(Don't forget to vote ----------- > )
Our next big project is going to be increasing our packaging line speed. Right now, we're running it five days a week, and the slow speed of our old six-head Meheen filler is holding up the rest of our brewing process. It's going to be a pretty hefty investment in new equipment, so now's the time to ask the question: Should we continue in bottles, or make the jump to cans?
Before you say the obvious answer (Do both!), let me say a few things. First, when you get into any kind of packaging, you start off by buying a whole lot of packaging materials at one time. For instance, when we started packaging our beer in bottles (two years after we opened by the way), we had to buy truckloads of glass bottles, cardboard boxes, six-pack carriers, paper labels, label glue, metal crowns for the bottles, etc. The amount of money you have to invest in just packaging materials, upfront, means you have to move a significant amount of beer every month just to make the numbers work.
If we decided to start canning, there would of course be the upfront investment in the new equipment. But on top of that, we'd have to buy 8,500 cans of each brand we canned. That would be a huge hit to our cash flow. So for us to start canning, it would only make sense to make the switch completely. We couldn't afford to both can and bottle our beers.
In a lot of ways, cans are a much better package than glass. They are impervious to light, while even a beer packaged in amber glass will get lightstruck and skunky if left in sunlight for a short time. Cans are more readily recyclable. Almost 45% of all cans are recycled, while only a small percentage of glass bottles are. There is an active market for recycled aluminum, while there is not much demand for recycled glass right now. Cans are much lighter than glass, so the fuel costs of getting the glass to the brewery, and out to the market, is less. Cans are welcomed in places where glass is not - beaches, golf courses, parks, etc.
For us, cans are pretty attractive. Our packaging components would be a can, a lid, a six-pack ring, and a cardboard tray, most of which can easily be recycled. Compare that to bottling, where you have a bottle, cap, label, six-pack carrier, and cardboard case box, with almost none of those items ever being recycled.
But... the big question is, "What do you think about it?" If you saw a big, beautiful pack of Yazoo Pale Ale tall-boys at your local grocery store, would you buy it? Please take the poll over there to the right, and post a comment!