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The shortage of glass bottles as global supply chains come under increasing pressure is becoming plain to see at the consumer end.

Take the example of a NY-State-based specialist tea-supplier. Visit local bars, restaurants, and coffee shops and you’re likely to find Katboocha’s distinctive, cylindrical bottles of fermented tea. At least for now.

Katboocha is one of many local businesses feeling the squeeze of a global shortage in glass bottles and jars.

“My business is stuck, and our wholesale business, which is pretty much exclusively bottles, had come roaring back” from the pandemic, said Katboocha owner Katarina Schwarz. “To be out of them is a dangerous situation.”

Schwarz said her supplier, Chicago-based Berlin Packaging, began scaling back production last summer, and that its next shipment to Katboocha isn’t due until next year. Even then, she said, she’s been told not to get her hopes up.

To compensate, Schwarz partnered with Buffalo’s Bootleg Bucha for bottling, though the containers will be different. She has also pressed on customers to improve their habits in returning used bottles.

Katboocha is not alone. Around the world and across industries, the supply of glass bottles has been stifled, hitting businesses both large and small.

The shortage is so acute that Anheuser-Busch this month has reportedly begun packaging more Budweiser in cans. News outlets from around the world have reported similar shortages in glass containers, from blood vials to liquor bottles.

“It’s a crapshoot, really,” Joe Petix, the co-owner of College Club Beverages, which makes the popular local soft drink, FIZ, said of procuring glass bottles.

“We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that the supplies come through, or we better start looking at other places for glass,” Petix said.

The pandemic has caused global shortages in all kinds of materials, but Paul Guglielmo, owner of Guglielmo Sauce, said he cannot seem to pinpoint the root cause of the problem.

“I ask the question every single time they call me and tell me the prices are going up or a certain bottle is unavailable,” Guglielmo said. “Some people blame freight, some people blame a labor shortage, some people blame other suppliers.”

Reluctant to raise prices on his product, Guglielmo said he has absorbed most of the additional costs to date. Like glass though, everything has a breaking point.

“I think if we get to 2022 and things are still the same, we’re going to have to start taking a real hard look around,” Guglielmo said.

Even wine producers are shifting to bulk exports rather than bottles as ocean freight costs soar. Previously reserved for lower-quality “value wines,” flexitanks, which are food-grade bladders inserted into dry containers, can carry more than double the liquid volume of product in a single container than glass bottles, and are now being sought more by a rising number of wineries.

A good time indeed if you’re in container glass manufacture…and have expansions in the pipeline…

Happy Reading!

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