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Beer, soda companies can’t keep up with demand


People are stocking up during lockdown and many of the companies that produce these aluminum cans are finding it difficult to keep up with demand.

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With beer and soda consumption shifting from restaurants to homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, beverage companies and can makers are having a hard time keeping up.

The upshot is a shortage of aluminum cans that is crimping supplies of certain drinks, industry officials said.

“Aluminum cans are in very tight supply with so many people buying more multi-pack products to consume at home,” Coca-Cola spokesperson Ann Moore said Wednesday in an email.

Can manufacturers have announced plans to build at least three new factories within the next 18 months, but that won’t help solve the immediate supply issues.

Much like manufacturers weren’t prepared for a sudden rush of Americans buying retail-quality toilet paper in the early days of the pandemic, can makers and beverage companies weren’t ready for drink consumption to go from the tap to the home.

“The can industry is working 24/7 on meeting the unprecedented demand,” said Robert Budway, president of the Can Manufacturers Institute, the industry’s trade association.

The raw material for aluminum can production is not in short supply. It’s the capacity to produce the cans themselves that’s lacking.

“The aluminum beverage can manufacturing industry has seen unprecedented demand for this environmentally-friendly container prior to and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Alluminum Association, an industry group representing the metal’s manufacturers, said in a statement.

“Many new beverages are coming to market in cans and other long-standing can customers are moving away from plastic bottles due to ongoing environmental concerns around plastic pollution. Consumers also appear to be favoring the portability and storability cans as they spend more time at home.”

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Can maker Ball Corp. is opening two new plants in America by the end of 2021 and is adding two new production lines to existing U.S. facilities. In the short term, the company is working with its foreign plants to distribute cans to the North American market.

Ball spokesperson Renee Robinson said the company had already been experiencing increasing demand for aluminum cans before COVID-19 with a surge of interest in hard seltzer and sparkling water. But COVID-19 ushered in an “unprecedented surge in demand” and “short supply” of certain canned drinks, Robinson said in an email.

In some cases, beverage makers are temporarily suspending output of products that sell in low volumes so that they can focus on their best sellers. Beer maker Molson Coors, for example, did this in May amid what it called an “unprecedented shortage of 12-ounce recyclable aluminum cans.”

“It’s something many of us who have worked in the beer industry for a long time have simply never seen,” Molson Coors chief supply officer Brian Erhardt said in a statement at the time.

In recent days, Coca-Cola’s main Twitter account has responded to customers who couldn’t find niche products like Cherry Coke Zero and Pibb.

“We are working to have more stocked for you on the shelves ASAP,” the company told one customer on Twitter.

PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta told analysts in a conference call Monday that the company has “made some choices in our supply chain” to “eliminate the less” popular items in its lineup for now.

He did not say which products or specifically attribute the decision to a shortage of cans. But he acknowledged experiencing general “supply chain challenges,” which have gripped a wide range of food and beverage companies.

PepsiCo referred questions to the American Beverage Association, which represents non-alcoholic drink makers.

“Beverages in convenient take-home packages like aluminum cans are particularly popular right now, and beverage company employees are doing all they can to make sure store shelves remain fully stocked,” said William Dermody Jr., the ABA’s vice president for media and public affairs, in an email.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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