FREDERICTON – The growth in popularity of craft beer in Atlantic Canada is providing a unique ecosystem not only for brewers but for those who provide services to them as well.
Craft Coast Canning is a New Brunswick and Nova Scotia-based packaging service that offers mobile canning to brewers and other craft alcohol producers in the Maritimes.
Co-founders James Ponting and Melinda Ponting-Moore say the company initially came about because they were interested in the craft beer scene but wanted to be involved in a way other than starting a brewery.
“My background’s in engineering and I like solving problems. We just thought that with all these craft breweries opening up, they’re going to need to package their products if they want to get to market and packaging is expensive,” Ponting says.
“It’s not just the cost of buying the canning equipment, they have to employ people who know how to operate it and train those people and maintain that equipment, troubleshoot… We can just take all of that off their plate.”
The couple found that while the mobile canning model existed in North America, there were only around four or five businesses using this method in Canada and around 20 in the US.
Craft Coast Canning now serves over 30 breweries in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, either with mobile canning or their can design services.
Normally they work with their clients on the design of the cans, then either ship the cans to the brewery ahead of time or bring them with the canning equipment on a designated canning day. Once on-site with the canning machine, the equipment is connected to the brewery’s tanks and the product is packaged on the spot. The brewers are then able to distribute.
“Before we existed, a lot of times a brewery would start off by getting a few keg accounts, and then they’d start filling some growlers and crowlers in their taproom. That’s changed a lot with us being in the picture,” says Ponting.
“We were able to help a few breweries that were just starting up be successful early on [with] big launches into the provincial stores.”
Ponting says that by not having to do their own canning, the breweries save time and are able to focus more on the actual brewing of their product.
“When you’re really small-scale, you have to brew so many batches, which takes time in order to make enough volume of product that you can sell and make a profit,” he says.
“For these nanoscale breweries, they’d have to spend their time equally between brewing and manually packaging. They’d never have enough time in the day to make enough product to really accelerate their growth.”
While the mobile canning model is well-suited for smaller breweries, Melinda Ponting-Moore says it works for larger-scale breweries as well. They’re flexible in a way that allows them to offer services to a range of different-sized breweries.
“There are a lot of breweries here that are just happy to be that niche beer producer. They produce a set amount of beer and that’s it and people will come and flock to it because it’s something special,” says Ponting-Moore.
“There are other ones that are looking to grow their distribution and continue to scale and both scenarios are really good and we can work well with both types of breweries.”
The couple has found the market in the Maritimes is unique in the way breweries are supported by their local communities and are excited to help foster this kind of support.
“We want to continue to be able to make the small communities thrive because that’s the one thing we’ve noticed about the Maritime market that’s really unique. A lot of these very loyal communities that really rally around their product, that want to support their product. And they should,” says Ponting-Moore.
“We want to see those guys have stability and grow to whatever they want to be.”
Craft Coast Canning is continuing to grow by diversifying the services they offer. They’re soon adding a second canning machine to their business that will allow them to be even more flexible and offer more options to customers and reach a market beyond craft beer brewers.