According to CraftCans.com, there are now over 179 craft breweries canning at least one of their brews. While the pros of the canning process definitely outnumber the cons, equipment costs and the amount of space needed to house a canning line frequently prohibit smaller breweries from being able to can their beers.
Enter a new start-up company called The Can Van. They’re offering smaller breweries in the Bay area a solution for canning that eliminates all of the usual obstacles. The Can Van is a mobile service that goes right to a brewery to set up, can, palletize, and get beer ready for market. The system puts out 36 cans per minute during production, and offers small-batch labelling on blank or solid color cans.
The idea is the brainchild of five recent grads from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Tasked with developing a business plan for a "sharing economy," based on a model of collaborative consumption and resource conservation, Jenn Coyle, Linsey Herrema, Kate Drane, Jack Blackshear, and Heath Cox, came up with the Can Van.
When I spoke with CEO Jenn Coyle Catalano and COO Lindsey Herrema earlier this week, they said the five of them were brought together by their love of craft beer, and a desire to help small local breweries. Check out some of the highlights from our conversation below:
At which point during the project did you realize (or decide) that this might become a reality?
After talking to many brewers, it became clear that a mobile canning service would be an effective solution to many of the hurdles preventing small and medium sized breweries from offering their beer in cans. Since we had already identified willing customers, we tried our hand at raising money. We were met with overwhelming support, and so we decided to make a go of it.
Have you spoken with the professor(s) since you’ve launched the business? If so, what have they said? And what grade did you receive for the project?
Yes, everyone is very excited and supportive. Some of our former professors are on our advisory board. And I honestly don’t remember the grade…but we have been invited back to talk to future classes, so it must have been good. :)
What was the biggest challenge in getting started?
As this is a business model that has not really been tried before, there are a lot of technical hurdles to work through. Taking a piece of equipment with all the associated parts and making it mobile so that we can basically install a whole packaging line every morning at a new brewery is not easy. It has been an interesting learning curve, but we have gotten a lot of support and understanding from brewers, and we are all working the bugs out together.
Lindsey Herrema (COO) and Jenn Coyle (CEO) stand happily in front of The Can Van
I imagine you’ve encountered a number of technical difficulties along the way. Now that you’re off the ground, what’s the latest difficulty?
Temperature related beer foam! The canning equipment only works with very cold beer, so we have to work with breweries to make sure they can get it cold enough before we start canning.
How many clients do you currently have, how many do you plan to have, and what is the smallest amount you’re willing to can?
As of this week, we’ve canned over 40,000 cans for six clients. We have four new ones scheduled to start in the next three months, and we’re in the development stages with several more for the future. We have room for many more breweries, and look forward to adding new ones and seeing some exciting commercial releases. We normally ask for a minimum of 80-100 cases, but we have done much smaller runs in order to help brewers get samples to their distributors. We are willing to work with breweries to find a service size that works so we can grow with them.