Milwaukee-area mobile canning company expands opportunity for craft brewery growth

Neenah-native Sean Kingston’s introduction to mobile canning came while he was enjoying a craft beer cruise on Lake Michigan with his father and brother.

Kingston was talking with one of the cruise’s guides, a beer reporter, who started explaining the growth of mobile canning in Michigan.

“Michigan mobile canning really allowed craft beer to grow in Michigan because it allowed more people to try more beer,” Kingston said.

Kingston, who worked in packaging at S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. in Racine, began seriously thinking about getting into the canning business and went to Pack Expo in Las Vegas two years ago. He connected with American Canning LLC, a mobile canner based in Austin, Texas, and went to tour its facility. From there, after purchasing the necessary equipment, the Oak Creek resident began operating his business out of the company’s facility in Sturtevant.

Kingston’s company, WilCraft Can LLC, began operations in April. He currently has about 15 clients, many of whom are in the Chicagoland area. Though his Wisconsin market is a little slower, Kingston works with several local craft breweries including Company Brewing, Gathering Place Brewing Co., The Explorium Brewpub and Brewfinity Brewing Co. in Oconomowoc.

“It opened up more growth avenues for us because we can reach more customers. Rather than relying on customers coming to us, we can put our products [out],” Gathering Place owner Joe Yeado said.

As a mobile canner, Kingston keeps his truck and equipment in Sturtevant. Actual operations take place at the different breweries that WilCraft Can serves. WilCraft Can provides the whole packaging and supply chain for the breweries, including supplying the canning materials.

WilCraft Can has a two-person team for the canning production. The process with cleaning, filling and labeling takes a few hours.

“Mobile canning is kind of the way we’re building the network,” Kingston said. “When we talk to breweries, it’s how can we help you with the packing solutions on the mobile side.”

Kingston sees the biggest growth opportunity for his business in the digital printing side of canning. While many breweries use adhesives for their printing process, WilCraft Can also is exploring options for digitally printing labels onto cans. The company is currently fundraising for a digital printer.

Kingston expects to have the digital printer by next summer. The investment will allow WilCraft Can to run a 24/7 operation, labeling 120 cans a minute, according to Kingston. It is also the space for highest employment opportunities, Kingston said.

While expanding into the digital printing industry, Kingston also filed a patent for a new form of production that will grow the recycling and reusing of cans. The patent is for Kingston’s process of reusing print-defective or overrun cans.

“We actually remove the existing print from a can with laser technology. We then overcoat the can,” Kingston said. “And we digitally print over the top of that.”

It is a way to save money on canning products — more of a reuse than recycle, Kingston said. The process is currently patent-pending. It is about an 18-month process for a true patent. Kingston expects to begin using this technology in about a year-and-a-half.

With the mobile canning and digital printing spheres of the business, WilCraft Can is looking to move closer to the Milwaukee area. Kingston is looking at a location in Riverwest and Century City next to Good City Brewing. He expects to have a new permanent location in the next three to four months.

Margaret Naczek, Milwaukee Business Journal

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: