By Gregory Daurer | Mar 09, 2020
"We help support the craft beverage industry by providing can-sleeve services for craft beverage producers, of all sizes, nationwide," says Sopcic. "We help you set your brand apart on the shelves, by helping small producers really decorate their can, and showcase their brand."
Major companies like Coca-Cola have their labels printed directly onto the aluminum -- a process too costly for smaller manufacturers of craft beer, wine, kombucha, seltzer, or CBD/THC beverages. Smaller brands have often relied on stick-on labels, but Sopcic says, "Stickers really only cover a small percentage of the available space [on the can], for the brand."
Sopcic says the shrink sleeve is an aesthetically pleasing, cost-effective option: The printed label slips directly over an aluminum can, before being adhered with heat onto the aluminum. "We are using digital graphics with 360-degree coverage [around the side of the] can," says Sopcic. "The options are endless when it comes to translating ideas for your brand onto a can." She adds, "We've got a stellar art team that supports our customers, [translating their designs] directly onto the cans."
CanSource provides its customers with aluminum cans with the shrink-sleeve labels attached, which the customers can then fill by using their own canning line; by utilizing a co-packer to fill them; or by contracting with a mobile canning service. The minimum order is "a half pallet of cans, roughly 3,000 cans," says Reese.
If a small company first contacts the major aluminum can supplier Ball, Reese says they'll be told that minimum order needs to exceed 200,000 printed cans -- and those cans won't be ready for at least eight to 10 weeks. According to Reese, Ball often tells companies looking for smaller orders, "Call CanSource."
CanSource can provide those same aluminum cans -- which they source from Ball -- with the labels attached, in a quicker amount of time. "Ball is a strategic partner of ours," says Reese. "They love us, and they hope that we can help our customers graduate to printed cans" -- in other words, those much larger orders that will require Ball's direct services.
CanSource was founded by two partners, Pat Hartman and Ron Popma, as an offshoot of their company Mobile Canning Systems; the company first established itself by providing craft brewers, who don't have a canning line, with the contracted use of Mobile Canning Systems' own -- which it would bring directly to the breweries.
In December 2019, private equity firm Broadtree Partners purchased CanSource. Sopcic, who worked for Charlotte-based Broadtree prior to transitioning to her role as CanSource's CEO, says of the acquisition, "We saw a phenomenal company that had a strong business model and great service, and had great conviction around how they serve their customers -- [as well as] where this market was going in terms of beverage producers moving away from plastic and glass, and into cans."
Sopcic adds, "The founders, Pat and Ron, have another business, Vertical Distilling, that they wanted to devote 100 percent of their time to, which is a co-packer for the ready-to-drink industry."
CanSource has made the Inc. 5000 list, three years in a row, placing in 2019 at #701. (Previously, it was #348 in 2017 and #483 in 2018.) In addition to Longmont, the company has plants in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and California, where it adheres labels -- which the company sources from outside printing services -- to various sizes of cans. "In our history, we have served over 1,000 customers," says Sopcic -- and those customers can be found in nearly all 50 states, as well as Canada and Australia. The largest percentage of those accounts reside within the craft brewing industry, with notable brands such as Dry Dock Brewing Company, Great Divide Brewing Company, Tivoli Brewing Company, Maui Brewing Co., and Fort George Brewery utilizing CanSource's services.
But fast-growing categories also include hard seltzer, wine, and ready-to-drink cocktails, in addition to CBD- and THC-infused beverages. "We're really excited about THC and CBD drinks," says Sopcic. "We're seeing a lot of creativity on the producers' side in this category."
And then there are kombucha and tea clients, too.
"It's pretty phenomenal to walk into a local grocery store and see one of our customer's products on the shelves," says Sopcic. "It's really fun to be part of an industry that you can see growing -- on the shelves."
Challenges: "Keeping up with the growth," says Sopcic. "Our goal, at the end, is to be a trusted and dependable supplier to our customers. So, given the industry is growing so quickly, our goal is to maintain the quality we've always had, even as the company continues to grow, and the industry continues to grow."
Opportunities: Reese says, "We continue to try to get closer to our customers -- which means we'll [have plants] in more locations coming soon."
Needs: "We're always in need of good people," says Reese. "Our biggest assets are still our people and our customers. So it's still trying to hire the best and the brightest."