It may not be the sexiest of categories in your store, but with household penetration of almost 100% (Kantar data) canned goods is still an important one.

Tins of soup and beans may not be as exciting as the latest chilled line, yet they still have a place in a 21st century convenience store. Princes convenience channel marketing director Graham Breed says: “The convenience of the canned category makes it ideal for all shopper demographics, but the challenge for retailers is to ensure that consumers recognise the benefits of ambient food. This can be aided by pushing positive messages on-pack and promoting convenient meal solutions.”

And meal solutions are what Linda Williams provides at her Broadway Convenience Store in Edinburgh. She’s just had a mini refit and as part of that has rationalised the range of tinned food. Just one bay in the grocery section is now devoted to tins. “We’ve taken out quite a lot of tinned veg and meat. We’d done this before, but have just done it again,” Linda explains. However, she still has tinned peas, carrots, sweetcorn, new potatoes and tomatoes. “We sell a lot of groceries as we’re a destination shop for people looking for items to make meals with.”

Pineapple crush

Pineapple is the most popular of all canned fruits and Del Monte hopes to make it even more appealing, particularly with younger consumers, through the launch of its Pineapple Dessert range.

There are three cans of 230g pineapple chunks available, each with a different naturally flavoured syrup that’s been specially selected to complement the taste of the fruit. So there’s vanilla, coconut and mango syrups, with more flavours planned for the future.

Del Monte Foods UK commercial director Tony Gill says: “Consumers are seeking the perfect balance of health, enjoyment and convenience, and Del Monte Pineapple Dessert scores equally well on each measure. Enjoyed on their own or as a healthy snack or meal finisher, or combined with ice cream or added as a twist to a familiar recipe, the range is likely to become an immediate favourite.”

Her best-seller across all canned lines is Happy Shopper garden peas: “We have quite a lot of elderly customers and they do like their peas. I think tinned veg is great, especially if you can’t afford fresh veg or don’t want the bother of cooking it. And it is still healthy.”

In independent and symbol stores, ‘total peas’ is the biggest category sector within tinned veg - even larger than sweetcorn by value.

Breed says that, between them, Princes’ Batchelors and Farrows ranges make up 86% of sales value in branded peas and 70.3% of volume sales (IRI). And to push home the provenance, the fact that all Batchelors peas are sourced from British farms is clearly marked on the cans to appeal to consumers who want to buy British.

However, tinned veg does not work for all convenience retailers. Jagi Patel from Ricki’s Newsagents in Beaconsfield has stopped selling all veg except sweetcorn. She says sales have been slowing down across all canned grocery so she’s down to just 2m and thinking of cutting that back further.

“We have been debating giving the space to another category that might do better. We’re in quite an affluent area so only branded lines will sell. Heinz beans are our best-seller in canned - we can’t sell any other brands or own label. Heinz do quite a lot of offers - pricemarked or two for a price - so that helps.”

Linda thinks there needs to be more promotional activity in the sector: “I think it’s regrettable that’s there are not more offers; products would do better with a bit of promotional support.”

Although Clive Davies, UK brand manager for Cirio, thinks deals in the canned category are very important, he says Cirio has no immediate plans to pricemark packs as the firm likes to allow retailers to set their own price points depending on their location and local demographic.

Instead, Davies prefers deals to drive trial of Cirio products as he believes that once tried, consumers are less likely to go back to an “inferior or cheaper” brand.

Like Jagi, Anna Langton from JV Food & Wine in Bridlington, Yorkshire, says her customers want the big brands. “Heinz is our best-seller in beans, but we also stock Branston and when they’re on offer they fly out.”

Branston beans are available in a 410g pricemarked can at 65p, with a ‘two for £1 label’ to help retailers boost sales.

Princes’ Breed says Branston beans have a loyal consumer following who, according to Kantar data, buy canned beans more regularly and spend more on the category than average. He says key products for independents are the 410g can of Branston beans and the four-pack.

