CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – If the North American aluminum can shortage and tariff situation doesn’t improve, a P.E.I. brewer says it will consider all of its options moving forward, including finding a supplier overseas.
“All summer, we’ve been playing the ‘can game’ and trying to find cans. We’ve been looking as far as Texas to get cans,” said Bob Lawrence, vice-president of operations with the P.E.I. Brewing Company.
Lawrence suggested that the shortage is due to suppliers being unprepared for the industry shift to aluminum cans from bottles.
The Charlottetown-based brewer buys both pre-printed and shrink-wrapped cans, and fills them with beer on-site in Charlottetown. The cans are supplied by a company in Ontario and in the U.S., said Lawrence.
Three years ago, the brewing company was producing about 200,000 cans of beer. This year, over one million were produced for customers.
A 10 per cent tariff on aluminum (and a 25 per cent tariff on steel) imposed by the U.S. government on May 31. Canada imposed tariffs in response, which came into effect on July 1.
Nevertheless, the U.S. tariffs have increased the cost per can by two to four cents. Depending on the volume the company buys, cans cost between 30 cents and 40 cents each.
Lawrence said tariffs can have an impact in cases where raw aluminum is shipped from Canada to the U.S., formed into coils, then made into cans in the U.S. or sent back over the border to a canning facility in Canada.
Lawrence said the P.E.I. Brewing Company is absorbing the extra cost per can and not passing it on to customers.
The shortage of cans means the P.E.I. Brewing Co.’s can orders for August have been pushed back to November, and orders for October have been pushed back to February.
Lawrence suspects breweries will start ordering more cans, and doing so earlier.
Even so, the situation has forced the brewery to look at its options, including the possibility of buying cans from places like China as well as shrink wrapping its own cans.
“What has got us kind of nervous is that our suppliers are not really giving us any guarantees about (whether) this is going to get fixed, or when it’s going to get fixed,” said Lawrence.