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Aluminum can shortage and high demand put pressure on local breweries

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EUGENE, Ore. -- With the aluminum can shortage continuing and demand for cans at a high, some small breweries now have no choice but to raise their prices or rethink their business models.

Jeff Althouse, CEO of Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, said in August 2020 they were told the popular 12-ounce aluminum cans were on extreme backorder.

"They were saying we could order truckloads of cans, we could prepay for them, and they would deliver them sometime in the next year, which didn't make sense for us because we aren't producing beer sometime in the next year; we are producing beer every day, every week," Althouse said.

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They were then forced to switch to 16-ounce cans.

"They aren't preprinted cans, so they're Brite aluminum cans, and then we apply pressure-sensitive labels," Althouse said.

This caused their prices to go up. Fast forward more than a year later to today, many businesses are facing supply chain issues.

Ball Corporation, one of the world's largest suppliers of aluminum cans, said the demand continues to outstrip supply. They are now requiring non-contract companies, including smaller breweries, to order a minimum of five truckloads of cans, which is more than a million cans. They also said the price-per-can will jump nearly 50%.

"As a small company, it's really hard to order truckload quantities," Althouse said.

That's why he said they're thankful they started working with a broker, which he said Ball encourages other small brewers to do as well.

He said starting Jan. 1, many of their canned beer prices will go up by 10%.

Officials with Ball told KEZI the surge in demand for aluminum cans points to an underlying trend that people can expect to continue beyond the pandemic.

They said in recent years, they've seen an uptick in interest in aluminum cans. One reason people are choosing these cans is because of their sustainability benefits: 75% of aluminum ever produced is still in use today.

Althouse said more people are switching to aluminum cans because they pack well and people enjoy drinking out of them. He said things are about to get more competitive, but they feel prepared and confident that they'll be able to fully supply their customers.

"We have a really close relationship with the supplier that we work with, and we are working on contracting for 2022 and beyond. We're currently keeping about nine months of inventory on our hands," Althouse said.

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