Beans is obviously a massive part of the canned category, worth £60m and led by Heinz with a 67% value share.

The brand’s latest bean launch came a couple of months ago with the introduction of fajita, Tuscan and veg chilli Beanz. Designed to appeal to 25- to 44-year olds, each half a can provides two of your ‘five a day’.

Campaign for cold consumption

Green Giant’s latest promotional activity has been designed to “unlock new cold consumption occasions”. According to Kantar data, only 20% of sweetcorn is eaten cold in the UK, and the brand hopes its latest promotion will encourage consumers to enjoy its sweetcorn straight from the can. To this end, consumers are being offered a free salad recipe book, created by Green Giant in collaboration with L’atelier des Chefs, Europe’s largest cooking school, with every purchase made.

The book can be redeemed through the website, or through the brand’s Facebook page - consumers need to enter a unique 12-digit code available across 3.2 million promotional packs. The offer runs until February 28, 2015 or when stocks run out - whichever is sooner.

The firm says it spotted a rise in popularity for beans and pulses among UK consumers and wanted to tap into the trend of scratch cooking at home. It says the new range is best served as a side, or used as a filling or an ingredient.

Nina Shanahan, innovation manager at Heinz, explains: “Our research shows us that consumers want to experiment with new dishes and expand their repertoire; however, they don’t feel that they have the time or culinary expertise. The new range enables consumers who are short of time to embark on a flavour adventure, bringing their meals to life.”

After tinned peas, Linda’s next best-seller is beans, then Heinz cream of tomato soup. Anna says JV Food & Wine carries Heinz and Baxters soups, but they only really sell in the winter so they try to taper down the range a little for the rest of the year.

Despite what you might think, it’s not just older customers who are buying into tins. Linda says: “Younger shoppers like tinned soup and tinned beans. We tried the snap pots of beans, but they didn’t work for us so we went back to tins. People like the fact that beans are available in two sizes - small and standard.

“I know you can get pouches and jars instead of tins, but I don’t think they are in the right sizes. The tins are so recognisable and people like them.”

RH Amar brand marketing manager James Amar says smaller tins performed strongly in 2013, as small households continue to over-index on tinned purchases. He adds that wastage is a growing concern, which has led to strong sales of smaller, portion-sized tins.

And there are other reasons why tins are popular, too: “We’ve seen a strong performance across store cupboard staple canned ingredients such as sweetcorn, potatoes, tomatoes and pulses that are all benefiting from the wider trend towards scratch cooking.”

Finally, Amar says that another element that can help boost sales of canned vegetables is the weather. “Sales of D’Aucy canned potatoes rose last year, benefiting from the disastrous potato harvest in 2012 as consumers turned to cheaper tinned potatoes while the price of fresh potatoes rocketed.”


More recognition for Cirio

Cirio UK says brand recognition continues to grow for its canned tomatoes, particularly as celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay have all been seen using the brand on TV.

Best canned pineapple recipes

Del Monte, in conjunction with Hachette Partworks, has developed a range of 30 ‘Best Loved’ canned pineapple, peach and pear recipe books.

A taste of Indian spice with Heinz

The Heinz Black Label range has been extended with lentil with fragrant Indian spices, rich beef broth with smokey paprika, cream of tomato with Spanish chorizo and carrot & coriander with warming Morrocan spices.

Fruity fillings from Princes

One million packs of Princes Fruit Fillings currently feature a promotion to win either a baking masterclass in London worth £1,000, or Lakeland vouchers worth up to £250. Meanwhile, tins of Princes Hot Dogs give consumers the chance to win Go Ape family tickets.

Heinz tomato in cup format

Iconic soup Heinz cream of tomato is now available in a packet cup soup format, alongside cream of chicken and vegetable.

Make it modern

Princes is aiming to attract a younger consumer to the canned aisle with the addition of Mackerel with a Moroccan style spicy sauce to its limited-edition range. A marketing campaign will be launched later in the year including PR and money-off coupons.