America has been worried about its weight problem for years, and one of the broader solutions for the US’s growing obesity will affect the aluminum industry. Aluminum can sales in the US are slated to decrease in 2013 as people are opting for water, iced teas and other healthy alternatives to soda. Many anti-soda initiatives have also emerged across the US, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on sodas over 16 ounces in New York City and Disney’s pledge to limit junk food ads on its TV shows, and are hurting aluminum and soda industries. This will be the third consecutive year that the US aluminum can industry will feel a blow, since water and iced tea are usually found in plastic or glass bottles rather than aluminum.
Yet, the US still has the rest of the world beat when it comes to can consumption. Around 1.7 million metric tons, or 5% of global annual aluminum consumption, is used to make cans for the US and Canada per year. The typical American consumes 160 liters of soda every year — two-thirds more than the UK drinks annually, and far more than developing countries like China and India consume, which is less than 5 liters a year.
Large US aluminum companies – Novelis, Alcoa and Ball Corp — are taking investments elsewhere, to other big soda-consuming areas of the world like Asia and Brazil. Sporting events, such as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, will greatly boost sales for these companies. Alcoa anticipates that can consumption will increase in Europe by 2-3% in 2013, and in China by 8-12%. Ball Corp shut down two of its US beverage packaging plants in 2012 in order to open new plants in Vietnam, China, Brazil and Italy; Novelis is also opening new plants in South Korea and Brazil. All three companies expect can consumption in those regions to steadily grow.
Another method that aluminum can companies have adopted is repackaging. While juices, teas and beers are not ordinarily found in cans, many of these items are re-emerging on the market in canned forms. Aluminum producers are also looking into recreating the standard can by altering the size, shape and labeling of cans. Taking it a step further, aluminum producers are marketing cans as more recyclable in comparison to glass and plastic bottles, which has convinced some craft breweries to shift to aluminum.
The key actionable and sustainable strategies for aluminum can sheet and can producers are:
1. Keep increasing aluminum can recycling rate to match world champion Brazil at 98.3%, thus avoiding frequent trips to landfills.
2. Promote, market and actively support ongoing public campaigns to lower obesity rates, especially among children.
3. Collaborate with non-profit interest groups to convey the message that the aluminum industry is a part the health-conscious solution.
Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan:
Dr. Das is a prolific writer and a well-recognized and respected expert and consultant to the global aluminum industry specializing in the areas of industry trends, technology, recycling, manufacturing, carbon management and new product & process developments.
Dr. Subodh Das can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.phinix.net