US producers face wine can shortage

The US market has seen sales of canned wines exploding, as consumers can’t get enough of them. This has led to a slowdown in the supply of the cans. Jeff Siegel reports.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Drink Bev, a California canned wine producer, has seen its volume increase eight-fold over the past several years. Which should be a good thing, right?

Right – apart from the pandemic-caused supply chain bottlenecks that are hampering can producers of all kinds, be it beer, wine, or soft drinks.

“What we found so far, having trouble  with getting cans, only kicked in recently,” says Alex Butti, the vice president of operations for Drink Bev, which makes 250 ml cans of two whites and a rose from California’s Central Coast. “When we were doing less volume, we had no trouble sourcing cans. But when we outgrew our vendors, finding cans in the short term has been difficult.”

In this, it’s not so much that there aren’t enough cans, say wine producers and can vendors. Rather, the difficulty in finding is coming from increased demand from consumers, who increased canned beverage consumption during the various coronavirus lockdowns across the US, as well as the supply chain failing to keep pace with increased demand. 

The can shortage doesn’t seem to be as bad as those for toilet paper and hand sanitizer in the early days of the lockdown in April, says Butti, and the biggest soft drink and beer producers can get enough cans. It’s smaller companies that are having problems; there are regional shortages and fewer canned beverages at some national supermarkets, though not widespread.

In fact, can prices haven’t necessarily increased, say producers. Instead, it’s just taking longer to get cans for filling – anywhere from one to eight weeks. Again, says Butti, it’s not about a supply shortage as much as it is about taking longer for cans to get from manufacturers to bottlers. In addition, inventories at bottlers are significantly smaller than they were at the beginning of the year.

This is an especial problem for US canned wine producers, who package their product in three different sizes – 187 ml, 250 ml, and 375 ml – for a variety of reasons, including government regulation based on the size of a standard wine bottle By comparison, most US beer and soft drinks come in 12-ounce (about 355 ml) cans. This one size fits all have made it less difficult for the latter to find cans.

“Yes, there is a very high demand for the 250 ml format for wine at this time as it’s a popular size for most beverages, like water and coffee,” says Heather Clauss, chief commercial officer for California’s FreeFlow Wines. “So, some of our customers have indeed had some challenges procuring cans. We don’t purchase them directly but have seen the impact.”

Jeff Siegel

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