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Aluminum can shortage: Why your grocery store is out of your favorite beverage during the pandemic

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Shoppers have noticed signs in their local grocery stores during the pandemic after some beverages have become limited due to an ‘aluminum shortage.’

There’s no shortage of aluminum, but aluminum cans, specifically.

“The big game right now is just figuring out how to get our hands on as many cans as we can,” American Canning CEO David Racino explained can manufacturers this year simply couldn’t keep up with the demand brought on by the pandemic.

“2020, I think the expectation was about 97 billion cans would be used in the U.S. I think it’s going to be closer to 107 billion or something like that,” Racino said.

It all started in the spring, when everything shut down and on-site consumption disappeared. Breweries and other craft-beverage businesses had to adjust.

“They shifted all of their demand into packaging,” Racino explained.

But, can manufacturers require large orders, which makes things difficult for small businesses. That’s where American Canning comes in to help.

“Minimum orders on those are usually upwards of 204,000 cans for a 12-ounce can, versus we can sell a 12-ounce can shrink sleeve under 4000 apiece,” Racino said.

The company is able to buy in bulk, and then distribute to these smaller businesses across the country. But it’s had its own roadblocks during the shortage as well.

“We’re trying to maintain a little bit of inventory so that if we don’t get cans, which has happened for upwards of a month, throughout the summer, we’ve got a little bit of inventory to not have to shut down production,” he explained.

They’re not alone.

“The soda fountain business went away. And so the big soda company has also shifted a lot of their product into cans, which put a really really big strain on the supply chain,” Racino said. “When Anheuser Busch, Molson Coors, Dr. Pepper, Coca Cola can’t get their cans, it’s so much more difficult for the little guys.”

Racino said production could remain tight through 2021. But, he thinks many small businesses who were forced into the to-go model during the pandemic, are here to stay.

“I don’t think it’s going away,” Racino said.

In fact, that was the idea behind the company eight years ago.

“We started American Canning back in 2012, essentially, with the purpose of trying to help small craft beverage producers share their products and cans to the end consumer, which is why we started it, because we wanted more access to good beverages that were locally made,” Racino explained.

Not only do they provide the cans, they also add labels, if the business chooses.

“We also manufacture and build fillers, and some other secondary packaging equipment and things that build the six packs and four packs of the cans,” Racino said.

Now, they’re sending out about 80 million cans a year.

“And we’re projecting to do at least twice that next year,” Racino added.

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