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Consumers gobble up 124bn food cans each year

22-Jan-2014
Last updated the 22-Jan-2014 at 22:22 GMT

Despite emergence of alternative packaging materials and formats, metal cans continue to resonate with consumers.
Despite emergence of alternative packaging materials and formats, metal cans continue to resonate with consumers.

Flexible pouches, cartons and other formats are increasingly vying for shelf space, but in many categories, metal packaging still holds a top spot.

Metal food packaging faces stiff competition these days. Between stand-up flexible pouches, aseptic cartons, plastic tubs and other non-metal containers, the humble can is up against an increasing number of alternatives.

However, despite the newcomers, metal cans hold a place in the hearts of consumers around the world. What’s more, food firms and packaging partners also are keeping the faith; one case in point is can maker Ardagh breaking ground on a 4.5m-can-a-day facility, to meet ConAgra Foods demand.

Globally, the canned food business is chugging along. It accounts for annual domestic production of approximately 124bn food, beverage and other metal cans and generates about $17.8 billion in direct economic activity, according to the Can Manufacturing Institute (CMI).

Sherrie Rosenblatt, vice president of marketing and communications for the CMI, discussed with FoodProductionDaily some of the reasons why cans continue to fend off competition, and why the packaging format isn’t going to be shelved any time soon.

FPD: What are some of the reasons steel cans appeal to food firms?

Rosenblatt: One, they are the preferred packaging for consumers. According to a Willard Bishop Super Study, cans outperform alternative packages two to one in sales per item and canned food categories exceed the grocery department average margin (32.1% vs. 27.5%, respectively).

Additionally, in a 2012 study by Artemis Strategy Group, 66% of canned food consumers categorized canned foods as having the most important or a major role in meal preparation and nearly two-thirds (63%) rated canned foods as highly important to the quality of a recent meal.

Then, metal is the single most effective packaging solution that has ever been invented. Seven out of 10 adults say they would purchase a product because its packaging is better for the environment.

Cans enable the preservation of food and beverages without requiring refrigeration. This saves enormous amounts of energy and eliminates waste during shipping and storage.

Their strong, robust nature makes them the most resistant to damage of any form of packaging. Cans are responsible for delivering a safe supply of nutritious foods and beverages throughout the world.

Finally, canned food items are safe. The canning process kills off bacteria and locks out pathogens, protecting consumers from foodborne illnesses.

What are some signs that point toward cans being here to stay?

Consumers demand high quality product without having to pay high prices; canned foods are the perfect solution for maximizing their budget without sacrificing quality.

Also, canning technology keeps food fresh and flavorful, naturally. When foods go through the canning process, nutrients are locked in so the amount of vitamins and nutrients in the food is the same on the day it was canned as it is a year from the canning date.

Then, because fresh produce can spoil before having the chance to eat it, keeping a well-stocked pantry helps people reach their daily goals for fruits and vegetables. 

More than 1,500 food items come in cans; this provides almost limitless options for consumers to in create flavorful and nutritious meals. Also, because fruits and vegetables are picked fresh and quickly sealed in a can, people can enjoy them all year long.

Additionally, because metal cans are endlessly recyclable (and the most recycled container in America today) choosing cans keeps metal out of landfills. Nearly 80% to 90% of all steel that has ever been produced is still in use today.

FPD: What benefits of steel can food packaging are consumers aware of, and what benefits might they not know about?

Consumers are aware of a number of benefits canned foods bring to the table: the long shelf life, low cost, ease in storage, convenience and dependability.

The majority of the benefits consumers are less aware of fall into the health and nutrition categories, where canned foods match (or in some cases outperform) their fresh and frozen counterparts. A 2012 survey showed that consumers were less aware that the canning process itself seals in freshness, flavor and nutrition and the canning process itself is protects the food inside.

According to a 2012 University of California-Davis study, many canned fruits and vegetables have equal or more nutrients than their fresh or frozen counterparts. Also, canned fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and canned, often just hours after harvest, at facilities just a few miles away from the farms.

Also, while many know cans are recyclable, many Americans do not know that they are infinitely recyclable. Cans are made of metal, the most recyclable material available. In addition to being recycled at high levels, it can be continuously reused to form new consumer packaging with no decrease in its quality or safety.

By recycling metal containers, significant amounts of energy are saved. From endless recyclability to superior conservation of resources, cans are truly the sustainable solution.  

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