In November 2021 many breweries across the country received notification from Ball Corporation that starting January 1, 2022, the minimum order for printed aluminum cans, pending available supply, has increased from one to five truckloads per SKU for non-contracted customers. In addition, Ball announced that it will no longer warehouse inventory on behalf of customers and has pointed most non-contract customers to a set of distributors for future orders.
This news comes at a difficult time for the brewing industry which is already dealing with the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and supply chain issues. Many craft brewers pivoted to packaging their product to bring in much-needed income when their primary sales platforms disappeared (tasting rooms, bars, and restaurants) during the pandemic. Cans currently make up around 60% of independent craft packaged volume, and, as demand for sustainable aluminum beverage packaging continues to grow at an accelerated pace and large beverage brands switch from plastic bottles to cans, the squeeze on supply for small brewers continues to tighten.
Throughout the last month Brewers Association staff has been in contact with Ball and members of Congress to discuss ways to mitigate some of these changes and help ensure that they do not have an overwhelmingly negative impact on small and independent craft breweries. At the end of December, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Ron Wyden (Democrat-Oregon), sent a letter to Ball Corporation asking that, among other things, Ball consider a delay of implementation on direct orders from non-contracted customers.
Ball notified the Senator’s office and the Brewers Association that it will postpone until March 1, 2022 the implementation of their minimum order requirements for customers that do not have supply contracts with the company, with the caveat that they will not be able to provide those customers with delivery date assurances. Ball also stated that they are open to further engaging with brewers on the distributor supply option to offer additional sources of aluminum beverage packaging. Sen. Wyden issued a statement on Jan. 4 welcoming Ball’s decision to postpone.
Though we know that this does not fully solve the supply chain issues, this is a positive step forward and opens the door to continued dialogue with Ball. The Brewers Association will continue to look for ways to work with our elected offices in an effort to help our members who have been impacted by this and other supply chain issues.