Canlab specialises in optimally supporting customers that sell canned craft beer, wine, water, mixed drinks or other liquid specialities.

Interview with Arjen van Zurk, Director at CanxLab.

Easy Engineering: Tell us a short story of origin of the company.

Arjen van Zurk: The company CanxLab originates from the Dutch company Mus Verpakkingen, a specialized wholesaler in metal packaging since 1986. Mus Verpakkingen offers a wide range of non-food and food cans, also to customers which need only limited numbers of cans.

After a trip in the USA, owner Willem Mus got wind of the fast growing demand for beverage cans first from the craft brewing community but later on also from other beverage niches. In the USA these niches embraced all the advantages the beverage can holds like: light- and shatterproof, unbreakable, lightweight and a great canvas for beautiful designs.

The challenge for these companies was finding the partner that fitted their needs. The can makers are perfectly set up to deliver to big companies like AB-InBev, Coca-Cola, Heineken, etc. but there is a mismatch between the can makers and the brand owners in the niche segments.

As the new beverage trend was about to hit Europe as well there was more than enough reason for Willem Mus and his business partner Arjen van Zurk (former commercial manager at Rexam, later Ball) to found CanxLab.

CanxLab was founded to make beverage cans accessible for all niche beverage. With a portfolio that matches the needs of the niche like lower pack heights, warehouse solutions, small(er) order quantities, several ways of personalization, etc. CanxLab grew to become the partner of choice for many brand owners today.

E.E: Which are the fields of activity where you are operating?

A.v.Z: With our headquarters based in Deventer, The Netherlands and a warehouse solution in Tišnov, The Czech Republic we are setup to deliver cans and related products and services in the Benelux and The Czech Republic including surrounding countries. Our newest subsidiary in France is setup to serve the needs in southern Europe and we are looking into new regions as well.

Originally, we are seen as the partner of choice for many craft beer breweries. This niche is still and will continue to be one of our most important focus areas however we want to show the market we are also perfectly setup for other niche beverages in the (non)carbonated soft drink, ready-to-drink and flavoured alcoholic beverage segments as well.

E.E: Which are the most significant projects in the history of the company?

A.v.Z: When CanxLab was founded, there were not that many solutions to personalize cans in small(er) quantities. Therefore, we decided to invest in a solution to sleeve empty beverage cans using infrared heath. As we wanted this solution to be as efficient and in line with market standards we invested in an automatic depalletizer and a robotic arm to palletize as well.

This was our first set-up to offer a solution for personalized cans besides the already existing solutions like labelling and preprinted cans from the can makers. 

Right now, CanxLab is up for a new addition to its portfolio and that is the production and offering of digital printed cans. We recently invested in a digital printer which will arrive mid-2023. With this solution we are able to deliver printed cans in small(er) quantities to everybody in need of cans.

Also expanding to other regions was quite significant for CanxLab. In order to be perfectly aligned with the markets we are in, we want to be in be as close to our customers as possible. 

E.E: What projects were the most challenging?

A.v.Z: I think all projects we have done so far had their own specific challenges to overcome. Some were perhaps a little bit bigger than others but there is always a challenge. 

We have a strong background in what we do but you always need to make sure every business decision you make is in line with the market, your customers and your business now and in the future. If it doesn’t touch these boxes the bigger the challenge will be.

Finding the right people and the right partners to help you overcome any challenge is key. We are in a very lucky position that all our employees as well as our partners think with us and everyone is helping to push CanxLab forward. This to stay in line with the market and to stay connected with our (future) customers.

E.E: What are the ranges of products and what types of services do you offer?

A.v.Z: CanxLab wants to make beverage cans accessible to everyone in need of cans and has a perfectly aligned portfolio to do so.

We offer cans in different colours for our customers to personalize themselves, but we can also deliver preprinted cans, digitally printed cans, sleeved cans and / or labelled cans. Our minimum order quantity (MOQ) is in line with the demand of the niche segments so no huge quantities in case you do need that many cans to start with.

We can safely store cans and deliver just-in-time in the right quantity. With this service our customers do not need to invest in huge and expensive warehouses, we can do the storing and we will make sure the products will be delivered on time and in full.

In case a brewery does not have a filling possibility our daughter company CanxLab Mobile Canning can do the filling for you. This service is available in the Benelux and Czech region.

E.E: Which are the most innovative products / services and what special features do they have?

A.v.Z: Right now, our future digital printed cans will be the most innovative products we will offer. The main advantage of digital printed cans is the low(er) minimum order quantity making printed cans available for almost everyone. 

Together with our supplier of the printer we are finetuning the solution in order to give our customers the very best result to pack every kind of beverage in every can size possible.

E.E: How important are the after-sales services?

A.v.Z: I think we not only put emphasis on after-sales services but also on the part before making the actual sale. We don’t want to be just a supplier of packaging we want to be a partner for our (prospective) customers. 

Together with our (prospective) customers we discuss their needs in detail and search for the best option to get their beverage filled. We can provide the best advice about the beverage can and the ways to personalize these. Besides that, we have a wide network of contract fillers capable of filling any type of beverage and in case it is a beer we also have the possibility to offer a mobile filling service. 

E.E: Tell us about social responsibility and what part does it play in the company?

A.v.Z: Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming more and more important for all the right reasons and within CanxLab we try to play our role here. 

Some examples of our CSR journey are offering digital printed cans as an alternative to plastic sleeves and labels. Another example is the opening of new warehouses in the markets we are active in so we lower the transport distances from CanxLab to our customers. 

Above all our product, the beverage can, is a winner when it comes down to social responsibility. The can is infinitely recycled which helps to save resources. In fact, recycling aluminium saves 95% of the energy needed for primary aluminium production. The can is easily stackable and you can’t beat the strength and stability of it. It’s the perfect option for efficient transport and storage.

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