National aluminum shortage hits manufacturers, distributors

Major players in aluminum can production faced an up to 25% increase in demand during the pandemic.
A national aluminum shortage, specifically a shortage of aluminum cans, impacts Northeast...
A national aluminum shortage, specifically a shortage of aluminum cans, impacts Northeast Wisconsin.(WBAY)
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 4:01 PM CDT
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MANITOWOC, Wis. (WBAY) - One Manitowoc manufacturer feels the direct impact of a national aluminum shortage, specifically a shortage of aluminum cans.

“We make molten aluminum, and we put it into sand molds and other types of molds,” said Sachin Shivaram, CEO of Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry.

In the Manitowoc community for more than 100 years, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry creates parts used on a daily basis.

“The wheels on your car, the pots and pans that you use,” said Shivaram.

The company even produces medical devices made with aluminum.

“It is true," said Shivaram. "There is an aluminum shortage, specifically it’s a shortage of aluminum cans.”

The Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry CEO says the cause of the shortage is three-fold. “It was the confluence of a concentrated industry, a sudden spike in demand, and then difficulty importing cans that resulted in a shortage.”

Shivaram tells Action 2 News the only two major players producing aluminum cans faced an up to 25% increase in demand brought on by the pandemic. Attempts to import aluminum cans from outside of the also came with some challenges.

“This is at the same time there were a lot of disruptions to trade because of COVID but also because of tariffs and everything happening in the world,” said Shivaram.

In an email to Action 2 News on Wednesday afternoon, Festival Foods Buyer Merchandiser Travis Tiedt writes, “When the pandemic hit, the volume of aluminum spiked and the three major soft drink companies used a large amount of their 2020 forecast prior to the month of May. All three companies have been experiencing aluminum shortages since early summer, which they expect to last into 2021.”

Tiedt goes on to say the grocery store chain has reduced the amount of advertising for cans during the shortage. “We do still receive occasional shipments of some of the more popular flavors in cans, however those are sporadic shipments, so shoppers may not always find their favorite flavors in can form.”

Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry has also felt the direct impact of the aluminum shortage.

“We make a machine that cans beer. So, we sell this to breweries and we also sell them the cans,” said Shivaram.

Orders for those cans that typically take two days to fulfill now take up to five months.

What does this all mean for consumers? Shivaram says shoppers looking for items in aluminum cans can expect price increases next time they head to the store.

“The consumer will see an increase in the price of a soda can and the price of a can of beer, because producers will try to pass that cost increase down to the consumer,” said Shivaram. “The worst case, unfortunately, is that it could be that consumers couldn’t get what they want. Certain products are sold only in cans.”

Tiedt adds there are steps shoppers can take to alleviate the burden on aluminum can producers. “Plastic is in stock, and there appear to be no shortages in the future. Shoppers who typically buy cans can look to buy flavors in plastic bottles if available.”

Shivaram hopes the shortage can lead to a greater investment in aluminum production in the United States.

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