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Packaging Trends: The Digital Printing Revolution Is Coming for Craft

Ongoing supply-chain problems and concerns about recyclability make digital can printing a promising option in the years to come—which is why packaging companies are investing in printers and banking on growth.

Joe Stange Jun 3, 2022 - 12 min read

Packaging Trends: The Digital Printing Revolution Is Coming for Craft Primary Image

Photo: Jamie Bogner

Cans are king these days when it comes to packaged beer. Given ongoing disruptions in the supply chain, however, small breweries continue to face challenges in sourcing, pricing, and labeling those cans.

What’s less obvious is that many of these cans are not recyclable, even though sustainability and recyclability were major selling points for cans in the first place. However, an ongoing revolution in digital printing—affecting many industries, from beverages to cars to fashion—appears to be the key to keeping more of that aluminum in the recycling stream.

As recently as four years ago, just about 41 percent of packaged craft beer was canned, according to the Brewers Association. By 2021 that had grown to about 60 percent. As independent brewers became more interested in the format once linked to industrial beer, so too did makers of all sorts of other beverages, from soft drinks to ready-to-drink cocktails. Later, as brewers know better than anyone, the pandemic kicked demand for aluminum cans into highest gear, and their availability and cost have never really recovered. Everybody wants cans now, and there are fewer to go around.

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Joe Stange is Managing Editor of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® and the Brewing Industry Guide®. Have story tips or suggestions? Contact him at [email protected].