Tinned food may have some heavy competition, but it’s still a category in growth. Tracy West urges retailers to give it the respect it deserves

In these days when retailers are told to concentrate on chilled food, and when even frozen food has made a bit of a comeback, tinned or canned products can get overlooked. After all, a can of baked beans, Spam or even carrots is hardly the most exciting product in a c-store but overlook it at your peril. According to Mintel, UK sales of canned foods increased by 5.7% in 2008 to reach £1.8bn and are forecast to continue growing, to reach nearly £2.2bn by 2013.

Princes marketing director Ruth Simpson comments: “One of the biggest positives about the canned food category is that it is underpinned by strong consumer loyalty. Canned food is a store cupboard staple and, as such, strong merchandising and promotions can drive great sales spikes while major troughs are rare.

55.4%In the past year UK consumers have got through 794 million cans of beans, 55.4% of which were Heinz, according to Kantar. 

“Canned pies, tomatoes and pulses are on the up. All have shown volume growth for their own specific reasons. Canned tomatoes are the starting point for many of the nation’s favourite quick meals; canned fish and meat are purchased for their ease and convenience; while canned pies are a hardy perennial.”

Canned fish is the biggest category in canned goods, worth £459m sales (IRI), with John West the biggest brand with value sales of more than £150m.

Canned tuna sales are worth £288m with John West accounting for about a third of the market. John West marketing director Jeremy Coles says the lunchbox occasion accounts for 30% of tuna consumption, but the fish is getting more popular for evening meals, too.

He believes John West’s leadership of the tuna category is largely driven by the performance of its No Drain Less Mess Tuna range. Since its launch in 2009, John West No Drain Tuna has sold more than 26.4 million individual cans (IRI data).

In August the range was boosted by the launch of ‘in a little sunflower oil’ and ‘in a little brine’ varieties in a 120g can as well as the same varieties in a two x 60g can pack for single households or individual eating occasions such as office lunches. The launch is supported by a multi-million pound marketing drive that includes endorsement from chef James Martin.

Princes’ Simpson says she expects three key trends to drive the canned food market over the coming months: home cooking; value for money; and food waste. 

“More people seem to be cooking from scratch ­ a shift that shows no signs of slowing. The beauty of products such as canned fish and tomatoes is that you can cook a meal quickly after work with just a few simple ingredients. And their long shelf life also means there’s less chance of food going to waste for both retailers and consumers.”

Retailer’s view: 
Mohan Sivarajah 

“We’ve been open for only about six months. Nisa merchandisers helped us with the ranging. They had a recommended list, but I was able to make choices, too. We stock a lot of canned and traditional groceries everything from baked beans to tinned veg to pasta sauces. You have to stock all these things if you are a proper convenience store. We always have good offers on and customers like them. At the moment we have ‘six for four’ on Heinz Beanz, for example, and a ‘less than half price’ offer on Loyd Grossman sauces.” 

Mohan Sivarajah, Nisa Local, Ashford, Kent

Simpson adds that she expects to see an increase in the number of new products hitting shelves during the next 12 months, but this innovation is likely to be dominated by new flavours and variants rather than new packaging formats. “Cans offer a practical, low-waste, value-for-money packaging format making them hard to beat.”

Princes’ innovation sees it enter the canned ready meals market for the first time with a new seven-strong range. It comprises: chicken in white wine sauce; mild chicken curry; hot chicken curry; chilli con carne; hot chilli con carne; vegetable curry and Irish stew.

Interestingly, Simpson adds that seasonal merchandising of canned goods is important. “Retailers who stand to make the most profit from canned food are those who keep their merchandising fresh and relevant to shoppers during key selling periods. Canned fruit and tuna are always popular during the summer months and should be given pride of place near the front of the store as shoppers come through the door.

“Comfort foods such as canned ready meals and canned pies are great winter warmers and retailers can maximise sales by giving them more room on-shelf at this time. This, combined with stocking leading brands, will bring consumers back time and again.”

General Mills UK marketing director Ed Culf reckons the recession has led to a style of housekeeping in which canned goods such as sweetcorn play an essential role. “Price is top in the decision hierarchy when purchasing canned veg, but brand is top when buying sweetcorn,” he says.

Culf reckons Green Giant has helped establish sweetcorn as a versatile ingredient. “This has been via a series of recipes demonstrating how it can be used as a healthy, value-for-money option, particularly at family mealtimes. We’ve also been highlighting the fact that sweetcorn is a great store cupboard standby for mums, because kids love it and it counts towards one of your recommended five-a-day.”

Finally, there are beans. According to Kantar data, 59% of the British public have Heinz Beanz in their cupboards. And in the past year, according to Nielsen data, Heinz has sold more than 440 million cans of its Beanz. However, the traditional can format has been joined by Snap Pots and, more recently, the resealable ‘fridge pack’ bottle.

Heinz Beanz marketing manager John Alderman says: “The can, Snap Pots and the Fridge Pack all deliver different consumer benefits. The addition of new formats complements the can by providing additional benefits such as resealability and microwavability. However, Heinz envisages that the can will remain the dominant pack format.” 

Ones to watch… 

Souper ads
 The ‘It has to be Heinz’ ad campaign is back on TV and radio to support the brand’s soup range. According to Nielsen data, Heinz has a 67.4% value share of the £335m wet ambient soup market. tel: 020 8573 7757 

Gone fishing
 John West is launching three canned fish lines: steam cooked mackerel fillets in natural oils or with a little olive oil; grilled sardines either natural or with lemon; and peri peri sardines. rrp: 95p-£1.49 tel: 0151 243 6200 

Giant advertising 
General Mills UK is investing £4m in marketing support for Green Giant. It wants Green Giant to be the only canned vegetable brand on UK national TV (excluding baked beans) and is currently sponsoring Neighbours. tel: 01895 201367
Full of beans 
Napolina is extending its range of pulses with the addition of new canned five-bean and spicy bean salads. The salads come in 400g ring pull cans each featuring an Italian-inspired recipe. rrp: 99p tel: 0151 236 9282 

Make a meal of it 
Heinz has launched kids’ Mini Meals in five varieties: tomato & veggie pasta shells; spaghetti carbonara; ravioli; BBQ Beanz & mini sausages; and chicken & sweetcorn pasta spirals. rrp: 69p tel: 020 8573 7757