Sector insight: Canned meals and meats

Sector insight: Canned meals and meats
Sector insight: Canned meals and meats

The value of the sector continues to increase on the back of escalating production costs, but overall volu mes are flat.

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Gourmets may turn up their noses at food from a tin, while others restrict their consumption to camping expeditions and emergency rations, but canned meals and meats still have enough fans to have kept their sales rising.

Whether the recession has forced shoppers to look for more frugal options, supermarket discounting has tempted the waverers, or the Delia factor has come into play - her much-derided How to Cheat at Cooking book included recipes using tinned mince - the value of this sector has grown almost 15% in the past two years to reach £770m in 2009, according to Mintel.

Hot canned meat in particular has undergone a resurgence as consumers have added it to their cupboard staples. Sales grew by 12% between 2007 and 2009, compared with a 4% increase for cold canned meats, and up to one in five UK shoppers now regularly buys tinned meatballs and minced beef. Hot canned meats now make up about 56% of the canned meat market.

Corned beef is the most popular variety of cold canned meat, but with its loyal shoppers mainly consisting of C2DEs, it has not managed to win converts among the more affluent, and expanding, shopping demographic.

Sales of Princes and Fray Bentos meat pies have benefited from consumers seeking out value-for-money meal options that also meet the convenience criteria essential for so many time-strapped workers.

While the rise of the canned meat market may be surprising to some, the excellent performance of baked beans is perhaps less so. In the past five years the category's value has leapt 45% to reach £365m in 2009. Baked beans are a food essential for most Brits - 81% buy them - but manufacturers have not become complacent. Extensions have been rife, resulting in healthier options, such as those lower in salt and sugar, and format updates.

Heinz continues to rule the roost in the baked-bean market; it has been a dominant force in NPD as well as continuing to invest in marketing support. It added microwaveable Snap Pots to its line-up in 2007 better to meet the needs of single-person households.

Branston burst onto the baked-beans market in 2005, promoting its product as the better-tasting option, but its marketing support has waned in recent years and sales have stagnated.

One canned food that has not benefited from changing shopper habits has been pasta, with sales dropping 9% over the past five years to reach a value of £105m in 2009. Parents appear to be turning away from this convenience food for their children, perhaps preferring to make pasta meals from scratch as they try to feed their offspring healthier options or going for kids' ready meals instead.

In general, other convenience foods, including chilled and frozen ready meals or meal kits, are putting pressure on canned meals and meats. These are seen as more appealing alternatives to the often old-fashioned image of tinned products. The quality of meat used in canned food is also a concern for many, especially as more attention has been focused on animal welfare. Nonetheless, canned foods do trump their rivals in relation to shelf life.

Another aspect of the performance of this sector is that while value sales have increased, volume sales have not kept pace, growing just 0.5% between 2007 and 2009. Prices have been pushed up as raw material costs for animal feed and aluminium have risen.

There is still work to be done by manufacturers to convey the benefits of canned foods, especially to ABs, if they want growth to be maintained in this market. Many people are rediscovering the joys of home cooking; a third of consumers are cooking from scratch more often than they did a year ago, according to research by Toluna.

Over the next four years this market is predicted to increase by 11% in value and 8% in volume to reach £856m by 2014, according to Mintel. When inflation is taken into account this means value is stagnant. Baked beans' value sales will increase by 16%, pasta by 8% and canned meats by 7%, meaning the latter two will decline in real terms.


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