Why can in-house?

Why can in-house?

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The Rise of Craft Canning

We have seen an ever increasing demand for the purchase of craft canning lines since their introduction to UK market. We have now sold in excess of 50 lines, with little signs of things slowing in the near future. So why is it that customers take that leap to package in cans?

Can vs Bottle

Cans themselves have plenty of well documented benefits when compared with bottles. The main benefits are ...

  • Cans totally exclude light from reaching your product - UV from light (even in brown glass) can negatively affect your product
  • Cans are easily stackable for shipping and transport - they are also easily stacked for storage, taking up less space than the equivalent volumes in bottle
  • Cans are lightweight and not tapered compared with glass, so they maximise storage capacity and can save on shipping costs
  • Cans give a large surface area for labelling and artwork – to help your brand standout on the shelf
  • Cans do not smash as bottles can if handled incorrectly
  • Cans are 100% recyclable; so are bottles potentially but crown caps are so small that they often fall through the screeners at recycling centres and so end up going to landfill - it's a small but interesting difference

Where to start

There are various options open to you when you decide to can. You can commission a drinks manufacturer to develop, produce and package a product into cans for you; you can outsource the canning only, using contract canning service; or you can purchase your own canning line.

Dispelling the myth

The good news is that you don't need to produce on a mass scale in order to make canning a viable option, as was certainly the case a decade ago, mainly because craft-scale equipment wasn't available at the time, particularly in the UK & Eire market. This was a key reason, many years ago, why we looked fill the gap and provide our customers with canning equipment suitable for their scale of production.

Contract Canning vs Canning In-House

There are many factors to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of using a contract canning service or investing in your own canning line. Using a professional and experienced contract canning service is an excellent way of testing your market. In terms of outlay and resources, less commitment is required from you. It is possible to work on a batch-by-batch basis, as opposed to sustaining production targets to maintain the maximum efficiency of an in-house line, for example. You will also have the benefit of acclimatising yourself with the practical aspects of canning at a steadier pace. Like any new production method, canning is learning curve which requires an understanding of procedures, parameters, and the lingo. There are some aspects you will need to consider carefully, however, with contract canning:

High Demand

Once your sales of canned product have proved successful, you will inevitably look to book additional packing dates. The challenge within the UK, however, is that the number of contract and mobile canning lines has not grown in line with demand, so booking these slots within your required timeframes can prove challenging. If this is the case, you will have to fit in with the production schedules of the contract canners and take whichever slot is offered. This can mean you are unable to be as spontaneous as you need to be in terms of canning to meet demand. By contrast, your own (in-house) canning line is ready and available at extremely short (if any) notice.

Quality Control

It goes without saying that quality control is a critical part of your production. As with the service industry in general, some providers will be more stringent than others in terms of their quality assurance and quality control measures. When canning, for example, checking the quality of the can seal and the product's dissolved oxygen levels are two of the many essential safeguards required to protect product integrity. Excellent hygiene standards and thorough record keeping are also of paramount importance. Quality control, therefore, is one of the key considerations when choosing a contract canner.

Most producers looking to purchase a canning line and can in-house want the ease of mind of taking ownership of the final product from production through to packaging. They want to be in full control of the whole packaging process, quality assurance and quality control.

Logistics

When contract canning is carried out off-site, there are inevitably costs involved in moving product physically from production tank into transport tank, to haulier, and again on arrival to packing tank and canning line. This carries an element of risk, which can be removed if the product is kept and packed on the same site, whether via a mobile canning service or your own in-house canning line.

Another consideration with a contract canning service is that it takes time for contract packers to adjust the canning line setups and parameters for each drinks batch – this will inevitably means a loss of product whilst they make adjustments. This can be reduced with an in-house canning line where you are familiar with your products and the necessary adjustments required.

