Canned fish brands are going after the lunchtime crowd. But it’s no longer about a few tuna chunks sandwiched between two slices of bread or heaped on a jacket potato; brands are developing fish products in an increasingly adventurous array of flavours and formats. 

See Princes’ Limited Edition Mackerel range, developed to appeal to more affluent consumers with flavours such as Morrocan Sauce and Texas Barbecue, and rival John West’s launch of single-serve sandwich fillers, Spreadables, last year, for proof of how ambient fish is evolving. 

“Lunch is an important usage occasion for Princes, especially for ambient meat and fish, which offer great taste and the convenience of a ready-to-go product,” says Neil Brownbill, Princes marketing director. “The most common time of day to eat tuna (53%) and mackerel (54%) is at lunch, and product innovation and NPD offering simple lunchtime solutions has been the key for us to tap this consumer demand.”

Retailers could be doing more to drive sales, adds John West marketing controller Neal Woods. “Shoppers tell us it currently takes them nearly a minute and a half to find what they’re looking for, so improved signage and navigation would help this,” he says. “Also at fixture, retailers working with brands such as John West could offer some usage suggestions to inspire shoppers, as research tells us that 68% of them want new ideas in convenient seafood.”

He points to the 2014 launch of John West Steam Pots, a range of just-add-water ready meals, as one way the brand has managed to add value to the sector.  “Steam Pots has successfully tapped consumers’ need for a convenient but nutritious lunch on the go and has seen steady growth since launch.”