you stack them on the standard 48x40 inch pallet? Could you still get 10 layers on there?

    Putting 5 cans in a cardboard carton, as a lot of 6ers do now, is no biggie. But how do you pack a case? Design a whole new flat to hold them? And, again, how many can you get on a standard pallet to optimize shipping and storage?
     
    #32 BBThunderbolt, Nov 27, 2021 at 1:15 AM
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021 at 1:21 AM
  33. barneyrubble

    barneyrubble Disciple (318) Aug 21, 2020 Colorado

    snaotheus and oneraindog like this.
  34. dcotom

    dcotom Poo-Bah (2,823) Aug 4, 2014 Iowa
    Society Trader

    Seven-ounce brown glass bottles: It's Time.
     
  35. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Savant (993) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Trader

    I'm going to laugh my ass off when all these brewers touting the benefits of cans as being superior have to switch to bottles and then start telling us how much better bottles are....

    Those are pretty significant ordering changes, especially the minimum shipment going up 5 times. I'm not sure how many brewers will be able to swallow that larger load from Ball.
     
    jasonmason, PapaGoose03 and snaotheus like this.
  36. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,177) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Many years ago 14 oz cans were available in South Carolina, but individually and in 6-packs.
     
    snaotheus likes this.
  37. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,093) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    snaotheus likes this.
  38. Reidrover

    Reidrover Poo-Bah (4,410) Jan 14, 2003 Oregon
    Society

    crowlers..32 and 16 oz.
     
    snaotheus likes this.
  39. joerooster2

    joerooster2 Initiate (29) Aug 18, 2020 District of Columbia

    No, that's not what it says. It says NON-CONTRACT customers, which includes 'many small breweries'.
     
    snaotheus likes this.
  40. barneyrubble

    barneyrubble Disciple (318) Aug 21, 2020 Colorado

    thanks for the clarification