In the 1880s when Ball Corporation was founded, the company made its name with its Ball mason jars.
During the intervening years, the company was involved in all manner of glass and plastic containers (ref. Forbes). Now, the Ball Corporation has sworn off both of those and, except for some aerospace work for the government, gets all of its $11.6 billion annual revenue from aluminum cans – primarily for use in beer, soda and other drinks. CEO John Hayes acknowledges that it’s a bit risky to make a 100% bet on metal when most of the beverage container market is still held by either glass or plastic. But, the bet is paying off – since Hayes took over in 2011, the stock has tripled. Hayes commented, “In my 20 years with the company, I’ve never seen growth like this.” Ball has tried 46 different business lines in its 139 years and has entered and exited plastics three times (ref Forbes). Hayes is confident that aluminum with be the one that sticks around. In 2014, 32% of new beverage companies chose cans; that number rose to 61% in 2018. Hayes explains that aluminum wins on environmental grounds, for one: the recycling rate for aluminum is 50% in the U.S.; 42% for glass; and 30% for plastic. “The whole sustainability agenda is only accelerating,” he says. Among younger consumers, cans are cool – this is the generation that grew up on Red Bull and loved the sleek design of the can (Red Bull is a Ball client). The Baby Boomers gravitated away from the can (the drink mode of their parents) and into plastic and glass. Millennials are turning that trend around. To combat the image of aluminum imparting a metallic taste, a blind taste test study was done and most drinkers couldn’t tell the difference between liquid that came from cans and that from glass. And, Hayes now has another adventure lined up – he’s crafted an aluminum cup, with Ball’s script logo on the side, and fully expects the throw-away aluminum cup to be the new replacement for the red plastic Solo cup. It’s possible that Millennials will bring that into fruition, as well.