5 Key Considerations When Choosing a Multipack Can Carrier

Explore options to make the best choice for your business

The choice between multipack can carriers used to be pretty limited, but recent pushes for increased sustainability and cost-saving innovation have led to an explosion of new multipack carrier options and improvements to existing offerings.

This modern world of sustainable multipack packaging can feel overwhelming for decision-makers in the brewing world and RTD beverage manufacturers. Each option comes with strengths and tradeoffs that can mean the difference between closing up shop and success. The best choice will depend on your business priorities now and in the future.

Below, learn more about the various types of multipack can carriers and what you should consider when choosing one for your business.

What Is a Multipack Can Carrier?

A multipack can carrier is a type of packaging that holds several aluminum beverage cans together so they can be sold as a unit and handled more easily in bulk. They are usually key to the final step in the beer canning process, along with that of ready-to-drink cocktails and other canned beverages.

There are several methods for multipacking cans, including shrink-wrapping and paper-based carriers, but ring carriers have remained the most popular option for decades because they’re typically sturdy, lightweight, and affordable.

Types of Multipack Can Handles

Multipack can handles allow people to easily carry combined units of canned beer, spirits, coffee, cocktails, and other ready-to-drink beverages. These multipacks are mainly categorized by what material they’re made from.

The most common types of multipack can handles are:

  • HDPE plastic: High-density polyethylene plastic carriers are dense, strong, and rigid. They are commonly used for slim, sleek, and standard-size cans in 4-packs and 6-packs.

  • LDPE plastic: Flexible low-density polyethylene is commonly used to make ring carriers that hold 6-packs of 12-ounce or smaller aluminum cans.

  • Paper/paperboard: A relatively new invention, paper-based can carriers are usually manufactured with a plastic coating for added strength and moisture protection.

  • Plant/fiber-based: Fiber-based carriers are made from compostable and biodegradable plant matter.

These materials contribute to most of the differences in multipack can handle strength, sustainability, cost, and other key factors that can have a big business impact over time.

5 Top Considerations When Selecting a Can Carrier

Every business is unique, but most craft breweries and related industry businesses share the same primary concerns when it comes to which can carrier type to choose.

1. Sustainability

Many canned beverage business owners and their customers rightfully care about sustainability, which, for many, has meant trying to look for alternatives to plastic can carriers. However, the full environmental impact of multipack can carriers goes beyond the materials they’re made of.

  • HDPE plastic: HDPE plastic can generally be recycled over and over. As a result, these multipack carriers divert plastic waste away from landfills and oceans.

  • LDPE plastic: LDPE ring carriers have become more sustainable with the introduction of biodegradable options. While not all LDPE carriers are biodegradable, some manufacturers — including Roberts PolyPro — make biodegradable LDPE products that break down naturally over time.

  • Paper/paperboard: Paper-based can handles contain cardboard, which is among the easiest materials to recycle. That said, these multipack carriers are often manufactured with a plastic coating that must be removed before they can be processed at recycling facilities. Also, not all cardboard multipacks are created from recycled material.

  • Plant/fiber-based: New plant fiber-based can carriers are compostable and biodegradable, making them sound like a highly sustainable option up front. However, the production of bio-fiber packaging is resource and cost intensive.

Roberts PolyPro is dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint. Our Craft-Pak® HDPE can carriers use 30% less plastic than competitive carriers. Additionally, our Grip-Pak® LDPE can handle solutions are now 100% biodegradable.

2. Function and Durability

Craft brewers and other canned beverage businesses face risks of losing significant income if products are damaged. Can carriers need to be strong and functional enough to reliably hold beverage cans during every step of the process, from transportation to removing the can from a pack.

  • HDPE plastic: HDPE plastic is famously durable, with high heat and moisture resistance. However, many standard HDPE plastic can carriers have a closed-top design that traps moisture, increasing the chance of forming mold over time. Roberts PolyPro Craft-Pak® HDPE carrier rings avoid this problem with our open ring design. Our unique T-clips also securely hold cans until they are flipped up, releasing the can without a struggle that disturbs the product’s flavor profile.

  • LDPE plastic: Flexible LDPE ring handles are usually strong and reliable, allowing them to hold beverage cans without issue. That said, they are more flexible than HDPE carriers and less heat-resistant.

  • Paper/paperboard: Paper-based can handles are considerably less durable than plastic handles. Cardboard is flexible but susceptible to tearing and moisture damage, which puts cans at risk of falling out of their packaging.

  • Plant/fiber-based: Similar to paper, biofiber rings aren’t as durable or water-resistant as plastic ring carriers. It’s particularly important to protect these biodegradable multipacks from extended exposure to moisture, dust, and sunlight to prevent product damage.

