Ronan Stafford, senior analyst, Canadean, told FoodProductionDaily.com pouches are still only a ‘drop in the ocean’ in the ambient fish and seafood category, but the growth is impressive nevertheless.
“Pouches held a 1% share in 2013, and this will grow to 2% by 2018,” he said. “However, for a pack format to double its size in the space of five years is tremendous growth, especially in a market as mature as ambient fish.”
Brands such as Heinz and John West have been leading the way in developing new pack formats for tinned food, he added. Example of developments include John West's fish pouches and Heinz Beanz's microwavable 'snap pots' (designed like yogurt pots).
Convenience drives consumers to alternatives for tins
A survey from Canadean found that 22% of British consumers consider tinned food difficult to open, and predicts manufacturers will increasingly turn to easier opening packs such as pouches.
The research showed young adults are most frustrated by tins: 28% of 25 - 34 year olds find tinned food difficult to open, compared to 16% of over 55s. Stafford attributes this to younger consumers wanting instant convenience – appreciating even the minimal amount of time saved by opening a bag or pouch rather than looking for a tin opener.
“We were surprised to find that consumers aged 55 and over find tinned food easier to open. Part of this is habit – they’re used to cans, and they’ll do their weekly shop on automatic, without thinking about what goes into their shopping basket.
“This also reflects their stubbornness; they’re less likely to admit finding it difficult to open something as commonplace as a food can. Either way, they’re less likely to pay attention to products positioned around being “easier to open.”
Ring pulls are not the answer
Older consumers are just as likely to find food cans with ring pulls just as difficult to open as using a tin opener, Stafford said.
“Ring-pulls sometimes aren’t always that easy to open – the ring can be pulled off with the lid intact, or consumers need to pull hard before the closure opens. One frustrating instance can put a consumer off a brand or pack format for good – especially when you think about how easy a screw top lid is to twist, or a plastic pouch or bag is to tear open.”
Challenging the tinned food market
While pouches’ market share will still be niche compared to the share held by food cans, the rapid growth shows how offering a more convenient pack format can revitalise sales among younger consumer groups, said Stafford.
“Metal cans face a big challenge from plastics – these can be moulded into more interesting shapes, they’re microwavable, and a greater variety of closures can be used. They also offer a novelty factor.
“Many tinned food categories are driven by price, and brands find themselves increasingly susceptible to private labels. Being able to stand out on the shelf means you can start competing on new factors such as convenience or new experiences – and escape the discounting and promotion trap many British brands find themselves in.
“To really boost their growth, pouches need a clearer positioning. They’ve been used in many product categories in many different ways – in confectionery for sharing, as cost-effective refills of household and hygiene products, as convenient packaging for soup, but in none of these categories have they established clear leadership.
“They may be versatile, but their growth will be limited until they establish a clearer unique selling point.”