Canned foods have long been associated with negative health connotations, from containing too much salt, too much sugar, too many additives, to not being ‘fresh’ – but due to rising consumer trends demanding healthier food options, the industry is now working towards evolving the space in this direction.
“The perception of canned foods for a long time has always been not wholesome, not healthy, not good for you – but this is not necessarily true,” Ayam Brand Singapore Managing Director Roy Teo told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[Back in the day] long term preservation was the priority – today we know that many consumers, especially the younger generation, prioritise options that are healthier or offered in smaller size, and we are heading in that direction to meet these demands.
“Ayam Brand already offers healthier options compared to many other canned brands, promising attributes that consumers seek such as no preservatives, no MSG, clean label, and so on. But one other attribute that we know consumers want is innovative recipes, so we are also striving to include a lot more innovation in our new product development.
“For instance, we have brought health and innovation together with a range of Tuna Light Meals, which comes in a bowl and includes beans, lentils, quinoa, vegetables and so on depending on your selection.”
Teo also highlighted that canned food is in general already ready-to-eat (RTE), but the meal was inspired to be even more RTE than usual.
“We looked beyond the traditional canned products, and developed this as a meal, a completely RTE item and consumers love it as it’s a meal that is can be popped into their bag or handbag and is completely ready to be eaten once opened.
“This is quite a leap for us, a major evolution different from what canned food firms normally do, but the canned food sector knows that going beyond our comfort zone is essential for improvement moving forward – and given that the product is seeing pretty good acceptance in Singapore at the moment, this seems to be a good move, as long as we make sure to market it to the right audience.”
Canned foods in COVID-19
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no secret that canned foods sales soared as consumers panicked and started hoarding products, with canned foods as a prime choice due to the long shelf life.
“Many people saw it as an emergency option and hoarded a lot of products during COVID-19, so most canned food firms saw quite the jump in sales,” said Teo.
“That said, based on current trajectories we don’t think that this is a one-time rise and drop situation, as we are seeing sales hold, particularly for more premium and healthier items.
“So what we are thinking is one of the reasons here is that after loading their pantries during the pandemic, consumers have now seen that some of these products are indeed good products so are continuing to make return purchases – which is a situation that has definitely benefitted us.”