The Canned Food Industry: A Full Guide on the Canning Market

April 25, 2024
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Did you know that salt was one of the most important commodities of the ancient world? That’s because it was the only thing that could keep perishable food edible for longer. Preserving food has been important for centuries. That’s why the discovery of pasteurization and canning has changed the food industry. The canned food industry is still growing both online and offline. Both households and businesses benefit from the convenience and extended shelf life of canned goods. Bakery businesses might use canned fruits to make delicious pastry. Companies in the restaurant industry frequently use canned vegetables like carrots, peas, or tomatoes. In this full guide, we’ll pay attention to the different aspects of the canned food industry, how business owners can benefit from canning, and some tips for canning your own fruits and vegetables.

Wholesale Canned Goods

Who Buys Wholesale Canned Goods

Various businesses purchase large quantities of canned goods. Some of them work directly with manufacturers in the canned food industry. Others prefer to partner with produce distributors that also offer fresh and frozen products. Here are some examples of businesses that buy wholesale canned products.

  1. Grocery stores and retailers. The prolonged shelf life of canned vegetables makes them an ideal option to stock the pantry. That’s why the shelves of supermarkets and other retail stores are the usual places where D2C sales of canned products happen.
  2. Food service businesses. Restaurants and other companies in the food service sector also purchase large quantities of products from the canned food industry. They are used in a variety of recipes.
  3. Institutions. Military bases, hospitals, schools, and other institutions benefit from the reduced wholesale prices when they buy canned goods in bulk.

Tips for Distributors of Canned Goods

If you’re a supplier, you can find a lot of useful tips and information on our website. BlueCart is committed to helping wholesalers in their strive to improve their services and streamline their businesses. Here are a few tips for canned food suppliers. 

  1. Automation is key. Wholesalers should stay in touch with the innovations in the sector. Tools like wholesale business software, wholesale inventory management solutions, and wholesale ordering software can help both suppliers and their customers automate various tasks and processes.
  2. Scaling is important. Businesses often prefer to work with distributors that can offer a wide range of products. That’s why wholesalers should scale and grow their operations to include other products like fresh produce, frozen food, and other products from the food and beverage industry.
  3. Adapt to the demand. In recent years, there’s been a growing demand for ready-to-eat canned meals. Their extended shelf life makes them a convenient meal that requires little to no preparation. Both manufacturers and wholesalers in the canned food industry should keep an eye on the trends and fluctuations of the market and strive to adapt.
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What Is Bulk Canned Food

A lot of people associate wholesale or bulk canned food sales not only with B2B purchases but also with individuals buying cans in packs. Wholesale clubs, food cooperatives, and local farms often sell packs of 6 or more cans with vegetables, meat, or meals. The long shelf life of canned products makes them suitable options for household pantries. Thus, both businesses and individuals benefit from the reduced prices of purchasing in bulk. 

Main Types of Canned Food

The canned food industry offers a variety of products. From fruits and vegetables to delicious meals, there’s an abundance of options when it comes to buying canned food. Let’s examine some of the common types of canned food.

  1. Vegetables and legumes. Canned tomatoes are among the most popular products in this category. They are used in many recipes and are a must-have item for every household pantry. Legumes such as beans and lentils are an important source of 
  2. Fruits. Canned fruits can be consumed as a standalone dessert or in various pastry and dessert recipes. Another popular way to preserve fruits is by making homemade jam.
  3. Meat and seafood. Canning is the easiest way to preserve meat for a long time. Canned meat and seafood don’t need to be frozen or refrigerated. Nevertheless, they should be stored in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. Canning is the only way to transport some types of seafood.
  4. Soup and meals. Canned meals are becoming increasingly popular as people have less time to cook. Canned soups or pasta simply need to be heated and are ready for consumption.

Types of Packaging Cans

There are two main categories of packaging for canned foods – jars and steel cans. Mason jars are the most common type used by households when they prepare canned food. They are convenient, cheap, and can be used multiple times. They are also referred to as Kerr jars.

In addition to glass jars, steel cans are the other popular packaging alternatives for canned goods. Households rarely preserve food in cans and they are primarily used by businesses in the canned food industry. The main benefit of cans compared to jars is their strength. It makes transportation easier. Steel cans have a layer of tin on the inside that prevents corrosion. 

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Canned Food

All food preservation methods have their pros and cons. For example, keeping food frozen is easy and convenient but it requires constant electricity. That’s why it is not a suitable method to keep food for emergency situations. Let’s examine the pros and cons of canned food.

Advantages of Canning

  1. Extended shelf life. Canning increases the shelf life of products between 12 and 18 months. In addition to the canning process, most manufacturers also use other preservation techniques such as adding salt to canned meals. That’s why, if properly stored, canned foods can have an even longer shelf life.
  2. Convenience. When cooking, it’s much easier to use canned tomato sauce or vegetables. This convenience has made canned products common in homes and restaurants. Furthermore, many who live in cities and urban areas have busy schedules. Ready-to-eat meals manufactured by the canned food industry are a convenient option in that case.
  3. Nutritional value. It’s a common misconception that canned goods are not healthy or nutritious. However, that is not the case. Although some vitamins and minerals are lost during the pasteurization process, canned food retains its nutritional value almost in full. 
  4. Low price. Manufacturers in the canned food industry benefit from economies of scale. In addition, they usually have low ingredient costs as they purchase products in their peak season when prices are lower. That’s why canned products can be cheaper than fresh ones.

Disadvantages of Canning

  1. Increased BPA and sodium exposure. Some manufacturers use cans with BPA lining or additives like salt. Consumers of canned goods should opt for BPA-free canned products with minimal additives.
  2. Impact on flavor and texture. A lot of businesses don’t use canned products as the process impacts both the flavor and texture.

