Beer Can Shortage: Why It Happened and Potential Options for Breweries

Breweries across the country are feeling the effects of a tightening can supply. The can shortage is a product of several intertwining factors, and breweries nationwide are scrambling for new packaging solutions. Let’s break down why this shortage happened and potential options for breweries looking to maximize their limited supplies.

Why is There a Beer Can Shortage?

To start, aluminum cans are now the preferred form of packaging for brewers. In the first 11 weeks of 2020, cans contained 60 percent of all beer sold. Both consumers and producers show a strong preference to aluminum cans – and not just for beer. Soft drinks, seltzers, and other drinks have shifted to the same cylindrical metal containers, which thinned out the availability of certain cans.

Of course, that strain of can production was only intensified thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once consumers were forced from bars and back into their homes, breweries needed to find new containers that were once meant for kegs. Can usage jumped to 67 percent from week 12 through 20 as a result. In addition, secondary can sources like Anheuser-Busch InBev subsidiary Metal Container Corporation stopped supplying smaller beer producers to focus on its parent company’s canning needs.

Unfortunately for breweries, there is no simple workaround to address the shortage. While major can manufacturers like Ball have added new production lines, the can shortage will likely persist throughout at least the rest of 2020.

16 oz. aluminum beer cans used by breweries as a different sizing option during the can shortage.

3 Potential Solutions to Maximize Supplies During the Can Shortage

Unless you have the means to switch to bottles in the short term, you’ll need to find a way to better utilize the aluminum cans you can access. Long story short, you may need to find some creative solutions for your situation. Fortunately, the following options may help you alleviate some stress create by the can shortage.

Be flexible to different aluminum can sizes

While 12 oz. and 32 oz. cans may be your ideal sizes for beer cans, you may need to be more flexible during a shortage. Don’t be afraid to temporarily try out 25.4 oz. or 16 oz. cans for crowlers or other to-go beers. It may not be your ideal can sizes, but it’s better to be flexible with what you can get so that you can ensure your beers are available for sale.

Of course, you’ll need to check out your local laws to see how much flexibility they allow. Some states limit can sizes for beverages higher than a certain ABV. For example, some local laws may limit crowler sizes to 25.4 oz. and below, whereas others may require a single standard size. Alcohol regulations have changed drastically during the pandemic, so it’s best to reach out to your local guild for the latest updates in your state’s local laws.

Utilize unused screen-printed cans

An empty screen-printed can is an opportunity when you’re in a tight spot. While you may have planned to use those cans for one type of beer, relabeling them can allow you to address canning needs for your other offerings as well. This route can give you some freedom to pick and choose how to use screen-printed cans until you’re able to obtain additional packaging.

When relabeling screen-printed cans, it’s important to make sure that you cover up the proper parts of the screen printing. A half wrap label may leave a bar code, an outdated ABV, or some other detail exposed. A full beer can label or shrink sleeve will help you hide the old screen printing and showcase your desired branding and information.

Do what you can to prevent can waste

When supplies are limited, it’s crucial to try to get the most out of what you have. Label application issues can put a dent in your available supply if you’re not careful, so it’s best to take steps to limit potential problems in the future.

For example, certain applicating environments can lead to label failure. If you’re trying to sell a new sour beer, the acidity from the fruit in that beer can cause oxidation between aluminum can and certain label materials. You’ll want to work with your label printing company to identify any potential problem areas that can lead to avoidable waste, especially when supplies and funds are at a premium. This will not only help prevent potential issues for your can, but also save unnecessary label waste.

Three can wraps used to cover screen printed cans.

Stay Flexible with Digital Label Printing

As we mentioned before, there is no simple workaround to address the shortage. What you can do is be creative with the supplies you have and minimize potential waste. Fortunately, the right label printing company can help you stay flexible and maximize your available supply.

At Blue Label, we have the technology, equipment, and experts to help you properly adapt to your exact situation. Thanks to digital printing technology, we can quickly provide beer labels for various size cans when you need them. Our experts can also work with you to identify potential application issues and provide feedback to limit potential waste.

When situations change, our team is flexible enough to help you determine the best, most cost-effective labeling solution for your exact needs. Contact us today to talk about your next label order.

What are Can Wraps?

Simply put, a can wrap is a form of covering for beer cans and other similar containers. However, the exact meaning of can wrap can differ depending on the intended use.

For some people, a can wrap is an extra covering used to personalize a can or change the exterior of the can from its original appearance. For others, a can wrap is the main label used for a can. In this case, you have a few different options for your can wraps and tin can labels.

Types of Can Wrap Labels

If you’re looking to brand your products with custom can wraps, there are two main routes you can go: Pressure sensitive labels or shrink sleeves.

Pressure sensitive can wraps

Pressure sensitive labels are comprised of multiple layers that are married together prior to application. These layers include:

  • Liner – A backing material typically made of paper or plastic film. This liner is the base of the can wrap and is removed to expose the adhesive during application.
  • Release coat – A special coating applied to the top surface of the liner. This release coat allows the liner to easily peel away from the adhesive layer during application.
  • Adhesive – The adhesive used to hold the label to your can. There are multiple types of adhesives available for pressure sensitive can wraps.
  • Face stock – The label material used for the construction of the can wrap that consumers will see. There are many different types of can wrap materials available, including various films and papers.
  • Top coat – The top layer of your can wrap. This top coat is typically a laminate, a special coating, or some other solution to give the can wrap a finished look and protect it from damage.

Pressure sensitive can wraps are printed and delivered in roll form. These wraps are then applied to your cans when the liner is removed and pressure is applied to form a bond between the label and your container.

Beer cans with a pressure sensitive can wrap.

Shrink sleeve can wraps

Unlike pressure sensitive can wraps, shrink sleeves utilize a special film sleeve to adhere to your cans. These sleeves are shrunk with steam or heat to conform to the shape of your can. The beer can sleeving process offers a few advantages:

  • 360-degree designs
  • Form fitting sleeves that highlight custom shapes
  • Extra design protection

A key difference with shrink sleeves is that, as the name implies, they come in sleeves where the ink is printed on the inside of the label instead of on the face stock. This method adds an extra layer of protection for your label design. However, shrink sleeves will need to be pre-distorted to accommodate the shape of your container when your sleeves are shrunk. Shrink sleeves are also more delicate than pressure sensitive can wraps. Both improper handling and excess temperature and humidity can cause distortion.

Beer cans with a shrink sleeve can wrap going through a filling line.

Identify the Right Can Wraps for Your Containers

Whether you want pressure sensitive labels or shrink sleeves, a good can wrap will make a world of difference for your brand. Of course, there are still plenty of steps required to figure out the right solution for your cans. At Blue Label, our experts work directly with your business to identify the right materials, adhesives, and design considerations to protect your containers and beer can wraps and maximize the appeal of your product.

Ready to invest in quality, cost-effective custom beer can wraps for your business? Contact us today to talk about your labeling and label printing needs.