Ball Corporation’s William C. Hannah testified before the Subcommittee on Commodities and Services of the Small Business Committee on June 24, 1975. Members queried the executive of the Indiana-based company, which manufactured canning jars and lids, about its response to surging demand for equipment used to can food at home.
In the mid-1970s, economic recession drove many Americans to grow and preserve their own produce. In 1975, as many as 26 million American households canned food. When material shortages led to scarcity of canning equipment, demand spiked. In his testimony, Hannah detailed that sales in the first quarter of 1973 were $166,000, but exploded to $5,750,000 in the first quarter of 1974. Ball Corporation and the two other manufacturers of canning equipment were unable to meet the demand, and consumers started to hoard the products, resulting in empty shelves nationwide.
Consumers conveyed their confusion and frustration to Members of Congress. The Subcommittee on Commodities and Services held several days of hearings in 1975 and 1976. The Committee concluded in House Report No. 94-1775 that the “shortage of home canning equipment was the result of normal market phenomena: exaggerated demand . . . which the manufacturers were unprepared to supply, partly because they failed to accurately predict it, and partly because of a shortage of raw materials the previous year. The shortage was not a result of anticompetitive behavior by the manufacturers.” By 1976, the market stabilized, and Americans could preserve as much produce as they pleased.