AUSTIN, Texas — All kinds of drinks come in cans these days: beer and pop, even alcoholic mixed drinks and water.
American Canning's growth mirrors that of the canning industry, but the demand for cans has outpaced supply throughout the pandemic.
"What the pandemic did was just sped up a process that was already underway, not just within what package format beverages were going into, but also the availability of the supply. We have seen this coming for years," American Canning Co-founder David Racino said Friday.
American Canning will help address the growing shortage of aluminum cans by moving into a bigger space and manufacturing their own cans out of aluminum foil. Right now, Racino's company acts as a middle-man between small businesses who need cans and the large, multi-national companies that make them.
"That shortfall and that manufacturing capacity deficit disproportionately affects small businesses, and so we're here to help them," Racino said.
Small businesses like Austin Beerworks, who partners with American Canning to decorate and distribute seasonal and specialty beer cans, are already starting to see the effect.
"The inability to get cans has limited our production capacity because if we don't have a place to put the finished beer, we just, you know, it has to stay in our tanks until we have enough cans to fill it up," Michael Graham, one of the founders of the craft brewery, said.
Austin Beerworks was one of the first craft breweries in Texas to can all of their beers. Graham set out to prove that good beer didn't have to come in a bottle, and his brewery helped start the chain reaction that led most craft brewers to can their beer.
"We recently ran a competition, and when we received all the beer for judging, we weren't sure how many bottles versus cans we would see," Charles Vallhonrat, Executive Director for Texas Craft Brewers Guild, said. "We actually saw about 33% of the beer were in bottles and, that was varying sizes, you know, over 66% were in cans for the competition."
Using cans has gone beyond beer and soda in recent years. The emergence of alcohol-to-go has ushered in mixed drinks in cans. Companies across the country have started to can water instead of using plastic bottles. Environmentally, this shows progress. In the short-term, however, the increased demand for cans has strained supply lines.
"Aluminum is inherently recyclable, and it's recyclable very efficiently," Racino said. "So more or less, a single can recycled as a single can that it can be turned back into, so there's very little waste. It's very cost effective to recycle aluminum."
"I wish we could get more cans and so we can, but we can't," Graham said. "They're more expensive than they used to be, so the price of beer is about to go up a little bit."
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