After almost two decades of being in business and the launch of 18 different commercial beers, Wachusett Brewing Company is embarking on its next mission: transitioning to metal packaging. CROWN Beverage Packaging North America, a business unit of Crown Holdings, Inc. (www.crowncork.com), is playing a critical role in the transition process by providing both the cans for filling as well as technical service and support.

The brand is adding metal to its packaging portfolio to strategically drive sales for its most popular beers. In addition to increasing demand from consumers for the format, packaging its craft brews in metal allows Wachusett to sell its products in a wider variety of venues, including Fenway Park, that restrict the sale of beer and beverages in other formats.

Wachusett began the transition by purchasing a filler for its facility in Westminster, MA. The system can operate at speeds up to 800 cans per minute, offering the ability to increase capacity as demand grows. It also puts Wachusett in the position to achieve its next goal: be a co-packer for other New England craft brewers seeking to make the transition to metal packaging. While that goal won’t be achieved for a few years, the company began filling its Wachusett Blueberry and Green Monsta IPA brands in metal packaging in April 2012.

Crown has worked closely with Wachusett to ensure a smooth transition process. To help start up the filling line, Crown’s engineers assisted with equipment audits and set up and provided seamer training. Crown also advised Wachusett on purchases that would substantially upgrade its quality laboratory, including systems to inspect seaming quality and control oxygen content in the canned beer. As Wachusett starts getting product to market, Crown will continue to conduct audits and offer technical support on an annual basis to ensure the line can keep pace with increasing demand. 

“Crown’s services came highly recommended by an industry peer, and they definitely have lived up to the billing,” says Ned LaFortune, president of Wachusett Brewing Company. “They immediately got behind our vision and the opportunity that the Northeast market presents. Just as importantly, Crown’s approach to working with us has been a collaborative one. We’ve benefited from the company’s tremendous technical expertise, quick responses to our needs and flexibility with our processes and demands.  That expertise minimized our learning curve and is helping us get to market as quickly as possible.”

Wachusett is just one of many craft brewers appreciating the benefits metal packaging brings to their brand. First and foremost is metal’s ability to block light and oxygen, preserving the flavor of the beer, which is the primary brand differentiator for craft brews. Metal packaging also offers an environmentally friendly packaging option as it is 100% recyclable and can be reused again and again with no degradation in quality or performance. In addition, since Crown has a manufacturing facility less than 50 miles away from Wachusett in Lawrence, MA, the brewer is able to further reduce the carbon footprint of its products.

“Metal packaging is an ideal format to protect the unique taste and flavor profiles of craft brews while also offering an opportunity for growth thanks to its accessibility for a variety of drinking occasions,” comments Neill Mitchell, vice president marketing and business development at CROWN Beverage Packaging North America. “We are proud to partner with a brand like Wachusett that is determined to set a standard when it comes to product quality and service and look forward to its continued growth.”