A trend we first noted last summer on this page (“A Shortage in Cans for Food & Beverages: Why? Will It Last? What Are the Alternatives?” August 26, 2020) is still a problem 6 months later. A number of factors have contributed to a recent and continuing squeeze on the supply of aluminum cans. Those related to the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- a shift to at-home consumption of beverages – this trend favors aluminum cans, as they are a format for single servings and beverages in canned forms are easy to stack in pantries when attempting to create a stock to limit shopping trips
- restaurant uncertainty – restaurants have faced a number of changes to capacity and operations over the past year, and many switched to offering canned beverages because they are easier to save, such as during periods of closure and reduced occupancies
However, the reasons behind this trend are not all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other factors impacting shortages are:
- Performance advantages – cans have better light and gas barrier properties, which makes them an ideal container for beer, seltzers, and other carbonated beverages.
- A change in aesthetics preferences – beverage suppliers have long preferred glass bottles as a packaging option due to the perception that they are a higher-end option, but that is changing, particularly as consumers look for a format that is easier to take to parks and festivals, where glass is commonly banned
- Sustainability – cans are mostly made out of old cans, and aluminum has a good reputation for recyclability – although the specifics can be a little more complicated than catchy sustainability slogans often lead one to believe.
- The explosive growth in the popularity of hard seltzers – nonalcoholic seltzers are really cutting into the market share of traditional colas and fruit-flavored sodas, and these seltzers are almost always packaged in cans. Since those beverages are increasingly being consumed instead of beer or other beverages that often use other packaging formats, that’s putting additional pressure on aluminum supplies.
- Can suppliers are ramping up production.
- Some beverage companies are looking outside the US and beyond the typical supply chain for additional can supply options.
- Some beverage suppliers are wrapping unused cans in the label of products they still need to ship.
- Beverage suppliers are limiting production of some of the niche brands to have plenty of supply available for their flagship products.
- Some beverage suppliers are witching to alternative packaging – for beverages that might mean plastic or glass bottles.
For more information about trends and opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s coverage of the packaging industry as well as food and beverage research from sister publisher Packaged Facts. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.