Home Canning

Farmers and landowners often preserve produce via canning. The canning process is simple. The products are placed in jars. They are then heated which kills bacteria and other microorganisms. The heating process also creates a vacuum that seals jars. Store-bought canned goods often come in steel cans but jars are more popular in home canning as they can easily be reused. There are two main canning methods.

  1. Water bath canning. In order to can food with this method, the products need to be put in jars which are placed in a pot. The top is filled with water that needs to be boiled and stays above boiling temperature for at least 10 minutes. The larger the jars, the more time is recommended. This method is suitable for canning fruits and acidic vegetables. However, it’s not suitable for canning meat or low-acid vegetables as the high temperature might not be enough to kill all harmful microorganisms.
  2. Pressure canning. This is the safest canning method. It can be used for all goods but it's especially suitable for legumes, meat, seafood, and low-acidic vegetables. In this method, the jars are placed in a pressure cooker with thick walls. The pressure that builds up helps achieve higher temperatures.

Fresh VS Canned VS Frozen: Alternatives to Canning

There are multiple food preservation methods. They all have pros and cons. Eating fresh produce and food is preferred but not always convenient. Let’s examine the main alternatives to canning and their benefits.

  1. Eating fresh. Naturally, eating fresh vegetables, fruits, and meals is the most popular way to consume food. They are as nutritious as they can be and they have their natural texture and flavor. The main disadvantage is their reduced shelf life which often leads to food waste in restaurants, households, and grocery stores.
  2. Refrigeration and freezing. Lowering the temperature can keep food fresh for longer. Grocery stores sell a variety of frozen fruits, vegetables, mixes, and meals. The main benefit is these products are frozen at peak ripeness. That means they are rich in vitamins and nutrients. However, storing frozen products requires consistently low temperatures. This makes them unsuitable for emergency food supply. 
  3. Canning. Canned products are easy to store and have a long shelf life. The method is also convenient and can be used for ready meals. The low price of canned products can help businesses maximize profits by reducing the cost of goods sold
  4. Freeze-drying. With the help of a special freeze-drying machine and vacuum packaging, you can extend the shelf life of products by decades. Another advantage of this method is that it can be used for liquids as well. Instant coffee and tea are made using this method. The disadvantage is that it’s not suitable for many products and it can severely change their texture.
  5. Preservatives. Researchers are constantly looking for new food preparation methods. Solutions such as sorbates, sodium nitrate, nisin, and sulfites can be used to preserve packaged food. 
  6. Pickling. The process requires adding vinegar and is suitable for certain types of vegetables.
  7. Sugaring. Sugar reduces water content and can be used to preserve certain fruits.
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The Global Canned Food Market

Market monitoring agencies and websites value the worldwide canned food industry differently. However, most of them consider its size to be between 80 and 100 billion USD. One of the main reasons for growth in this niche market is the convenience of ready-to-eat canned meals. Furthermore, as canned meals are often cheaper, they attract many who are looking for low-priced products that are easily accessible. 

China plays a major role in the growth of the canned food industry. Thanks to rapid urbanization and Western cultural influence, a large number of people benefit from the convenience of canned food meals. The US market also accounts for a large portion of the global canned food sector.

Trends in the Canned Food Industry

Manufacturers in the canned food market need to answer to the consumer demand. So if your business is in this niche, here are some of the trends you need to consider.

  1. The demand for vegan options is growing;
  2. Customers value convenience more than ever before;
  3. Sustainability and eco-friendly policies have a big impact on consumer’s decision to buy;
  4. Investing in eCommerce sales is becoming increasingly important.

Canned Food in Restaurants

Although it’s considered by some restaurant managers and chefs to be unacceptable, canned products are frequently used in the food service industry. Even fine dining establishments use certain types of canned products. For example, San Marzano tomatoes or certain types of canned seafood are premium products that find their way into the kitchens of high-end restaurants. Casual dining and other restaurants use a wide range of canned vegetables and fruits. They work either with manufacturers from the canned food industry or broadline suppliers that offer various food and beverage products. 

Canning in Restaurants

Some restaurants also make their own canned products. They use them in their kitchens or as an additional revenue stream. After COVID, some restaurant owners saved their business by turning it into a ghost kitchen. Canning and selling such products can be an additional revenue stream for restaurants and ghost kitchens.

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Starting a Canned Food Business

Making and selling homemade canned food can be a profitable business endeavor. One of the trends in the canned food industry is that many customers prefer to purchase goods from local family-owned farms and producers. Before starting such a business, make sure to familiarize yourself with the cottage food laws in your area.

Alternatively, you can start a canned food business by partnering with manufacturers that offer white labeling services or co-manufacturing. Outsourcing certain processes to contract packaging and 3PL companies means it will be easier to grow and scale. Here are the steps to start a business in the canned food industry.

  1. Research the market and what products are in high demand. You need to plan your product line and food distribution channels.
  2. Invest in labeling, food packaging, and marketing. Make sure your target audience knows your brand.
  3. Distribution and sales are key. In addition to individuals and households, you can find regular business customers in the local community. 

Canned Food Recipes

As a lot of products can be canned, the majority of recipes can be done with the help of canned food. Nevertheless, it’s most common to use canned goods for main dishes like soups and stews. Here are some examples of canned food recipes.

  1. Salad recipes – bean salad, pantry salad, tuna salad;
  2. Main dishes – chili con carne, tuna casserole, pot pie, vegetable soup;
  3. Desserts – Dump cake, fruit salad, compote, cornmeal cake.
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