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The Business of Beverage Cans

Around the world, we use about 280 billion beverage cans per year[1] – or more than 6,700 per second[2]. In Europe, 64 million cans were filled in 2015, which represents a 2% increase over 2014.[3] Most of the beverage cans produced worldwide are made of aluminum (about 75%), while about 25% are made of steel. The choice between aluminum or steel tends to depend on the region where the cans are produced, with some countries preferring one material over another, and the type of beverage they will contain.

What makes cans the best beverage containers? They chill quickly, they’re recyclable, and they can be stacked for easy storage. Cans also offer an opportunity for beverage companies to brand and promote their products with eye-catching color and graphics, alongside labeling and consumer information. Within the beverage can industry, can coating – the application of the primer and lacquer that protects and decorates the can – is big business.

From the launch of the first flat-top can, in Virginia, US, in 1935, to the specialty sizes and variety in can openings that were introduced in the 2000s, innovation has played a central role in the manufacture of beverage cans.

Trends that are shaping the can manufacturing industry today:[4]

  • Craft beer breweries have discovered the art of can decoration, and have turned to the billboard aspect of cans to market their beers and showcase their creativity.
  • Everyday items that offer a unique twist, such as cans decorated with art, are increasingly popular with consumers.
  • Functional beverages, or nutraceuticals (drinks with extra health benefits), are also having an impact on the can industry. Cans are the preferred container for these drinks, as they’re easily chilled, durable and protect the contents from light.

How It’s Made: Aluminum Cans

This 5-minute video from the ‘How It’s Made’ television show on the Science Channel shows how aluminum beverage cans are manufactured, including the coating step.

The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can

In this 11-minute video, Bill Hammack, ‘the Engineer Guy’ and a Professor at the University of Illinois, describes the manufacturing steps and engineering behind the aluminum beverage can.