3. Ease of Application

Ease of application is particularly important whether you’re an established operation or just getting started in the ready-to-drink beverage industry.

Manual multipack carrier application allows for a smaller startup investment but production will be limited by manpower. Similarly, larger beverage businesses can suffer if their multipack can carriers aren’t compatible with faster canning equipment, stunting growth.

  • HDPE plastic: HDPE plastic can carriers are quite easy to apply, whether a business wants a manual method or uses a semi-automatic or fully automatic machine. This wide range of application options makes this type of can carrier suitable for beverage businesses of all sizes.

  • LDPE plastic: LDPE plastic can carriers have been around for a long time, and as a result, there are a wide range of applicators available. While many suppliers aren’t as accessible to small businesses due to large minimum quantity requirements, Roberts PolyPro offers affordable LDPE solutions.

  • Paper/paperboard: Paper-based multipack can holder application varies in complexity. Some paper-based multipack carriers can be applied with a manual application tool, but automated systems require a cartoning machine for implementation, which is relatively complex and expensive compared to plastic carrier applicators.

  • Plant/fiber-based: Plant fiber can carriers have applicator options ranging from manual to high-speed automatic machines. Industry standard high-speed applicators for plant-based can holders work at speeds up to 60 cans per minute. On the other hand, Roberts PolyPro Craft-Pak® can handles and applicators are capable of speeds up to 400 cans per minute.

4. Transportation and Storage

Transportation and storage issues can cost businesses considerable losses. Multipack carriers can add considerable bulk to canned beverage and craft beer packaging during transportation and storage, leading to higher costs. The wrong carrier can also cause products to be easily damaged.

  • HDPE plastic: HDPE multipack handles are the most durable option with minimal concern for damage during transport and handling. Compared with competitor products, Roberts PolyPro can carriers use 30% less plastic and feature a slim, stackable design that reduces space during transport and storage. This translates into additional cost savings for you!

  • LDPE plastic: LDPE carriers have a simple, lightweight design, making them easier to transport and store. Plus, they are often offered in multiple configurations and quantities, giving you options that meet your production, storage, and application needs. Roberts PolyPro offers Grip-Pak® LDPE can handles pre-cut in boxes of 600, 1200, and 2000, and as standard- and jumbo-size reels.

  • Paper/paperboard: Paper-based can carriers are more susceptible to moisture and not as tough as plastic carriers, making them more likely to be damaged during transport and storage.

  • Plant/fiber-based: Similar to paper carriers, plant-based carriers are more fragile than plastic carriers, increasing their risk of damage during transport and storage.

Not only do Roberts PolyPro HDPE can handles use 30% less plastic, but they also require one-quarter the storage space of competitive products. As a result, our products require fewer trucks for transportation and lower storage costs, helping you save money.

5. Cost

Multipack can carriers are often the third highest packaging cost per can. Roberts PolyPro can carriers are highly cost-effective thanks to a sleek design using less plastic, which translates into a lower per unit cost and lower shipping and storage costs.

Our customers can save up to 25% — around $0.03 to $0.05 per 4- and 6-pack — on the cost of carriers, plus additional cost savings for storage and shipping. We also have a range of inline applicators, from manual to automatic solutions, to meet your budget and configuration needs.

  • HDPE plastic: HDPE multipack carriers range in price, both in terms of material cost and application, but their sturdiness and reusability can translate into savings. Our HDPE Craft-Pak® can carriers are reliable and the most cost efficient among competitors. Plus, our customers generally see a return on their applicator investment after one year!

  • LDPE plastic: LDPE plastic rings are the most affordable multipack carrier. They are a great solution for startups, small runs of canned beverages, and well-known brands not needing to make an impact with packaging.

  • Paper/paperboard: Making paper and paperboard containers strong enough to reliably hold canned beverages adds to the product cost. Not to mention, applicators for paper-based can carriers are complicated and costly to implement.

  • Plant/fiber-based: Like paper multipacks, plant fiber carriers and applicators cost more than plastic solutions.

Overall, high packaging costs can quickly add to the overall cost of canning beer and other beverages, threatening the longevity of a business or making it impossible for new businesses to get off the ground in the first place.

The Roberts PolyPro Difference

Choosing the right multipack can carrier can have a major impact on the success of your brewing industry business. Roberts PolyPro LDPE and HDPE multipack can rings offer ready-to-drink beverage businesses a solid option in terms of cost, effectiveness, and sustainability.

Roberts PolyPro HDPE can carriers use 100% recyclable materials and 30% less plastic than similar products. Our LDPE plastic carriers are biodegradable, reducing waste and producing fewer emissions.

Reach out to Roberts PolyPro to see how you can save using our unique multipack can carriers.