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COVID-19

For beverage makers, a pandemic can dilemma

Andy Uhler Sep 3, 2020
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Randy Shropshire/Getty Images
COVID-19

For beverage makers, a pandemic can dilemma

Andy Uhler Sep 3, 2020
Heard on:
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’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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