The pandemic has impacted Great Raft and breweries around the world in a number of different ways. The way we work, the way we sell and the way we package our beer have all changed as we adapt to our new circumstances.
Before the pandemic, about 40% of the beer we brewed ultimately went into kegs to be sold into the market at your favorite bars and restaurants, as well as the Great Raft tasting room. That meant the remaining 60% went into cans or bottles. Fast forward to August, and draft sales have plummeted 80% and we have shifted to packaging almost exclusively in cans. Shreveport and New Orleans are two of our largest markets, and with bars closed and restaurants operating at a limited capacity, there isn’t much need for kegged beer right now.
However, the demand for beer is still there. (Thank goodness!) Beer sales at the grocery stores and other off-premise stores have climbed significantly. Luckily customers have still sought out Great Raft beers – both through our curbside pick up service and at their favorite grocery / liquor store. However, this kind of drastic, near-overnight shift in packaging required a lot of shifts for Great Raft’s operations team, along with about 10,000 other US breweries.
While COVID 19 forced breweries and other beverage manufacturers to shift their packaging strategy, the virus was also simultaneously hindering manufacturing plants and their labor force. The raw materials for aluminum can production was not the issue – rather the capacity to produce the cans was lacking. The result? A can shortage!
Suddenly, aluminum cans became a highly coveted item. Cans were already the preferred vessel for most craft breweries in the US, and seemingly every brewery needed to double down on can inventory to continue generating revenue. Not only were 12 and 16 oz aluminum cans in high demand, but 32 oz crowler cans were needed as well. In the tasting room, we had a lot of specialty and draft-only beers that we wanted to get into the hands of our customer quickly. In the March and April time frame, we ran out of crowlers 3 different times and our ability to sell beer was hindered by our ability to get more crowlers in stock. Supply was rationed and our beer release schedule was dictated by when new crowlers would arrive.
Luckily we have the best team in the business. Our operations and finance teams have worked tirelessly to adapt to these new business needs to keep Great Raft nimble and fully stocked in all the markets we serve. We have secured cans and crowlers for the foreseeable future, and aluminum manufacturers are slowly starting to catch up. Our main supplier, Ball Corporation, out of Fort Worth, Texas, is set to open a new facility in Georgia that will ramp up production by the end of the year to alleviate some of the backlogged demand.
Our Wild Goose canning line has worked harder over the past five months than ever before. In July 2019, we canned 95,000 beers. In July 2020, we canned over 169,000 cans. Since we started, over 7 million cans of Great Raft beer have been packaged on site and there are no signs of slowing down.
We can’t wait to raise a pint with you in the tasting room or at a market event soon. In the meantime, keep crushing those cans of Great Raft beer. Cheers and thank you for the unbelievable support.
Buy cans of GRB beer to go.