Expert Topic Shifting to Cardboard for Beer Can Packaging

As breweries think about moving beyond plastic can holders and look to alternative packaging, could cardboard holders be next for small beer makers?

What makes sense when contemplating a change or adding on new equipment? ProBrewer contributor John Holl spoke with Rob J. Day, the VP of Marketing for Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers in Massachusetts. The brewery has been using cardboard for some of it’s beer packaging for years and could potentially be expanding the format to other sizes.

John Holl: Have you seen benefits from using cardboard packaging? Are your distributors interested in this packaging?

Rob Day: YES! It is more efficient in our particular packaging line. At scale it can cost less than alternative carriers and the cardboard is much easier to recycle. On the marketing side, they are much better for shelf presence. You have much more control over the facings and the presence – also known as billboarding – can be more impactful.

I don’t find our distributors actively seeking this type of packaging. They are happy with what pulls the fastest within the bounds of what each brand can do.

John Holl: Some brewers might worry that the packaging won’t hold in real-life use. What has been your experience?

Rob Day: No issues on this front. I’ve worked with all kinds of cardboard packaging in the business and it has been fine. There are some paper substrates that don’t hold up well to temp changes and moisture, and maybe that’s where the fear comes from.

If you work with good suppliers, they know this and you can select the materials right for our business.

John Holl: Specific equipment is often needed for this packaging, do the benefits outweigh the initial cost?

Rob Day: This will be different for everyone. For us it has been a yes. Refitting different lines etc. will be different for all though. I think there is a scale breaking point where it is more efficient no matter what, and that’s where you’ve seen much larger players trade it all to cardboard packs.

John Holl: You mentioned thinking about 6-pack and 4-pack cardboard holders. What do you see as the benefit for that size and cardboard packaging?

Rob Day: This goes back to the latter benefits in the first question.

We know we can create more impact at shelf with the full cardboard wrap, and we can control the facings. Currently, it takes humans to go into a store and make sure the cans are facing outward properly or you end up with a messy look.

The box packaging can solve that. The challenge is that you lose some flexibility in change when you are plating and printing cardboard, you need to manage more UPCs, and you have to change over distribution and retail information.

For us personally, we’ve had too much to tackle these two years to get to the point where this would make sense as a project. Looking forward, we can more easily evaluate our volumes and expectations now and make those calls for the future.

Shifting to Cardboard for Beer Can Packaging posted in:
John Holl
John Holl

John Holl is a contributor to ProBrewer and the editor of All About Beer.

One Comment “Shifting to Cardboard for Beer Can Packaging”

  • Adam Keele

    Adam Keele


    I HATE everything that I’ve seen on the market. Being in Northern California, I feel like we have all the examples being used, at least on the west coast. Once I’m canning at my own brewery again, I’ll being using Pak-Tech because they are sturdy enough to reusable these days and offer a deposit. The most environmentally friendly option is the one that gets reused.

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