Innovation is key to category growth and canned is no exception. In the past year Hotcan has launched its self-heating ready meals into mainstream grocery.
Sales and marketing director Kenney Richardson says retailers, wholesalers and branded manufacturers were initially sceptical due to the high-profile failure of Nestlé’s self-heating coffee. “This is despite general recognition that it is going to be a huge market once a category is established,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury attracted media attention with its square can. However, Steve Thomas, chairman of industry body Canned Food UK (CFUK), suggests its current incarnation may have a short shelf life because it is a relatively expensive idea. However, he concedes: “It has demonstrated that consumers are interested in different-shaped containers and that is something the industry is working on more now.”
But nutrition and health are probably the current priority for industry. CFUK threw the spotlight on the health benefits of the format when it published research into the nutrition of canned products with the aim of proving the format can be as full of vitamins and nutrients as fresh and chilled equivalents.
The category is keen to capitalise on the health association, but following Heinz’s decision to drop its five-a-day
logo, some manufacturers are holding fire on the mark, at least until the Department of Health issues guidelines for its use on processed foods.
Westler Foods, owner of the Chesswood brand, has not been so coy. Retail brand manager Katrina Ellis says: “We clearly indicate on the label the typical fat content of the meal, which in the Chesswood range is no more than 5%, plus how many portions of the recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetables each can provides.”
The Co-op has begun to add its ‘eat five a day’ logo to its own label canned vegetables and fruit, but only where they are in natural juice or with no added salt or sugar.
The industry continues to maximise the potential of the healthy eating market, which according to Premier Foods, owner of the Waistline brand, is growing at 2.3% and will be worth £82m by 2009.
John West has extended its Weight Watchers range with the launch of Heinz Salmon in Lemon Mayonnaise Style Dressing. Marketing manager Jane Hilton says initial sales are encouraging.
“After five months it is already the fourth fastest-selling stock-keeping unit out of 16 SKUs in the low-calorie sector.”