If you’re planning to pick up a Summit Mixed Pack Best Of Edition anytime soon, you may notice the Summit True Brit IPA cans looking a little different.
Rest assured, the beer inside is as good as ever! The only thing that’s slightly changed is the artwork on the outside.
For that we can thank, what else, supply chain!
Current Can Climate
As with many companies, Summit has not been immune to experiencing supply chain issues over the last year. From shortages of materials like paper to aluminum can allocation to exorbitant production timelines to price inflation, the challenges of our current state touches nearly every part of the business.
“Current lead times and material availability has forced us to create alternative plans,” Chief Operations Officer Tom Thomasser said. “We’ve been forced to find substitute solutions for a number of issues.”
A particular challenge as of late, for many breweries and beverage businesses, has been aluminum can allocation.
“Prior to COVID-19, there had already been an ongoing shift towards the consumer’s preference to drink from a can versus a bottle. However, up until that point, the aluminum can suppliers had been able to ramp up production enough to keep beverage suppliers in stock on key can packages,” Director of Sales Brandon Bland said. “When the pandemic hit, it caused bars, restaurants and venues alike to close their doors, which in turn forced drinkers to shift towards off-premise outlets, putting an enormous strain on aluminum can suppliers in the U.S. This forced these suppliers to enact ‘can allocations.'”
These allocations caused waves across the beverage industry as producers, like Summit, were unable to get the number of cans they needed. Thus, we’ve been forced to find additional vendors, and time was taken away from brand planning and execution to create new relationships, draw up new artwork, make modifications and go through printing approval processes all over again.
How It Affects True Brit IPA
As you might have imagined, the brewing and production schedules are tightly intertwined. It’s imperative that when beer is done fermenting there is another vessel waiting for it.
What happened with our recent batch of True Brit IPA is there were no cans waiting for it.
Due to a situation within our current can supplier organization, we were not allocated any additional True Brit IPA cans for the month of October.
This was discovered at the beginning of the month, which left little time to find a solution as ales take two-to-three weeks to ferment. For context, prior to COVID-19 it generally took three-to-four months to get a can, which didn’t include any graphic design changes.
“To put into perspective, current ordering may look something like Summit asking for 1 million cans but receiving half of that,” Director of Planning and Fulfillment Stuart Johnson said. “Sometimes we can swap a style from a can to a bottle, but that’s not always possible. This was the case recently, since the beer was going to be in a variety pack of cans. When that occurs, we’re forced to find alternative solutions.”
The timeline with True Brit IPA was even more condensed as our latest batch was ready earlier than expected due to a change in the brewhouse. The beer had come out of the fermentation tanks and been separated, giving it roughly six days to be packaged before it could become unstable.
With no cans available, we needed to look to alternative solutions. Within the six-day window (two days of which fell over non-business days), Johnson used his connections to find a can broker with extra product they were willing to sell. Our marketing team updated the True Brit IPA artwork to fit the new vendor’s printing specifications and cans were printed and delivered in time to save the beer. What normally takes five-to-six months of planning (or more) was condensed into five-to-six days.
“Operations is scrambling to find an alternate source. Marketing dropped everything and spent the day re-designing the artwork to fit the alternate source’s specifications. And brewing must now “watch” this beer for a longer time than anticipated while we wait for the alternate cans to arrive. Nearly everyone at the brewery is impacted and disrupted,” Johnson said.
Finally, our sales team worked tirelessly to plan and communicate with our distributors and retail partners to ensure orders would be fulfilled, explain any differentiation in packaging and reassure everyone that despite a different look outside the product remains the great True Brit IPA on the inside.
Still Serving Quality and Consistent Beer
When it comes to feeling the effects of the supply chain issues the world is currently experiencing, we know we are not alone. We also recognize we are in a fortunate position to not only be able to continue operating, but at such a high capacity because our fans are eager to enjoy our product. It is certainly a privilege, if not sometimes a challenge.
“Certainly, these challenges are restricting us a bit. But, we’ll continue to look at other options and accept that we’re not alone in having to make concessions.” Thomasser said. “We continue to make the highest quality beer and hope our consumers recognize that.”
“Our partners at all levels have been tremendous. They have shown an ongoing understanding, commitment, and trust in us throughout this period,” Bland said. “The willingness to work with us in helping find solutions has been amazing. These relationships will be integral to sustaining our growth. As well as relying on our core value system. The truth is nobody truly knows when or if these challenges will end, but that doesn’t mean we change who we are. I believe that, at the end of the day, our values are what will separate us and make us stand out from the competition.”
So, while True Brit IPA may appear different on the outside, there should never be any concern that the beer on the inside is just as fresh and crisp as ever before.