Canned goods sales have been dented with £108m wiped off nine key areas over the past year, including baked beans, vegetables and soup [IRI 52 w/e 30 January 2016]. Fish took the largest knock with £35.6m wiped off its value. 

Princes has lost £17.2m. “Sixty per cent of this loss has come from price deflation as we have passed commodity cost reductions on to our customers,” says Neil Brownbill, Princes marketing director, who notes the brand is working hard to rebuild this over the coming year with the help of a £2m marketing campaign to inspire new usage occasions for Princes Fish.

  £m y-o-y % kg (m) y-o-y %
Own label 132.5 -10.8 22.8 -3.8
John West 168.6 1.7 23.6 11.5
Princes 124.2 -12.1 21.4 -3.2
Glenryck 6.3 -16.1 2.0 -11.5
Oriental & Pacific 4.4 -41.7 1.2 -39.2
Total 456.3 -7.2 73.5 -0.5

“It is also crucial to gain new, younger shoppers, and to respond to this in 2015 we relaunched Tuna Fillers, which have attracted a growing loyal consumer base,” adds Brownbill.

Rival John West, meanwhile, has had more luck in the canned aisles as the only top five canned fish brand to see any value growth. Sales are up 1.7% on volumes up 11.5%.

The brand says successful innovation in the form of Spreadables, the refreshed Mackerel Sauces range and extensions to Infusions and Steam Pots ranges have driven this. However, heavy price cuts driven by promotions in standard tins of tuna are driving down prices.

Like Princes, John West agrees younger consumers are the key to unlocking growth. “We believe that bringing younger consumers into the category is fundamental to changing perceptions,” says Neal Woods, John West marketing controller. “In the latest data, sales to under 28s are the fastest growing of any age group (+18% y-o-y), indicating that canned goods have a role to play in the shopping habits of this group.”

  £m y-o-y % kg (m) y-o-y %
Heinz 181.0 -9.6 94.2 -11.7
Baxters 43.7 8.3 20.0 13.2
Own label 33.1 -4.6 27.1 -0.4
WeightWatchers 7.4 -17.9 2.8 -25.5
Crosse & Blackwell 5.5 20.1 3.3 9.3
Campbell’s 4.4 -14.9 1.3 -20.3
Total 281.6 -6.3 151.3 -6.9

Ambient wet soup suffered the next biggest decline, losing £18.9m. Baxters and Crosse & Blackwell, however, defied category trends to achieve value growth of 8.3% and 20.1% respectively.

The latter extended its range to include a Cream of British Roasted Chicken while supporting the brand with a national sampling campaign. “This proved a huge success in terms of both consumer response and an uplift in sales, largely generated by offering consumers a chance to win a microwaveable mug instantly in-store,” says Chris Wright, marketing director for Crosse & Blackwell.

The market’s largest player Heinz lost £19.3m in soup alone despite extending its product offering with the Heinz Balance range and impressive growth from its premium Black Label range. It also took a tumble in pasta with sales down 5.8% on volumes down 6.9% and in baked beans with value down 0.8% on volumes down 5%.

Sales of canned meat also struggled with losses totalling £17m as value sales dropped across the board. Own label, Fray Bentos and Ye Olde Oak suffered the biggest losses.

“Canned sales are down and we believe this is because younger consumers are now buying more microwaveable food alternatives. There’s a continued trend towards chilled over ambient meat products and grocery price deflation offers consumers a wider choice,” explains Mark Watson, marketing director at Ye Olde Oak. “Many consumers are also looking for meal solutions when grocery shopping and so we’re actively working with retailers to display cross-category promotions, in addition to ambitious NPD plans,” he adds.

  £m y-o-y % kg (m) y-o-y %
Heinz 215.1 -0.8 131.4 -5.0
Own label 56.2 -10.5 66.5 -8.0
Branston 34.6 27.2 35.0 31.9
Total 310.9 -0.7 234.9 -2.3

Princes, meanwhile, saw minor value losses in meat but impressive volume growth of 4%, which Brownbill believes is due to its “consistent approach to promotions”, which is increasing penetration.

Canned veg saw similar bright spots but overall lost £6.5m as a result of losses by Green Giant and Batchelors. The latter is hoping to turn this around in the coming year, having just announced the sponsorship of the Rugby Super League.

Napolina, on the other hand, gained 17% in value on volumes up 22.5% in veg, driven by health trends leading consumers to buy more pulses. It also saw 9% volume gains in canned tomatoes as the trend towards scratch cooking shows no sign of slowing.

Cirio is also claiming to have had a good year with sales and brand awareness growing. “The rise in brand awareness is also coming from a partnership agreement with Antonio Carluccio,” says Diego Pariotti, joint MD of Cirio UK operations alongside Cesare Concilio, noting a number of marketing initiatives around this as well as the 160th anniversary celebrations taking place this year.

However, Pariotti notes a change in consumer attitude is needed if canned sales overall are to be pushed into growth. “Unfortunately in the UK, tinned food is still slightly frowned upon as less than fresh,” he says. “This aspect needs to change.”

Changing perceptions is key, something James Amar, brand manager for canned products at RH Amar, agrees with. “There is a place for high quality canned products that taste as good as fresh,” he comments, noting brands Mutti and D’aucy are performing well with the former only launched in the UK last year.

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