Bart Watson is the Chief Economist for the Brewers Association. He’s also a serious beer lover whose commentary on the industry is always fun and incredibly insightful. He’s written about craft beer’s growing canning trend which led to us ask….Is craft beer industry’s ongoing movement toward cans inevitable…and why is this trend accelerating?
Back in 2002, when Oskar Blues’ Dale Katechis first started canning, many industry watchers (including us) were skeptical. After all, cans had long been the province of big beer conglomerates and college frat parties – associations that craft breweries worked hard to avoid.
Add to that the fact that craft beer had separated itself from the mainstream, not only by its quality, but also by its artful presentation. And craft beer in bottles had become almost symbolic – a defining and an intrinsic part of the craft beer ethos.
Flash forward to today and we’ve entered a brave new world. And not only is craft beer in cans being increasing accepted by core consumers– they’re fast becoming a norm.
Watson’s original article detailed a number of reasons why many craft breweries are switching to cans -and why this trend is only going to grow…
- Convenience – Canned craft beer has proven itself to be lighter and easier to transport, making it ideal for the kinds of activities that many of its fans embrace. But being lighter and more transportable isn’t just a boon for craft beer’s fans. Cans are much cheaper for breweries to ship to retail – and in an industry where business margins can get incredibly tight – who doesn’t want that?
- Freshness – Even the most adamant glass bottle supporters have to admit that cans are a more effective light and oxygen barrier. They preserve the beer’s freshness and integrity longer.
- Sustainability – A large segment of the craft beer community in general, aligns itself with both the ecological and sustainability movements. And since the lighter cans are easier to ship, they leave a much smaller carbon footprint. Cans can also be recycled and reused – and back on store shelves in 60 days.
- Improved Cans Technology – Innovations over the last decade have led to cans that just function better. Newly designed pouring lips can accentuate the beer’s aromatics. Different sizes abound and we’re even seeing more re-sealable cans now (faster please).
- Canning Is Becoming Smart Business – The canning industry has grown up as well and generating options that both new breweries and established craft brewers are increasingly turning to. Startups can now lower their capital expenditures by turning to a growing number of increasingly efficient mobile canning operations. Plus canning lines (which take up less square footage are lowering overhead) and they are proving themselves to be cheaper to manage than most bottling operations. And in addition to affording everyone lower shipping costs (see #1), cans are more space efficient, so they’re cheaper to warehouse as well.
- You – The consumer’s perception of craft beer in cans has changed profoundly over the last decade and what was once not cool is now commonplace. A whole new generation of American craft breweries have built passionate followings for their can-only products and philosophy, further establishing craft beer in cans as the new norm for the industry.