On behalf of the International Canned Wine Competition in California, I had an interview with Simon Gresty, Chairman, Can Makers.

A gold sponsor of this year’s International Canned Wine Competition, the Can Makers is the trade body representing drinks can manufacturers in the UK.

Members work together specifically to promote the benefits of the drinks can and aid communications between the industry and its customers: the brewers and soft drinks manufacturers and the retailers, as well as the packaging industry, the media and consumers.

The UK is the largest beverage can market in Europe, with over 10 billion cans shipped each year from UK can manufacturing plants. The Can Makers was the first organisation in Europe formed to promote drink cans. It is part of the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association which represents the UK metal packaging industry.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with ICWC Simon. Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

In addition to my position as chairman of the Can Makers, I’ve now held my current role as General Manager at Ardagh for five years, overseeing all aspects of the business.

 I’ve worked in the industry for more than three decades, as an account manager in the early days before taking on commercial roles in sales and business development and then general management.

You were previously chairman of the Can Makers between 2006 and 2008. How has the industry changed since then?

There have been many changes of significance for the industry in the last 15 years, such as the shift in focus from printing capability to sustainability, with all its implications throughout the value chain.  And you have to remember that the colours we see on cans now, the creative designs and branding opportunities that are now a key differentiator when choosing to package wines or any beverage in cans, would have been unthinkable little more than a decade ago.

The metal beverage can industry has had to continually reinvent and adapt to market conditions in that time and adaptability is now a constant requirement. Increasing levels of operational versatility will therefore remain a key challenge for industry in the years ahead.

Why did you choose to support the ICWC?

The Can Makers Committee brings together stakeholders throughout the value chain from manufacturers to suppliers of raw materials and the Committee’s work proactively supports numerous environmental and technical initiatives as well as marketing campaigns to promote the can.

The fact is that canned wine is fast becoming big business. The UK market is now worth more than £3.6 million – an annual increase of 125% to August 2019, while the global canned wines market is expected to reach USD 155.1 million by 2027.

But despite this growth and the environmental benefits the can offers, there remains a perception among some that canned wine is somehow inferior.

Supporting ICWC is just one way in which the Can Makers is helping to change consumer and brand perception and drive growth in this category. It also follows Can Makers work with a number of leading wine critics, whom we invited to participate in a virtual wine taste test. The results were extremely encouraging and many of the wines continue to feature in the national press following endorsement by the critics.

Initiatives like this all make a significant contribution to normalising new formats and ensuring the merits of the can are considered by all beverage producers.

What does the future hold for canned wine?

In recent years we’ve seen a major shift in the types of beverages packaged in cans. As brands diversify, so the format itself has adapted.

The 330ml can has undoubtedly underpinned the rise in craft beers while sleek and slim cans are increasingly popular with premium brands for high quality wines as well as spirits and mixers.

A natural progression in this development, and one which I am keen to drive as far as possible during my time in office, is the perception of the can as a format which offers real prestige, as well as performance and convenience.

There is no doubt in my mind that the popularity of wine in cans will continue to grow. We are already seeing high quality brands launching exclusively in cans which simply would not have happened just a few years ago.

And for the sustainably conscious consumer, the canned format is ideal. Cans are light, convenient and easy to recycle. Aluminium cans are also the most recycled beverage container in the world and can be recycled forever without any loss of quality. This sustainability message is only going to become more important for brands in the years ahead.

The Can Makers will therefore continue to focus its communications activity on driving awareness of the benefits beverage cans offer throughout the value chain, from brands to consumers.

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