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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Most of us have now found that disruptions in the supply chain can result in empty shelves at the supermarket.  The explanations vary from people hoarding toilet paper, to meat processing plants forced to shut down. COVID-19 is causing ripple effects through the economy of supply and demand.

COVID-19 is causing a dent in the can manufacturing industry and one local brewery in Huntsville, already feeling pressure from the pandemic, says this is could be a crushing blow to business.

The folks at Straight To Ale in Huntsville have tried to keep a “can-do” attitude during the pandemic by shifting from draft sales to filling up the beer cooler.

“It’s 80 percent of our income right now,” said Dan Perry, president of Straight To Ale.

Meaning the brewery’s production facility is its lifeline during COVID-19.

“All of our production has moved over to cans, so we’re doing so much more cans. That’s the only way we’re able to survive it,” Perry stated.

As a result, the brewery needs far more cans than before. They’re not alone. Beverage makers across the country are faced with surging demand, but it appears the supply is not able to keep up.

Perry says it normally takes the cans six weeks to arrive after they’re ordered, but their can manufacturer informed them this week that the wait time is going to double.

“Of course with no notice that’s going to cause a lot of us a lot of grief, not being able to put out products for a month, month and a half,” Perry said.

WHNT News 19 reached out to the American Beverage Association. A spokesperson said, “Beverages in aluminum cans are particularly popular right now, and beverage company employees are doing all they can to make sure store shelves remain fully stocked.”

“There has been unprecedented demand for cans and our industry is working 24/7 to meet the demand,” said Robert Budway, President of the Can Manufacturers Institute.

The Can Manufacturers Institute is the national trade association for that industry. Budway says when restaurants and bars closed their doors due to COVID-19 it created a shift in how people across the country consume beverages.

“There were 97 billion aluminum beverage cans made in Canada and the US last year for the US and Candian markets. This year we’ve seen a significant shift in the demand for cans, in the beer market in particular, and we’ve seen a seven point shift in demand from glass to cans and we’ve seen our can making companies import about 2 billion cans from across the globe just to meet the demand in the United States,” Budway said.

Budway says every Fall can manufacturers meet with their customers to make plans for their production needs in the upcoming year.

“They planned out what was going to be anticipated for 2020, but obviously the eruption of this COVID-19 has created even more demand. So, it was unplanned and our factories were running at capacity just beyond what they planned for 2019, but now the unprecedented demand they’re working 24/7 to meet the demand that’s required to fulfill the needs of the American consumer.”

This is not an aluminum shortage, it’s a production capacity issue.

“We have plenty of supplies to make cans, it’s just capacity has been unanticipated and certainly unprecedented,” Budway stated.

It’s a harsh reality for the local brewery to swallow.

“With this can shortage it couldn’t get much worse,” Perry said.

This presents yet another set back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I’m surprised we made it through everything so far and without knowing the end you just don’t know if you can make it or not,” Perry said.

The president of the Can Manufacturers Institute says this problem is rooted in COVID-19 and will continue to be an issue as the country fights to slow the spread. He expects the high demand to last through the end of the year and even into part of 2021.

He added that can manufacturers are in the process of building three new factories to meet the high level of demand, but those won’t be ready for production for several months.