Welcome to the second in our series of regular columns from the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade body representing small and independent American craft breweries. Here, Bob Pease (pictured), chief executive officer and president of the Brewers Association, looks at the rise in packaging beer in cans
In America, cans are growing in popularity and it’s easy to see why — they are easier to transport, lighter, more recyclable than bottles, take up less space, cheaper to ship, and offer the full 360-degree marketing wrap.
They are an ideal packaging format for beer because they block light and provide an effective barrier to oxygen, meaning the beer stays fresh for longer. Cans have helped take American craft beer to places it’s never been before, such as aeroplanes, camping, sports and music venues, beaches and festivals.
In the States, bottles remain the majority packaging format, but cans and their share of craft sales have continued to grow on a consistent basis. They now represent 28.5% of packaged production, and brewers that produce 10,000 barrels per year (more than 90% of all breweries) are the largest growing segment of brewers that package their beer in cans.
Cans are the top packaging method for new breweries (which have been open for less than one year) and we are seeing a continual shift towards cans. Many of these new breweries are starting out by installing a canning line instead of a bottling line — for more established craft brewers who opened years ago, this would have been practically unheard of!
Growth in cans is being driven partially by the shifting packaging mix by brewers, but also by growth dynamics, whereby we’re seeing breweries with a higher can share growing faster than those with a lower share. Bottle sales are not declining, in fact, far from it, but the increase in can sales is faster than the increase in bottle sales.
The vast majority of cans takes the form of six packs of 12oz cans (355ml) followed by 12 packs (of 12oz cans). We see diversity in can formats, such as single-serve larger cans for the convenience channel, and new innovations such as removable lids that turn the can into a glass, and even re-sealable cans.
Business innovations have also made it easier for craft breweries to can by providing smaller scale canning lines or mobile canning lines. All these factors add up to a healthy future for cans.
Look out for the Brewers Association’s new Independent Craft Brewer seal, which will be appearing on cans (and bottles) in the UK around now. Launched last year, our new seal is designed to differentiate independent craft brewers from ‘big’, multi-national brewers. It features an iconic beer bottle flipped upside down to capture the spirit with which craft brewers have upended beer, while informing beer lovers they are choosing a beer from a
brewery that is independently owned.
Research (by Brewbound conducted by Nielsen) found that ‘independent’ and ‘independently owned’ resonated with 81% of craft beer drinkers. Beer lovers are increasingly interested in transparency when it comes to brewery ownership and the seal is a simple way to provide clarity. I’m delighted to report that, since launch, the independent seal has been adopted by 75% of our brewery members — that’s more than 3,100 breweries
proudly showing their independence!
Don’t forget, UK beer industry representatives are welcome to attend the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) and BrewExpo America in Nashville, Tennessee, from April 30 to May 3. This is an annual educational conference and trade show, and the industry’s largest gathering for concentrated, affordable brewing education and idea sharing, to improve brewery quality and performance.
Around 13,000 people attend to hear 77 different seminars covering 12 different tracks. Linked to this year’s CBC is the bi-annual World Beer Cup, the most prestigious beer competition in the world and often referred to as ‘the Olympics of Beer’. In 2016, 6,596 beers were entered from 1,907 breweries, representing 55 different countries. We are hoping to surpass these figures in 2018.
More information and tickets at www.craftbrewersconference.com