Can crunch hurting bottom line for Calgary's craft brewers

·2 min read
One Calgary brewery says they're trying not to pass the cost down to the consumer.  (Colin Hall/CBC - image credit)
One Calgary brewery says they're trying not to pass the cost down to the consumer. (Colin Hall/CBC - image credit)

Nothing is safe from inflation, and this time it's coming for your beer.

Many of Alberta's craft breweries are feeling a can crunch caused by difficulties sourcing enough aluminum, and it's affecting their bottom line.

Blair Berdusco, executive director at Alberta Small Brewers Association, says the COVID pandemic, in part, caused an aluminium can shortage.

"COVID is definitely a significant factor in all of it. Between access to aluminum to actually make cans, and then supply chain issues, as many industries are facing right now, definitely compounding the issue recently," she said.

Adding to the issue, she said, are other beverages shifting to cans — like water and ready to drink cocktails — while more brewers shifted to canning their own products as tap room service wasn't available during lockdowns.

"A lot of people had to move to cans when they weren't necessarily planning to," she said.

"It's not specific to Alberta, it's worldwide, everyone is looking for more cans to put their products in," Berdusco said.

Malt, barley prices also rising

The cost per can has increased in the past three years, adding up to thousands of dollars a year, even for smaller breweries.

Albertans could see a price increase in the new year, Berdusco says, but it's not just due to cans.

Malt and barley prices have also risen after scorching summer heat led to poor crop yields.

Berdusco says for now, those increased costs haven't been passed on to beer drinkers, but a future price increase is likely.

Adding to the issue, American supplier Ball Manufacturing's decision to increase its minimum can order five-fold left brewers scrambling, and the impact is being felt in Alberta.

That's something Berdusco says can create a barrier for smaller producers, as many buy based on their production schedule, and often don't have the storage space for a lot of cans.

'Everything costs more'

Andi Kowalski, operations manager at Tool Shed Brewing, says finding beer cans has been tough since the start of the pandemic.

"Everything costs more. And during COVID, most people were consuming their beer from cans," he said.

And with the explosion of craft brewing, she says, companies moved away from beer bottles in favour of cans.

She says they're doing everything not to pass those prices onto consumers.

"We try not to do price increases, if we can help it and especially during COVID … our end consumer might have lost their job or they might be struggling financially, it was a tough time for all of us," she said.

"The last thing that we wanted to do was pass on those price increases that we've been feeling on to our … consumer."

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