January 25, 2023

Why Are Soda Cans Different in Hawaii?

When you purchase a can of soda in Hawaii, chances are that it has some unusual ridging on its neck. This ridged design is much different from the smooth necks you find on soda cans purchased on the mainland. In fact, you won't find this type of ridged soda can anywhere else in the U.S. If you've ever wondered why soda cans are different in Hawaii, this guide can help you learn the answer, along with some interesting history about the shape and design of modern soda cans.

Modern Soda Cans

Until around 1980, most manufacturers produced soda cans with standard neck ridging, which refers to the lines you see on the neck of soda cans. This ridging helps strengthen the can as it expands and contracts, reducing the risk of the can rupturing under pressure. While there are benefits to the ridged design, an increasingly competitive marketplace in the 1980s led most can manufacturers to reduce the amount of aluminum they used, which changed the shape of soda cans.

These manufacturers made can lids smaller by altering the shape of the neck and the size of the can opening. By reducing the diameter of the can, manufacturers could save money on aluminum materials. Before the 1980s, soda cans had a 211 measurement, which means they had a diameter of 2 11/16 of an inch. Over time, the industry standard became smaller until it reached a 202 measurement, where it currently stands today.

Why Soda Cans Look Different in Hawaii

Chances are, you've enjoyed a can of soda at some point in your life. But have you ever stopped to wonder about the design of soda cans? Modern soda cans have a round shape to help maximize space and withstand pressure. Even with their thin design, soda cans can hold liquid at up to 90 pounds per square inch, thanks in large part to the concave dome shape on the bottom of the can.

You're probably familiar with the small tab you use to open a soda can. This feature didn't come standard on soda cans until the 1970s. Before that, cans had a pull tab that you removed from the can itself and discarded. The newer tab on modern soda cans means you can open the can while keeping it fully intact. This small change has made aluminum soda cans much more recyclable, helping to minimize waste and pollution.

In addition to their round shape and small tabs, today's soda cans have an interior plastic lining. This lining not only helps prevent accidents but also ensures the aluminum of the can won't react with the beverage inside. It prevents the metal from reacting with the liquid, resulting in the crisp, fresh taste we enjoy when we take a sip of soda from an aluminum can.

Hawaii has one can-making facility in Kapolei, located on the island of Oahu. It's owned by Ball Corporation, based in Colorado. While it's one of the company's smallest plants at 140,000 square feet, it manufactures about 1 million cans of soda, juice, and beer each day. This facility is also the reason you're likely to find unique soda cans with neck ridging when you're in Hawaii.

While other can manufacturers began changing the shape and size of aluminum cans in the 1980s, the Hawaii plant continued to make cans with ridged necks, as local bottlers had equipment made to work with cans of that size and it was too costly to switch out all the equipment. To this day, the Hawaii plant still produces cans with a 206 measurement - slightly larger than standard soda cans - to remain consistent with local distributors, making Hawaii the last state to manufacture these ridged soda cans.

While Hawaii does import smooth-necked soda cans from the mainland, it's common to receive cans with neck ridging when you shop for sodas on the islands. Five beverage distributors use the Kapolei plan for distribution in Hawaii: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, ITO EN, Hawaiian Sun, and Maui Brewing Co. Next time you see neck ridging on one of these cans, you'll know exactly where it originated.

How the Hawaii Plant Makes Ridged Cans

While there are many steps involved in manufacturing aluminum soda cans, the Ball plant in Kapolei has the process down to a science, producing around 300 million cans of beverages each year. Here's what it takes to make the ridged soda cans that make Hawaii unique:

  1. Employees at the Kapolei plant insert aluminum sheet coil rolls into presses that produce flat cups. Each sheet coil can produce up to 345,000 flat cans.
  2. The flat cups are fed into a different press, which molds them into the round shape of a soda can. Each can goes through this press twice to protect the metal from breaking. After the second round, the can is processed through a washer, which removes any coolants and oils from the can.
  3. After going through both sets of presses, color is applied to the can using plates. The can then goes through an oven, which removes any tackiness from the paint. The can goes through a second oven to finish the process of baking its interior and exterior.
  4. As the final step, ridges are applied to the neck of the can. Employees place finished cans on pallets, where some cans will receive an internal inspection to ensure the quality of each batch. The plant then delivers the cans to distributors, who fill the cans with their beverages and apply the lids.

So there you have it — that's why soda cans look different in Hawaii than anywhere else in the U.S. It's just one of many factors that makes Hawaii a unique place to live, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Were you already familiar with the history of soda cans, or did you learn something new today? Do you have other Hawaii-related questions on your mind that we can answer? Send a message to Hawaii Partners 3D Wealth Advisors to let us know. We love to help others learn more about the place we call home.