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Aluminum Shortage Throws Another 2020 Curveball To Minnesota Brewers

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It may be harder to get your favorite drink in a can.

There's an unprecedented demand for aluminum, leading to a shortage. And while can manufacturers try to keep up, it's impacting local companies, like Fulton Brewing.

Fulton pours drinks at their taproom and sells beer and hard seltzer in cans around the region. CEO Ryan Petz says aluminum for the cans is in short supply.

"Fulton and a lot of other brewers, beverage companies are experiencing shortages," Petz said. "Now we're looking at periods in the future where we know that we're gonna not able to have the container that we need to put the beer and the seltzer in for weeks on end."

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Experts say the industry was already stressed. There are new products using cans, and companies making the move from plastic to cans. And then COVID-19 hit, and people started buying more canned drinks at the store.

"The demand went on a sort of hockey-stick curve," Petz said. "Suppliers just can't keep up, they just can't turn on the capacity."

It's a tough spot for businesses that use aluminum in a year that has already been challenging. Fulton is serving fewer people in the taproom and selling less at bars and restaurants. The company was counting on can and bottle sales at liquor stores.

"To see, you know, half of that equation being really, really threatened and struggling because we can't find the container, it's pretty scary because … we need that to be healthy in order to survive," Petz said.

They're making moves. Fulton decided to change the container for their new non-alcoholic hop water from a can to a bottle. Ultimately, the supply issue could have a lasting impact.

"We're literally every day, multiple times a day, coming up with new ideas and new ways to approach the problem," Petz said. "And we haven't solved it yet."

The Can Manufacturers Institute told WCCO manufacturers are focused on filling the demand. They expect to be able to produce 12 billion more cans by the end of 2021.

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