Brewing, Cideries & Spirits  January 5, 2022

Ball delays aluminum can policy changes that impact brewers

WESTMINSTER — Ball Corp. (NYSE: BLL) has delayed until March a plan that would have impacted craft brewers who use aluminum cans to hold and sell their products.

According to information from the Brewers Association, a Boulder-based trade association, Ball announced in November that starting Jan. 1, 2022, it would increase its minimum order for printed aluminum cans from one truckload to five per SKU for non-contracted customers. Five truckloads represents about a million cans. Ball also said that it would no longer warehouse can inventory for customers and instead directed non-contracted customers to third party distributors for future warehousing and labeling, according to Brewers Association information.

Small brewers, as a result of pandemic restrictions on bars and restaurants, moved significant operations to canning their products in order to undergird sales when other distribution methods were curtailed. Cans make up about 60% of independent craft beer volume, according to the Brewers Association.

Brewers sought help from Congress, and a letter from Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, asked Ball to reconsider or delay. Ball notified the senator of the two-month delay.

In a letter to the senator, Ball said, “As we discussed in earnest, this is a very challenging situation for a variety of reasons, most if not all of which are out of the control of Ball Corp., including the unprecedented demand for aluminum beverage containers far outstripping our ability to supply such demand and also the limited availability of rolled aluminum cansheet.”

Ball said it may not be able to meet delivery deadlines during the two-month extension; it also offered to discuss with small brewers how their needs might be met while avoiding the production issues that arise from small can runs. The company asked the senator for help in dealing with tariff issues that limit the manufacturer’s ability to secure aluminum from some other countries.

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