The Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Montross, while no longer operational, produced Northern Neck Ginger Ale several years ago.

If you’re wondering why you can’t seem to find Northern Neck Ginger Ale, it’s because Coca-Cola Consolidated stopped making the soda.

Coca-Cola Consolidated is an independent bottling company for Coca-Cola, which has owned Northern Neck Ginger Ale since 2001.

Coca-Cola Consolidated makes, sells and distributes all of the Coca-Cola products in this region and normally would be cranking out Northern Neck Ginger Ale at its production facility in Sandston, VA.

But “due to industry-wide supply issues of cans, some products including Northern Neck Ginger Ale have been temporarily suspended,” said Brian Nick vice president of communications.

And the company doesn’t have any Northern Neck Ginger Ale left in inventory, he added.

What happened to aluminum cans?

In the U.S., the transportation market is the largest end-user of aluminum, consuming over one-third of the metal produced. After the coronavirus struck, auto makers’ production dropped by about 33,000 vehicles a day. As result, some aluminum producers shut down while others slashed production, in some cases to as little as 30 percent of their capacity. 

Meanwhile, on-premises drinking at establishments, like bars and restaurants, plummeted and consumers started drinking at home creating a surge in demand for canned beer and sodas, a research note from data and analytics firm S&P Global explained.

To put it into perspective, S&P Global said one beer maker reported that off-premises drinking, went up 98 percent after the pandemic, leaving beverage makers “struggling for cans.”

An aluminum can is mostly recycled metal, and the U.S. generally reuses its own used cans to make new ones, but when the stay-at-home orders were implemented, the deposit and recycling pipeline shut down. Now, with demand up and supply tight, companies are looking to import metal from countries such as Mexico and Brazil. 

Recycling and production facilities have restarted but there’s still expected to be a lag in the market, in part because the stockpiles of scrap metal need to be rebuilt. 

By some projections, “the effects will linger for a few more months, and there is still the worry of a resurgence in the virus, which would put the market back on pause,” S&P Global’s market note says.

No Timeline for return of Northern Neck Ginger Ale

Coca-Cola Consolidated makes over 300 brands and flavors of beverages and didn’t respond to an inquiry of how it’s managing to keep an ample supply of other products, such as Coca-Cola and Sprite, on the shelves. But a customer service manager at a local grocery store said the company is prioritizing “ it’s core brands.”

Nick said the distribution footprint of Northern Neck Ginger Ale is mostly limited to the Northern Neck region.

We appreciate the local interest and enthusiasm of the brand, and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through this issue caused by these unprecedented times. We’re monitoring the industry-wide can supply situation closely but don’t have a projection on an end date as I’m sure you can appreciate the uncertainty of predicting much at this time, he said.