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Can't find your favorite canned soda or beer? An aluminum shortage might be to blame

Before the COVID-19 pandemic demand for aluminum cans was trending upward and now beverage companies are having a hard time getting enough cans to stock shelves.

ATLANTA — First, during the COVID-19 pandemic, cleaning supplies disappeared. Then it was toilet paper that went missing from store shelves. Now certain flavors of canned beverages are hard to find at grocery stores.

"I started a diet a little bit over a year ago and I gave up sugar. Cherry Coke Zero just became my go-to drink of something I could just have as a little treat," Sheri McGuffin of Bardstown, Kentucky told 11Alive Thursday. 

McGuffin's search for Cherry Coke Zero now rivals a treasure hunt. She reached out to Atlanta based Coca-Cola on Twitter to ask what was causing the issue. 

"I completely understand shortage of disinfecting wipes and lack of coin circulation, but why is Cherry Coke Zero so hard to find? #drinkofchoice," she tweeted. 

Coke responded tweeting, "Like many companies, we are seeing greater demand for products consumed at home, and we are taking measures to adapt to the demand. We are working closely with our customers and our suppliers to mitigate the challenge during this unprecedented time."

A Coke spokeswoman also sent 11Alive a statement reading, "Aluminum cans are in very tight supply with so many people buying more multi-pack products to consume at home. We are implementing contingency plans as best we can to get the products people want to store shelves. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through these unprecedented times of high demand for our products."

During a quick check of grocery store shelves in Atlanta on Thursday, 11Alive found empty spots for several sodas at multiple grocery stores chains, with some shelves featuring signs listing products as sold out. 

The company's flagship drinks such as Coca-Cola Original and Diet Coke appeared to be well-stocked.

Coca-Cola has responded to other people that have tweeted the company after having a hard time finding beverages such as Fresca, Coke Zero, Vanilla Coke, and caffeine-free Coke. The beverage giant responded to each tweet with responses similar to the one McGuffin received. 

The Ball Corporation manufactures a list of products including aluminum cans. A spokeswoman e-mailed 11Alive describing increased demand for cans beginning before the COVID-19 pandemic and since increasing.

"For instance, hard seltzers have experienced explosive growth as a category and specifically in cans," a company statement reads. "Soft drinks and the still and sparkling water categories have seen it, too, with marketers shifting their packaging mix toward cans and away from single-use plastics."

McGuffin admits having a challenging time finding her soda is a small problem, but missing something that gives you comfort during times of quarantining and working from home is disappointing. 

"Those little things when they disappear it leaves a huge hole and you don't even realize it when it happens," she said. 

11Alive also talked with several breweries Thursday who reported having a hard time finding aluminum cans to meet the demand for their beers. 

In Roswell, Gate City Brewing is feeling the financial crunch of the aluminum can shortage. 

"We had to just order way more than we usually would," brewery co-founder Brian Borngesser said. 

Borngesser was able to order cans for his brewery but needed to place a larger than normal order as an insurance policy. 

Having cash tied up in extra inventory will limit the brewery's cash flow. 

Gate City, like soda companies, is also putting a smaller variety of products on shelves, from grocery to convenience stores.    

"We haven't been putting out seasonals into distribution like we typically would be this time of year," Borngesser said, "We still are making the seasonals and selling them through our taproom, it just changed the way we had planned on attacking the market." 

To meet long-term growth in demand for aluminum cans, Ball reports they're installing new manufacturing lines at existing facilities and building two new plants that are expected to be operating by the end of 2021. 


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