Sales of canned food and beverages have boomed in the pandemic era for a couple of main reasons:
- Stocking up. Canned goods have a long shelf life and are easy to stack in pantries and cabinets. As families looked to limit their grocery trips, gather more food to feed everyone at home, and create easy semi-homemade meals, sales of canned goods took off.
- Switching from restaurant to home consumption. Cans are more widely used for beverages purchased for consumption at home compared to those bought at restaurants and otherwise away from home. In many restaurants, soft drink concentrate and carbonation and kegs of beer are more common than individual cans.
- Eco-friendly. Both aluminum and steel cans have higher recycling rates than plastic and glass packaging, and cans are lighter and seen as stronger than glass alternatives.
Will it last? To some degree, yes. Beverage packaging has been migrating to cans over plastic and glass bottles for quite some time because of factors such as the environmental profile. However, at some point the bulk consumption in restaurants and events will return as the pandemic eventually ebbs and the rush to cans will be somewhat alleviated.
What are the alternatives?
- Some food products – including beans and other vegetables – are starting to be offered in shelf-stable pouches. Single servings of smooth food such as applesauce and baby food had already migrated from jars to pouches, and microwave-ready rice and other grains are increasingly appearing on shelves in pouches. These are lightweight, convenient packaging options that can include a convenient cook-in-package format. However, this is a more expensive packaging option and few pouches are designed to be recyclable at most municipal facilities at this point.
- Plastic bottles and jars. These are often recyclable and light weight. Many are also offered with recloseable lids or caps. These are used for beverages and are increasingly used for shelf-stable fruit and sometimes vegetables.
- Glass bottles and jars. Glass options are not always recyclable, and they are more expensive and prone to breakage during shipping. However, there is a high-end appeal to glass packaging, as consumers can often see the product clearly and the heavier weight makes the product feel substantial and protected. Additionally, glass is inert and consumers concerned about chemicals leaching into their food or beverages gravitate to glass.
Of course, home production is another option for beverages as small but growing number of consumers have also sought to minimize packaging by using products such as Soda Stream to make their own carbonated beverage. However, the needed CO2 canisters are in short supply in many places as well.
For more information about trends and opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s coverage of the packaging industry as well as food and beverage research from sister publisher Packaged Facts. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.