Flexibility

Being able to split your packaging based directly on demand into different formats (can/bottle/keg) means that you are not holding stock in one format which would otherwise have been sold. When sending batches off for contract packaging, you are required to estimate in advance where demand might come from. This prevents you from being as flexible as you could be if you had packaging equipment in-house. From our experience, flexibility has been one of the key motivations of our customers when purchasing a canning line. Many customers who had purchased canning lines and could also bottle in-house reported that it was this flexibility that enabled them to be spontaneous during the pandemic, meeting both the small pack demand, and the varying ratio requirements of cans to bottles from week to week.

Payback & Finance

Budget inevitably needs to be set aside for contract canning. Whilst charges initially aren't going to match those of investing in a new canning line, as demand increases for your canned product and you put ever increasing volumes into cans, it will become more efficient production-wise to invest in your own craft canning line. Payback can be surprisingly quick and from then on you should be into cost saving (production) territory.

Funding from the EU in terms of grants is of course no longer an option, but it is encouraging that there are capital equipment grants still available on a local authority level which our customers have been exploring, particularly those which link in with tourism and the environment. There is also the option of equipment finance. If you are interested in this avenue, we can give you names of the some of the finance companies our customers have used.

Pitfalls to avoid when purchasing a canning line ...

We've heard quite a few accounts from brewers of the pitfalls they have encountered after purchasing a canning line from a supplier or manufacturer they wish they hadn’t bought from. These include:

  • Poor fabrication quality of machine/line
  • Dissolved oxygen levels that don't match the manufacturer's specification, leading to quality issues and shelf life problems
  • Machine/line not supplied within specified timeframe due to over-exaggerated lead times
  • Snagging issues not sorted out after delivery, having paid the full amount
  • Supplier goes bust and all deposits are lost
  • Lack of backup - engineers unavailable or based overseas and unable to get over due to travel restrictions
  • Waiting 2 or 3 weeks for spare parts

Due diligence

Here are our top tips when looking to purchase a canning line (assuming you have already thoroughly checked out the equipment on offer)...

  • Speak to other brewers who have invested in a canning line: What was their experience? How does the canning line work for them? What support do they receive from the supplier/manufacturer in terms of maintaining their line and engineering back-up when they have issues?
  • Consider the total cost of ownership: It's tempting to look at the 'bottom line' cost of the equipment but there are other costs to factor in, including maintenance/servicing and repairs.
  • Check out the supplier's experience & installations: Ask about their recent installations and where you can see a line working Research the level of backup the supplier/manufacturer offers: What is their engineering provision? Where is the support coming from - within the UK, on the continent, or the other side of the world? What does their support consist of in terms of the number of engineers, workshop facilities, installation experience, trouble-shooting, speed of response, spare parts availability, etc.
  • Think longer term: Carefully consider your potential growth. It's easy to scale yourself back by choosing the smallest, least expensive option to save a few thousand pounds. Those that do so, however, find that they have outgrown their line in a very short space of time. Investing badly can mean investing twice, so think about where you could well be, production-wise, in year 2, year 3 or even year 5. It's worth spending more initially to reduce your time canning in future, as and when demand increases. Ask, will the line accommodate any future growth?

Next step?

If canning in-house is something you would like to explore further, please call us today on 01404 892 100 and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and talk you through the equipment options. It doesn't matter what stage you are at - we'd really like to hear from you. We have extensive experience supplying and installing ABE Beverage Equipment canning lines to craft breweries in the UK and Eire, and we provide support from our in-house engineering team of 6 engineers and 2 apprentice engineers. You can check out our case studies.

Our compact canning lines are suitable for canning a wide range of drinks including beer, cider, wine, cocktails, hard seltzers, sodas, tonics, kombucha, water kefir, coldbrew & various soft drinks.

 

 

For information on the benefits of cans as a packaging option, including the sustainability benefits, please seeCan Makers

Many thanks to Five Points Brewing Companyand Canopy Beer Co for giving us permission to use the photos of their cans on our website. Read our Case Study on Five Points Brewing Co& Case Study on Canopy Beer Co.

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