This week, North Carolina based Catawba Brewing Co. announces a major new packaging innovation that’s sure to have a significant impact on the craft beer industry. Saturday, April 1st, Catawba Brewing owner and founder Billy Pyatt unveiled new left-handed cans, specifically designed for easier opening and pouring by left handed consumers.
Pyatt, an engineer by trade, has long been recognized as innovator and leader in the craft brewing community. The idea for left handed cans first came to him in April of 2016. “A good friend of mine, who happens to be left handed, had actually just injured himself opening a can of our signature White Zombie Ale during a fishing trip.” Pyatt told us in an exclusive interview by phone, “He bent his nail back, which anyone who’s had that happen to them, knows is incredibly painful. When I asked what happened, he told me that the all beverage cans are designed for right handed folks and this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for him. I had never heard of this, and quite frankly I thought he was joking with me, but I started researching it, and sure enough…the standard industry cans really aren’t designed for left handed people.”
Much like left handed and right handed scissors, the new cans left handed cans are visually similar to standard cans, but the opening and pull-tab are rotated 180 degrees from typical consumer cans. The mouth of the can is slightly asymmetrical to the right side, which allows for less ‘gulping’ and results in a better pour for left handed consumers.
When asked if he thought there was a real need for this type of packaging, Pyatt responded “In this industry, we’re always trying to be as innovative and as consumer friendly as possible. Left handed people make up approximately 10 percent of the population, and anything we can do to make our brews more accessible to consumers is important.”
Pyatt, who spent 27 years at the Corning Corporation before retiring as Vice President of Sales and Marketing, isn’t really sure his left handed cans are going to bring more consumers to Catawba’s Brews, but he has patented the design. Ball Corporation, the industry’s leading supplier of beverage cans to the craft beer industry, has already signed an exclusive licensing deal for the new technology.
When asked about the deal, Ball Corporation’s CEO John Hayes, responded in an email that “I don’t think we’ve seen a major improvement to beverage can design since the late 90’s (when the ‘wide mouth’ openings were first introduced into the marketplace). No doubt, what Billy has done here is a creative take on an old design, and a significant industry innovation.”
Initially, Catawba will only be canning about 10% of their production in the new left handed cans, consisting mainly of signature year round offerings like White Zombie and Farmer Ted, and we’re told a small amount of their specialty brews will be available in left handed cans later this summer. Catawba is offering a first look at the new cans this Saturday at both the Morganton and Asheville locations, so head on down with a left handed friend and ask the bartender if you can check it out!