Mobile Canning or Bust

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Interview with Joel McGinnis of Midwest Mobile Canning
by Reuben Kincaid

 

The age of the bomber has seen it’s zenith. With hundreds of breweries and thousands of different skus available for sale, smaller breweries are having a harder time selling their beer in bomber format. In order to get their beer into store shelves it’s become necessary to put it in 12-16 ounce bottles or cans. Buying a canning machine can set you back between $50-250K and its not easy to invest or save that much money If yer only kicking out a few thousand barrels of beer a year.

 

To help growing breweries compete in the marketplace better mobile canning companies have sprouted up all around the country. I spoke to Joel McGinnis of Midwest Mobile Canning to check in on the state of the canning biz.

 

Tell us a little about you and the founders of the business.  What inspired you to be involved with the craft brewing industry?
I spent several years in the retail industry both at the store level and corporate level. My father Terry was also in the retail industry at the corporate level. He was getting ready to retire but wanted something to keep him busy during retirement. We came across an article in a newspaper about the need for cans in the craft brewing industry. Most breweries are using their available capital on brewing equipment, tanks etc. and therefore do not have the extra resources to purchase a canning line. That’s when we decided that this is the perfect opportunity to fill that void.

What was business like when you first started? What kind of barriers are there to entry and how did your business model change?

Business was tough when we started approximately five years ago. We were not real familiar with the craft brewing industry, the process of brewing and of course the whole distribution process. For me, that was the biggest challenge. Running a business in an industry that you are not familiar with can be tough. We worked with some of our counterparts in different areas of the country that had a year or so under their belts. We learned a lot in the first six months. As we learned we started bringing on new accounts and shortly thereafter a second canning line was on order.

Small breweries usually cannot afford a 4 head canning machine. And many of them are selling large format bottles or draft.  I am assuming those limitations helped you detect that there was a need for mobile canning in the marketplace for small brewers. What are some of the other reasons brewers call you for their services?

Other than the cost of a canning line itself being an issue, breweries come to us with special requests. Whether it be fundraising events, weddings that need special cans for that special day, even ice fishing derbies here in the north need cans. Wherever there is a need for a one time run for an event they like to call on us and we can make it happen. We have a can supplier that can do one time runs on special labeled cans and breweries like that.

What are the benefits of canning vs bottling beer?
Cans have many benefits over bottles. Cans do not allow light in. Light is bad for beer which lessens the shelf life. Cans are 100% recyclable and they can also go places glass cannot go. Many parks, beaches, hotel pools, concert venues and sporting events do not allow glass. Distributors love cans. They are easy to stack, move, and store in their facilities.

Can you describe the process of mobile canning? Give us a typical walk through on what happens before during and after your canning days.

Canning a beer has to start out with a plan. We talk with the breweries and find out what their goal is and what they want in the end. We usually meet with them and do a site survey to make sure we have enough space to fit equipment. Once we decide that everything will work and we know what the brewery wants, we start the process of working on can designs and get the cans ordered. Cans are shipped to the facility approximately 2-3 days prior to the canning date. On the canning date we arrive, unload all equipment off the truck into the brewery, hook up all water, air, CO2 and eventually product. We require the brewery to have three helpers, one feed cans into the machine and two to put packteck handles on and put into cardboard flats as the cans are filled. Once all beer is canned, we clean the machine and pack up and the bewery handles all distribution to the retailers or distributors.

Do you have any predictions for craft brewing in 2018? Some people see that the market is leveling off. Will this effect your business?

At this point we are not seeing the market leveling off. I’m receiving calls everyday from either existing breweries that have not canned yet or startup breweries putting plans in place to put their product in cans. I do know that consumers love to buy local and being able to get their local brews in cans is a win for everyone.

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