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U.S. beverage manufacturers face aluminum can shortage amid pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shift consumer drinking habits from bars and restaurants to private homes, beverage manufacturers are concerned about a looming shortage of aluminum cans. Charlie De Mar has more.

Video Transcript

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve had many shortages. Paper products, coins, even yeast. You can add aluminum to that list. As CBS’s Charlie De Mar reports, it’s causing a can crunch here in Chicago and beyond. At Middlebrow beer in Chicago, co-owner Pete Turnus is in the middle of a “can-demic”

CHARLIE DE MAR: So you’re always thinking about cans?

PETE TURNUS: Yeah, every time my brain gets a chance, I go back to that extremely frightening thought.

CHARLIE DE MAR: Last spring. Talk of a shortage sent Turnus scrambling for cans, nearly 100,000 of them. Nearly a year in, his supply is about to run dry.

PETE TURNUS: That means we’re down to the last 5,000 to 10,000 cans now, and looking for more.

CHARLIE DE MAR: You’re that close?

PETE TURNUS: Yeah, we’re that close. We only got a couple of batches worth of beer left.

BART WATSON: Openings only capture part of the dynamism of the overall industry.

CHARLIE DE MAR: Bart Watson is chief economist for the Brewers Association. He says the cash shortage is caused by a change in drinking habits during the pandemic.

BART WATSON: Last March, overnight, we as a country started consuming things more in package form. We stopped drinking pints and drinks at bars and restaurants.

CHARLIE DE MAR: While small brewers are hit hardest by the shortage, beer giant Anheuser-Busch says they haven’t been immune Molson Coors says supply is improving, but Watson says this isn’t just a beer industry problem.

BART WATSON: We’re seeing even the largest producers of soda, for example, having to discontinue individual product lines.

CHARLIE DE MAR: Can-makers, according to their trade group, are ramping up production with 12 billion more cans to come this year. Until then, Surly Brewing in Minnesota started to reuse discontinued cans. Re-wrap and fill them with new product, but soon expect to run out of cans to refill. Back at middlebrow,

CHARLIE DE MAR: Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel with this?

PETE TURNUS: I vacillate between whether it’s a light, whether it’s the sun, or whether it’s an oncoming train. And I do think it’s the sun. A can crunch not expected to end until the pandemic does. Charlie De Mar, CBS News, Chicago.

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