How to make the tinned food trend work for you

19 March 2021, 09:14 AM
  • Convenient, gourmet, eco-friendly – tins are not just for food banks, says Sally-Jayne Wright
How to make the tinned food trend work for you

‘No more than four items per person, please’ read the signs at Waitrose over the tinned veg and tinned tomato sections. Whether or not consumers can expect post-Brexit shortages and price rises, they find shopping itself scarier. So they’re visiting less and popping more just-in-case tins into their trollies.

The fine food importer RH Amar reported that in the first 10 months of 2020, sales of Mutti tomato products were up by 250% compared to the same period in 2019. The Co-op saw tinned pineapple slices up 343% and canned ham up 179%.

What’s behind the trend?
More vegan meals and more experimentation has increased demand for niche products like black beans and jackfruit. We’re eating most meals at home, for which we need staples and we’re influenced by comfort, familiarity and nostalgia.

Great. So I get to spend lockdown eating Spam?
Read Tin Can Cook (2019) by food writer Jack Monroe. It contains 75 recipes based on tins. She once cooked a three-course meal out of the cheapest tins, for a group at a five-star hotel, and they loved it.

Who else is a can fan?
Food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has some nifty tinned fish recipes; he rates Fish4Ever sardines and The Pilchard Works from Cornwall. Ortiz white tuna and anchovy fillets appear on Jamie Oliver’s storecupboard essentials list. Did you hear about the pop-up Soho restaurant aptly called TinCan? It only sold tinned fish. Delicacies included Portugese mackerel fillets in olive oil, Icelandic smoked cod livers and Galician urchin caviar.

Is tinned food as nutritious as fresh?
Tinned tomatoes contain more cancer-fighting lycopene than fresh. A portion of olives, baked beans or even spaghetti hoops (because of the tomato sauce) counts as one of your five-a-day. While tinned sardines, mackerel and salmon contain Omega 3 fatty acids (mainly in the skins), tuna loses them in the canning process.

What about taste?
A food industry professional we know is not too proud to feed her kids M&S tinned chilli con carne. Our guilty secret is regular orders from online retailer for William Saurin pork cassoulet, sausage cooked with lentils, choucroute with white wine and tinned tartiflette. Sadly, the avian flu outbreak has affected supplies of tinned confit duck. Private chef Julie Friend says, “When we were able to go to France or Spain, I always brought back tinned brown lentils cooked with onions and carrots – just add good sausage for an instant meal. Or try Fabada Asturiana – white beans with black pudding and fatty pancetta – delicious! In Italy, there’s tinned Simmenthal which is so much nicer than corned beef. It has a rich jelly round it and they serve it with celery and onion salad.”

You can recycle aluminium cans forever, too
Yes, whereas mixed material pouches are an eco-warrier’s nightmare. Cans also have a long shelf life so they reduce waste for you and your customers.

How can we make the trend work for us?
Appeal to snackers and comfort eaters. For Norman, 70, this may mean Fray Bentos tinned steak and kidney pie, corned beef hash and Ambrosia rice pud; for Charlotte, 27, Nestle’s Vegan Condensed Milk Alternative, organic coconut milk and pumpkin puree for her sweet bakes.

My customers crave treats now they can’t travel and dine out. Any suggestions?
Tempt them with posh tins. Multi Great Taste Award-winning Mount Mayon pili nuts come in five variants including Ecuadorian cacao and Himalayan pink salted. Consider Exmoor Caviar as sold at Harrods, Daylesford and farm shops. Elsinore canned fish soups include such recipes as bouillabaisse, clam chowder and seafood gumbo. The Epicure brand offers tinned ratatouille nicoise, organic borlotti beans and bijoux verts lentils as well as ruby grapefruit segments and stoned black cherries. Vegan customers may appreciate hard-to-find pinto, flageolet and aduki beans, but check first. If you don’t think customers will pay a premium for tinned tomatoes, try the yellow variety from Italianavera, Sacla, Casa Marrazzo or Cento.

To hell with tinned food, I’m going to drink my calories in a pre-mix!
Very modern of you. In 2019, this category grew to become the second largest alcohol occasion after single spirits (Kantar). Try Kingland Drinks’ Mix Up cocktails or Two Days’ Vodka & Lime or Vodka & Raspberry sodas. Sea & T is a beautifully packaged, ready to drink, booze-free alternative to gin and tonic made by Sea Arch Drinks of Devon. Tempt new health-conscious customers with cans of Gusto Drinks’ new Super DC Immune Support in Blood Orange or Blackcurrant and Elderberry variants.

Will the trend last?
Absolutely. Indeed, many drinks brands previously in bottles are launching canned variants. In December, in partnership with Jack Monroe, Del Monte started a six-month #YesWeCAN social media campaign to promote the positive benefits of eating canned fruit. RH Amar expects record sales of tinned fruit and veg to continue. Pineapple upside-down cake, here we come

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