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Jeff Aldred / photos Jonathan Castner

Wild Goose Canning

by Chris Meehan on January 26, 2015, 02:37 pm MST

www.wildgoosecanning.com

Boulder, Colorado

Founded: 2009

Employee-owned

Employees: about 40

Co-founders Jeff Aldred and Alexis Foreman are taking the can-happy craft beer industry by storm. Sales more than doubled in 2015.

Wild Goose Canning's fastest canner, the WGC 600, produces 90 cans of beer a minute. That's impressive on its own right, but when you consider that the unit is roughly four feet by 10 feet, it's astonishing. Perhaps that's why the company -- which has sold hundreds of lines since launching -- saw revenue grow by 72 percent in 2015.

"It's been an amazing experience being in something this vibrant and exciting and successful," says Aldred, noting that the company has mushroomed from two to 40 employees in six short years. The workers are also co-owners, which was important to Aldred and Foreman.

Wild Goose Canning got its start by chance. The company's parent, Wild Goose Engineering, shared a wall with Upslope Brewing Co. in Boulder. "They said, 'Our canning system is not efficient and I know you guys have done automation, could you do something to make our system go faster?'" Aldred says. "They were filling around four to five cans a minute."

To meet their distribution needs, Upslope scheduled multiple shifts. "They wanted to do about 20 cans a minute so they could go back down to a single shift and get a 30-barrel tank done in about 10 hours or so," Aldred says. "As soon as we got it done, people in the industry took notice."

Aldred says the company took in about $10 million in 2015 and could see sales surpass $15 million in 2016. Its customers are as far away as Australia. In Colorado alone, Wild Goose's lines can everything from Telluride's Face Down Brown Ale to Dry Dock's Hop Abomination.

The machines are also canning wines by companies like Denver's Infinite Monkey Theorem as well as sodaas, ciders, spirits, and coffee drinks. "Beer's honestly the most difficult to can," Aldred says. "It's carbonated, has sugars and alcohols and proteins and other things in there that pour much differently than water. Anyone who's poured beer into a glass has figured that one out."

The market is booming. Oskar Blues started canning in Lyons in 2002, and today more than 500 craft breweries can their wares in the U.S. "Our machines are fast enough to support breweries of almost all sizes," Foreman says. "We're doing Kona and Red Hook." He says their systems are suitable for all but the largest breweries like Molson Coors.

"We're also going to take the bottom of the market and make a simpler unit. That's after we get the faster product ready to go," Aldred says. "We'll take on the onesy-twosy guys that don't have a big market yet, but still want to get into to cans to preserve their product."

All of Wild Goose's machines are modular. "You can take pieces off of the slower unit and put them on the new, much faster units and increase capacity without having to discard the whole thing," Aldred says.

The company is one of the biggest manufacturers of mobile canning lines for operators like Longmont-based Mobile Canning Systems. "We have upwards of 85 percent of the market in mobile canning equipment," Aldred says. "Only one or two companies are doing mobile canning without our equipment."

We assemble the machines from top to bottom in-house, and facbricate the lion's share of components in our manufacturing facility in Boulder," Aldred explains. That includes making its linear filling system and seamer -- both of which have patents -- in-house.

Still much of Wild Goose Canning's equipment is relatively standard. The company sources most of parts from companies in the U.S. and uses motors and gears that can be found just about anywhere.

The company is acutely aware that its customers are passionate about what they're doing. "Some of them were mortgaging their houses," Foreman says. "We're making sure these other small businesses are going to thrive."

It follows that customer service is a company priority. Beer's got to be on the shelf," says Foreman. "We've got to support those people who buy our equipment.

Challenges: A fairly large backlog. Finding employees that can manufacture, install machines while working on new products. And getting proper approvals to sell in new markets.

Opportunities: Hockey-stick growth. There are more than 3,000 breweries in the U.S., more than any other time since the 1880s, and more overseas. "We see huge opportunity internationally for Wild Goose, as the market for American craft beer swells, and countries around the world begin to emulate what we've done here," says Aldred. In 2015, Wild Goose shipped two units to the U.K., sold a line in Sweden, and another to Tasmania; installed the first craft wine canning line in Canada; and installed a system in Brazil, helping Dadiva Cervejaria in Sao Paulo become the first craft brewery in all of Brazil to put its beer into cans.

Adds Aldred: "There is huge demand for our machines by other craft beverage makers, so we are drawing on our engineering arm to create new solutions to serve wine, coffee, tea, and other drink makers."

Needs: "We're in 15,000 square feet right now in an old renovated warehouse. Our next move is to find a larger building," Aldred says.

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