Ball Customer Reduction Program

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The Brewers Association technical staff, supply chain subcommittee, and senior management have been tracking movements in aluminum packaging. There is a new dynamic that we’d like to brief you on today.

Brewers Association members who have previously been supplied directly via Ball Corporation are being notified that the minimum order, if supply is available, has moved to five truckloads per SKU for printed cans for non-contracted customers. In addition, Ball will no longer warehouse inventory on behalf of customers and is pointing most small brewer customers to a set of distributors and will move non-contract customers with quantities less than five truckloads to these distributors.

These changes show Ball moving toward the type of “long-term contracts for committed volume with effective cost recovery mechanisms” as stated by John A. Hayes, Ball Corp chairman and chief executive officer, on the company’s third quarter earnings call. Overall aluminum can shortages appear likely to continue deep into 2022 and perhaps further, as there is more competition for aluminum from within beverage alcohol as well as non-alcohol products and more demand for this package type from customers. There are more plants under construction in the U.S. from not only Ball Corporation but other companies too.

For small brewers, this is an additional aluminum supply change challenge coming after a year and a half of many such challenges. Moving a large portion of small brewer aluminum can sales to distributors has the potential to increase prices for small brewers (through increased distributor fees, additional labelling costs, and increased transportation cost), increase lead times, and potentially reduce the availability of cans for smaller brewers who can no longer meet minimums. 

Additional impacts could be environmental, including the increased use of plastic shrink sleeves and pressure sensitive labels if brewers cannot meet minimums, which reduces the recyclability and value of aluminum. There is also the potential for additional carbon emissions with extra transportation of cans to distributors rather than direct shipment to breweries. Depending on how brewers react to increased cost and order sizes, it could potentially lead to lower availability of smaller brands in the marketplace and higher costs for consumers. 

The Brewers Association is committed to continuing supply chain communications to members and acting where possible. We also want to continue hearing from our members as to how this change might affect their business so we can communicate those impacts to policymakers and the media. Feel free to email Bart Watson and Chuck Skypeck with stories on how this affects your availability and pricing on an ongoing basis. Those stories will inform our work with champions on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in government as we educate them on supply chain issues. As part of our continuing dialogue with competition authorities, we will also continue to monitor changes in the supply chain for their competitive effects on the marketplace.

Brewers Association staff will continue to keep members informed through our monthly supply chain update as well as direct communications about larger changes such as this one.

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