Montreal

Schwartz's customers deprived of cherry soda due to aluminium can shortage

Smoked meat lovers 'shocked' to learn they can't have the drink with their sandwich, manager says

Posted: October 19, 2018
Last Updated: October 19, 2018

Frank Silva, right, has been working at Schwartz's for 37 years and he has never seen the cherry cola supply run dry before. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

A landmark Montreal restaurant has to go without its iconic drink, largely due to an aluminum can shortage across North America.

Some people feel that Schwartz's famous smoked meat goes best with a pickle and a can of Cott Black Cherry Soda, except the 90-year-old deli, located on St-Laurent Boulevard, is all out of the drink.

Frank Silva, the deli's general manager, has been with the deli for 37 years and says this is the first time they've run out.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It looks like it is going to be another two weeks before we get any in," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Friday. 

Silva said his local supplier is out of cans — affecting the some 50 per cent of his customers who order cherry soda with their smoked meat sandwich.

Silva said he was told by a representative of his local supplier, Cott Corporation, that the shortage was due to trade tensions between the U.S. and Canada. 

The federal government's retaliatory tariffs were imposed on U.S. aluminum imports July 1 to challenge levies President Donald Trump's administration put on Canadian metal products.

An independent beverage distributor that delivers Cott Black Cherry Soda to smoked meat restaurants throughout the region has a similar story to Silva's.

ADVERTISEMENT

Victor Fleischer of Bertrand Distribution said his Cott sales representative also blamed tariffs for the shortage. That representative warned him of the expected shortage back in July.

However, it appears the tariffs may not be the actual reason behind the soda scarcity.

Can shortage affects all of North America, bottler says

CBC reached out to Cott Corporation for comment, but calls were redirected to its new owner, Refresco Group.

A company representative said the soda shortage is unrelated to the tariffs. 

"The bottling industry is currently facing can shortages throughout the United States and Canada," said Kim Wawro, spokesperson for Refresco North America, which purchased Cott Corporation earlier this year.

Cott Black Cherry Soda cans are manufactured and sold in Canada, she said. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"The supplier that provides the cans for the iconic Black Cherry Soda is simply oversold."

Demands for cans in North America has surpassed the industry's ability to supply, she said. There has been a spike in demand for certain, single-serve beverages such as unsweetened sparkling water, she said. 

That spike in demand is leading to the can shortage, she said, and the company is working with vendors to figure out how best to meet that demand.

"It is not related to the tariffs," she said. "It is truly a supply and demand issue."

Since August, Canadian beverage companies, especially breweries, have been feeling the pinch as the can supply dips and prices rise.

Willing to pay the increased price

When his supplier finally does stock up on new cans, Silva says he expects the price will be higher than usual.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, it's a price he's willing to pay, given the demand.

In the absence of their drink of choice, some customers settle for a regular cola or a water, while others take nothing with their meal.

A few people, he said, are quite upset.

"They're shocked. They think it's joke."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak and Lauren McCallum