Brewers Face Beer Can Shortage
Reports of shortages are all over the news and social media these days. It began with toilet paper and paper towels; then, some places could not get bread or wipes or soap. Outbreaks at food processing plants slowed the distribution of pork products leading to empty shelves in some places.
Now, though, some manufacturers and distributors are running out of one supply that many people never thought would run short: aluminum cans.
This shortage threatens to have a serious impact on one of the most staple products in the United States: Beer. Media outlets are reporting that companies, including Molson Coors and Karl Strauss, are considering short-running their varieties to deal with limited can supplies.
Speaking to CNN, Molson Coors’ spokesman Adam Collins said, “Everyone who makes anything that goes into a 12-ounce can is being challenged to some respect…”
So, what’s driving the shift? Market watchers say the likely culprit is changing consumer habits. People who can’t drink in bars are buying beer at stores and taking it home.
That means distributors who can’t sell in bars need more stock for those stores, which means more cans on the shelves, which means the scarcity of a product that was recently in ample supply is increasing. As one report put it: “Brewer supply chains are all out of whack…”
This situation is on top of the fact that more beer is being sold in cans than it was less than a decade ago. In fact, the percentage of beer being sold in cans in 2019 versus 2010 has increased from 50 percent of the market to 60 percent.
And then there’s the massive influx of hard seltzer brands such as White Claw, which has surged in popularity in the past few years.
So, a step-back, widescreen view of the shortage includes a combination of market dynamics driven by COVID and consumer demand for hard seltzers and canned beer.
And the answer to the shortage for beer distributors? Collins puts it bluntly: “The whole idea (is) ensuring that we have the most can supply for our biggest brands…”
This means many fans of more obscure brands or varieties may find that section of the shelf empty next time they go to the store. This decision could also result in the cancelation of newer varieties before they had a chance to be truly tested out in the market, though no brands have confirmed that as of yet.
In the meantime, beer brands need to find a way to communicate the dynamic realities of the shortage to their customers in a way that will help beer fans understand the issue and react appropriately. They may not be happy about the news, but the manner in which it’s delivered will go a long way toward how people react when staring down at an empty shelf where their favorite variety used to be.