COVID-19

For beverage makers, a pandemic can dilemma

Andy Uhler Sep 3, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Randy Shropshire/Getty Images
COVID-19

For beverage makers, a pandemic can dilemma

Andy Uhler Sep 3, 2020
Randy Shropshire/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

People bought a lot of soft drinks in cans early in the pandemic. National Beverage Corporation, the company responsible for LaCroix Sparkling Water, among other things, is set to release its quarterly results Thursday. In July, National Beverage said it’s profited from people buying in bulk.

But that also means it’s hard now for companies to get enough empty aluminum cans.

The run on products in aluminum cans during the pandemic isn’t exactly like what we saw with toilet paper. But John Stanton at Saint Joseph’s University said that’s not a bad analogy.

“The system is so fine-tuned that as you start getting these small increases, the system starts to, you know, get a little out of whack,” Stanton said.

And, even before the pandemic, we were drinking a lot of soda water in cans. A survey by market research company NPD in 2018 found that Americans consumed 3.3 billion servings of sparkling water. Now, hard seltzer manufacturers and even small brewers are vying for those cans, too.

“You know, you can imagine that there’s a pecking order for these types of products, and the craft beverage producer is going to be towards the bottom,” said Tim Bullock, who runs St. Elmo Brewing Company in Austin, Texas.

The Can Manufacturers Institute says aluminum can makers expect to import more than 2 billion cans in 2020 from their overseas facilities.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

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