Consumers are attracted to canned goods for a number of reasons - but it’s fair to say that health has not, traditionally, been one.

“People still think the reason canned foods last so long is because they’re not only airtight, but packed full of preservatives,” says Steve Gogerty, chairman of Canned Food UK. He points out that the fact canned foods “have been cooked previously to kill off bacteria” is “totally absent” from people’s perceptions.

The good news, adds Gogerty, is that those perceptions are slowly starting to shift. He cites the arrival of canned pulses such as cannellini beans as having helped “lift the category to a healthier place than ever”. But there is still much to be done to firmly establish the health credentials of canned foods in consumers’ minds.

Recent research from Manchester University commissioned by Canned Food UK compared the nutritional properties of fresh fruit with their canned fruit equivalents and, claims Gogerty, found strong evidence that canned fruit was as good as fresh. suppliers now face the job of communicating this message to consumers, in the way brands such as Birds Eye and McCain are doing for frozen vegetables.

One concept that continues to resonate strongly with shoppers is the five-a-day message. The fact that two of its soups provide consumers three of their five-a-day is “a massive USP”, according to Baxters Food Group’s marketing director Yvonne Adam. “We’ve just done some consumer research on what messages people are most attracted to and ‘part of your five-a-day’ is still right up there at the top. People are looking for easy ways to eat healthily.”

The five-a-day message is also a “key part of Green Giant’s communications programme”, according to marketing director Ed Culf - and category leader Heinz introduced a new limited-edition label for its Beanz in September 2011 to remind consumers that every portion of the legumes provides ‘1 of your 5 a day’.