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Craft brewers find a sustainable way to get around the can shortage

Time of issue::2020-08-12 15:46

The beverage can shortage sparked partly by coronavirus lockdowns in the US has been dubbed a “candemic” by two American craft brewers – and they have worked out a way to get around the drought and help reduce waste in the process.

Ska Brewing and Oskar Blues Brewery plan to place shrink labels for new brews over surplus cans printed for their other beers. If they need more, the pair are preparing to buy cans that were over-ordered by larger breweries and stored in warehouses.

It is an idea that is catching on across the Atlantic. The UK’s biggest craft brewer, BrewDog, has adopted a similar measure as part of plans to make its processes environmentally more sustainable.

“We approach most of our issues with a mindset of sustainability,” said Ska president and co-founder Dave Thibodeau. “Here we saw an opportunity to reuse old cans and solve a new problem at the same time by labelling over them and sending them to market.”

A shortage of aluminium cans sparked by growth in spiked seltzers, ready-to-drink beverages and low-or-no calorie beers has been exacerbated by increased home consumption of canned drinks during coronavirus lockdowns. Canmakers are busily building new capacity to meet growing demand and plants are coming online, but they have still been forced to seek alternative supplies. For canmakers, that has meant plans to import an estimated two billion cans this year.

The pandemic has been a double-whammy for smaller brewers. Many had shifted to packaging their beers in cans as bar and restaurant closures choked off draft and keg sales only to find suppliers couldn’t provide them with enough containers.

Because of the print processes, minimum run sizes, errors in production and errors in forecasting, millions of good cans are wasted every year, according to BrewPunk, which is making its Punk IPA available in similarly relabelled cans – and renamed them Trash Can Punk.

“We are saving these cans and helping them fulfil their life’s purpose at BrewDog,” the brewer stated on its website.

“We have always believed that business should be a force for good and that brave thinking and bold actions are the only way to make a real impact,” said BrewDog. “Today, we are in the middle of a climate crisis. It is a crisis of our own design, driven by big business. We recognise our contribution and the limitations of our industry.”

BrewDog, Ska and Oskar Blues, which is credited with kicking off the trend to can craft beer in the 1990s, warned that the overlaid labels may still reveal hints of their cans’ previous designs. But they urged customers not to worry.

“It’s certainly not going to be the clean look we’re known for, but at the same time, we’re also know for our creativity, and the benefits of this creative solution far outweighs the disadvantages,” said Thibodeau. “Just don’t be surprised if you see a white or blue can extending above that iconic green Modus label”

Oskar Blues has kept its customers in the loop with a note printed on the new labels of its signature brew Dale’s Pale Ale. “2020 is weird. First toilet paper, now aluminium. But there’s no way some supply chain shenanigans would stop us from getting the freshest mutha of a pale ale to you. We repurposed some cans and kept the beer flowin’,” the message reads.

Aberdeen, Scotland-based BrewDog said: “Their uniform doesn’t quite look the part, but we can assure you it’s what’s inside that counts. The Trash Can project is part of our journey to become a zero-waste business.”


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