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Shift to cans by craft brewers

Despite the challenging economy, the craft brewing industry saw sales grow by 5.9 percent in 2008 (Source: US Brewers Association). To help sales stay on the upswing, craft brewers are leveraging innovative packaging that matches the active lifestyles of its target audience and expresses the unique personalities of their distinctive beers.

Traditionally packaged in glass bottles, there has been a shift of craft brews to beverage cans, according to Crown Beverage Packaging in the US. This, the company says, has been due in part to the inherent benefits of metal packaging.

Along with being durable, portable and lightweight, beverage cans chill quickly and stay colder for longer than other packaging formats. In addition, metal provides a superior barrier to light and oxygen, two agents that can threaten the integrity of beer over time.

Metal packaging also supports the premium image of craft brews with unique decoration options. High quality print creates bright, complex graphics.

Big Sky Brewing Company turned to Crown for graphics support when transitioning its Trout Slayer Pale Ale and Moose Drool Brown Ale to 12oz beverage cans. To keep existing graphics from looking "cartoon-y," Crown worked with Big Sky to transform the artwork from processed color to spot color and incorporated sepia tones for high-quality appeal.

"The imagery is about where you want to be - not where you're at," said Bjorn Nabozney, co-founder of Big Sky Brewing Company. "The expertise of Crown's graphics department ensured the cans turned out beautifully."

Metal's practicality and visual appeal are further enhanced with its strong sustainability platform. Beverage cans are 100% recyclable and are universally recycled with high return rates. The metals used in cans can be recycled infinitely with no degradation in quality. On average, today's aluminum cans are produced with 50% recycled material.

The sustainability benefits of metal were a key selling point for Kettlehouse Brewing Company, who works with Crown to package its Double Haul IPA, Eddy Out Pale Ale and Cold Smoke Scotch Ale in 16oz aluminum cans. The company has gone so far as to cite the benefits on the packaging itself: "We can because cans remain the most recyclable of all beverage containers. They're easier to take floating, golfing, hiking or flying, and they're best at blocking beer skunkefying light. If you drop one at the beach they won't cut your feet, inner tube or raft. Cool aluminum cans make sense in a warming world."

Making Metal a Viable Option

For small-scale craft brewers, incorporating a canning operation poses specific challenges. Crown offers several services to help ease the transition, including a team to train brewery employees how to operate seaming and filling equipment. Customers can also participate in classes that address both basic and complex issues related to seaming, monitoring and tooling.

Crown also accommodates smaller companies with tailored solutions, including selling by the truckload or splitting a shipment between two SKUs (stock keeping units).

"The biggest benefit to partnering with Crown was the ability to purchase shipments one truckload at a time," said Tim Ohst, brewery operations manager at Sly Fox Brewery, which began working with Crown last year to package its Pikeland Pilsner and Phoenix Pale Ale in 12oz aluminum cans. "This flexibility enabled us to ease into production, get the kinks worked out and grow our shipments as needed."

About Crown Holdings
Crown Holdings, through its subsidiaries, is a leading supplier of packaging products to consumer marketing companies around the world. World headquarters are located in Philadelphia, PA. For more information, visit
For more information, contact:
In the US: Tom Hughes, marketing manager –
In Europe: Caroline Archer-Reed, MD –

1 August 2009 - Felicity Murray