Skip to content

There's a Shortage of These Popular Beverages at Grocery Stores

An eager demand for these products during the pandemic has caused a new shortage in the food industry.

The demand for canned beverages remains high throughout the pandemic as people miss ordering a tall, fizzy glass of Coke or ice-cold beer on tap at restaurants and bars. While having the option to buy these beverages in packs at the grocery store satisfies that craving, it's causing a bigger problem: The industry is on the verge of a can shortage.

In March, when restaurants and bars initially shut down, consumers flocked to the grocery store to pick up a six- or 12-pack of their favorite sodas, beers, and hard seltzers—all of which are usually packaged in aluminum cans. According to the Wall Street Journal, manufacturers speculate that aluminum cans are becoming more popular than glass and plastic options because they're lighter, more robust, and also more likely to be recycled. In 2019, GreenBiz reported that the recycling rate of aluminum cans is nearly 50% in the U.S.—the highest recycling rate of any beverage container, meaning it's more sustainable to produce.

Still, with so many shoppers routinely buying canned beverages, even large companies are struggling to find the resources to produce enough cans to meet the demand. Molson Coors Beverage Co. (owner of Miller Lite) attributes losing some of its market shares last month to having to suspend production of the various canned beers—namely, the 12-ounce Coors Light.

"Every company that makes anything in the 12-ounce can has been challenged to some degree by the global can shortage," WSJ quoted Chief Executive Gavin Hattersley saying on an investor call. (Related: We Tasted the Top 6 Spiked Seltzers, and This Was the Best.)

Even Coca-Cola Co. said specific products, such as Cherry Coke Zero, Minute Maid Zero Sugar Lemonade, and Pibb Extra, may disappear from grocery store shelves in the upcoming weeks as the company is forced to work with limited supplies. In fact, the decision to reduce the production of less popular items is a recurring theme among many manufacturers during the pandemic.

Large companies—such as Oreos' maker, Mondelez—have heavily prioritized making more of their products that are consistently the most in-demand over ones that have a more niche fan base and don't garner as many sales.

So, how high is the demand for canned beverages? Research firm IRI found that retail sales of aluminum drink cans jumped 24% by volume in March and hasn't stopped increasing since.

"From now until the end of the year, and in almost every market where we produce, cans will be in short supply," Timothy Donahue, the CEO of Crown Holdings Inc., a big can maker in the U.S, told the WSJ. "We do not have the ability to make up months of demand in a shorter time period."

It seems you better hold on to the cans you have! For more, check out 20 Clever Recipes That Use a Can of Coke.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more