PG Web Extra: Building a Better Can

When it comes to innovative packaging, cans don’t immediately leap to mind, but for companies that offer canned products, such developments are top of mind in such areas as functionality, conveying information and aesthetics.

“The majority of our product portfolio is available in cans, so we focus on how to resonate with consumers looking for portability, convenience and affordability, while delivering high-quality, great-tasting products,” says David Melbourne, SVP consumer marketing and corporate social responsibility at San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods. “A variety of advances has been used, including litho printing of cans, as well as a host of ways to message benefits for products; easy-open, pull-tab lids; and even easy-peel foil lids.”

A fellow seafood brand has been working on a similar packaging solution – and plans to tell shoppers all about it. “This fall, Chicken of the Sea becomes the first major seafood brand to introduce easy-open cans across multiple seafood lines at the same time,” observes Maureen McDonnell, director of marketing for the company, also based in San Diego.

“The new cans with EZ Open lids will be initially available for our most popular products – 5-ounce and 7-ounce Albacore, 7-ounce Chunk Light, and 5-ounce Salmon – and were developed from research showing that our audience wants an easier way to enjoy the lean protein they love, both inside and outside the home. Given the importance of this issue to consumers and the very positive early response, Chicken of the Sea in EZ Open Cans is being positioned as a renovation and is being supported by an integrated Pull It Off marketing campaign featuring an on-can, instant-win game. Beyond the obvious convenience benefits of the new lids, the campaign focuses on the larger lifestyle and portability implications. Now seafood and lean protein fans can enjoy Chicken of the Sea virtually anywhere!”

Beyond the seafood segment, other canned goods purveyors have been sprucing up their packaging. Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods currently offers all of its Chef Boyardee and Vienna Sausage in cans with easy-open lids, according to Associate Brand Manager Chelsea Herman, who adds, “Depending on the channel, some of our other canned foods are sold with easy-open lids as well,” while Joe Perez, SVP of Jersey City, N.J.-based Goya Foods, notes, “We’ve focused [on] the presentation and design/packaging on new products.”

Along with making its cans easier to open, Bumble Bee has excelled at creating eye-catching portable items. “Response to our new line of flavored ready-to-eat kits has … been very positive,” notes Melbourne. “The high-impact visual design pops from the shelf, and the product line is positioned well to target consumers looking for grab-and-go solutions that can be eaten anywhere at any time.”

What’s to come in can design? “We believe in the future, clear canned items will be available for customers in the industry, as they are becoming more eco-conscious,” predicts Benny Smith, manager, media and community relations at Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion. Manufacturers such as Cincinnati-based Milacron are already offering such an option.

Bumble Bee’s Melbourne also thinks that cans will continue to be a relevant packaging choice, evolving along with shopper needs. “I believe packaging innovation will … be important as consumers look for more convenient, on-the-go solutions,” he says, “and cans definitely are positioned well to tap these growing trends.” 

Cans to the Rescue

Some canned goods purveyors are serious about helping their favored causes. One well-known brand, for instance, places a priority on making sure its products don’t have an adverse impact on the environment.

“Bumble Bee is committed to our robust corporate social responsibility (CSR) program,” asserts David Melbourne, SVP consumer marketing and corporate social responsibility at the San Diego-based provider of canned seafood products. “In fact, CSR plays an essential role in how we define ourselves as a company. Bumble Bee is actively engaged in assuring our products are sourced from sustainable fisheries, and we track our global operations on a monthly basis to specifically hit reduction goals for water use, waste to landfill, utilities and greenhouse gas emissions. While we initially did these things to be a better corporate citizen and didn’t talk or promote to external stakeholders, we are now working more proactively to educate consumers.”

That’s not just for the positive press, insists Melbourne, who notes that “consumers are asking more than ever today where their products are sourced from. Traceability has always been a core capability for food safety reasons, but we wanted to take that to the next level in terms of transparency. 

Back in the fall of 2015, Bumble Bee launched the Trace My Catch functionality on its website, allowing consumers to input the production code from any of our tuna products, and immediately review full ‘trace’ results. Information includes details about the tuna species; ocean where the tuna was caught; gear type used to catch the tuna; overview of the specific boat(s) that caught the tuna, including name, flag of registry and fishing trip dates; where the tuna was initially processed; and where the canning was completed.”

This program has been so successful, in fact, that Bumble Bee plans to expand Trace My Catch to its salmon, sardine and clam product categories in the next few months, according to Melbourne.

The company has also demonstrated its commitment to sustainability and consumer education through its Wild Selections line of tuna, salmon and sardine products. “All items are Marine Stewardship Council-certified, and product sales actually support a cause-related program with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF),” explains Melbourne.  “Wild Selections donates 13 cents for every can sold (and a minimum of $1 million over a five-year period), which is being used by WWF to establish fisheries improvement projects around the world. The program was introduced to help educate consumers about sustainable fisheries management practices and raise much-needed funds to support WWF’s efforts within this space. The brand has now achieved the No. 2 rank in the sustainably positioned canned seafood segment.”

Canny Promotions

Grocers can give their canned food sales a lift by featuring them in show-stopping promotions. The Canned Food Alliance (CFA) provides materials to help them get really creative.

 “Some retailers host promotions during National Canned Food Month (February); others, for example Price Chopper, have an annual Can Can sale,” notes Rich Tavoletti, executive director of Pittsburgh-based CFA, a consortium of steelmakers, can makers, food processors and affiliate members . “We support these sales by providing recipes, photos, handouts and resources from available to anyone looking to do a canned food promotion. Most of them reach out to us, and we work with them to customize materials that they are looking for.”

According to Tavoletti, the site also offers videos, fact sheets, infographics, and a toolkit for registered dietitians. Not content just to help boost canned food sales, the alliance aims “to arm health and nutrition professionals with tools they can use to educate consumers about the many benefits of canned foods,” he explains. “Based on a foundation of research and science-based tips, we provide fact sheets and teaching tools for them to use with their clients and help them answer tough questions about misperceptions of canned foods.

After all, as Tavoletti points out, “The canning process itself preserves the food in the one of the safest, most reliable and most recycled containers.”

Retailers interested in using CFA’s resources can contact the alliance at [email protected].

For more about canned goods, read the June 2016 Progressive Grocer article "In the Can."

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds