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Global Metal Food Cans: Challenges and Opportunities

January 2018

Metal food cans are set to continue to decline globally over 2016-2021, challenged by consumers shifting away from canned to chilled and frozen food. Despite improvements through easy-open cans ends, metal food cans will also continue to lose out to other formats that offer added functionality, such as thin wall plastic containers and pouches. Nevertheless, growth opportunities still exist in developing regions, such as in shelf stable seafood, which remains a popular staple product in cans.

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Developing markets still offer growth opportunities

Retail volume sales of metal food cans fell by an annual average of 1% over 2011- 2016, to 72.4 billion units. In mature developed regions, consumers are moving away from canned food, turning to chilled food instead, as it is considered to offer greater freshness. This decline is partially offset by growth in developing regions, where preserved food in cans is popular as fridge ownership remains low.

Pack performance is the key to success in processed seafood

Shelf stable seafood is the category maintaining total volumes of cans in food. It remains a popular staple globally, and metal food cans continue to perform well in shelf stable seafood, since it remains one of the best functioning pack types for this product in terms of preservation, presentation and value.

Innovation and added value offering to change the image of food cans

As competition from chilled and frozen food increases, brand owners are aiming to boost consumers’ expenditure on added-value products, while trying to reverse the old fashioned image of metal food cans, launching canned seasonal products, smaller pack sizes and premium canned products. This strategy is proving successful in France, where volumes of canned vegetables are forecast to grow at a 1% CAGR over 2016-2021.

Competition from other pack types

While the penetration of easy open closures for food cans continues to grow, increasing its convenience aspect, the pack type is still facing competition from other pack types considered more convenient, such as pouches, which offer single serve portions and microwavability. Another competing pack type is liquid cartons, which offer convenience of dispensing and reclosability, and more premium and reclosable rigid plastic containers.


Key findings

Global Overview

Metal food cans in the global packaging context
Processed meat and seafood generate largest food cans volumes
Only developing region drive volume growth
Shelf stable food still growing in developing markets
Easy-open can ends respond to demand for convenience of use

Spotlight on Shelf Stable Food

Seafood, beans and vegetables lead shelf stable food

Spotlight on shelf stable food

Seafood health image drives volume growth of cans in food
Strategies to improve consumer perception of canned food products
Improving canned food’s profile: France to reap the fruits of its labour
Innovation to sustain interest and higher unit prices

Spotlight on Soup and Sauces

Increased competition from other pack types
Continued shift from metal to plastic in soup


Pickled products offer growth opportunities for food cans in Mexico


Food cans the preferred pack type for condensed milk globally
Peru and Saudi Arabia to offer strong growth opportunities to 2021
Food cans dominate in Peru but brick liquid cartons on the rise

Spotlight on Dog and Cat Food

Aluminium/plastic pouches to outperform metal food cans by 2021
Wet cat food in cans still popular in North America

Spotlight on dog and cat food

The US and China offer best prospects
F ood cans are lacking of innovation to sustain their position in the US




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