A bright future for metal packaging22 February 2021
The last year has been a very strange one, with a number of consequential developments in the packaging supply chain that have arisen from consumer behaviour changes and accessibility through multiple national lockdowns. One such major development has been the increase in sales of metal cans. To learn more about the reasons behind this growth as well as insight into the latest innovative developments in metal can packaging, Matthew Rogerson spoke with Nicola Maffi, Amcor Film and Foil divisions Marketing Director
Nicola Maffi: When it comes to films we have two areas of discussion- the membranes that are used in lidding and the films used in packaging. As cans have seen such a surge in growth this has led to a rise in volume and sales of our seals - procanseal amongst them. In the beginning of this year consumption was fairly steady- According to our data, sales of canned food grew consistently in all food verticals within EU countries during the pandemic. At the beginning of Covid-19, we saw many consumers stockpiling items such as beans, soups and other canned goods. During the February to March period, canned food registered growth between 10 to 50% across Europe as many shoppers dealt with food shortages and delivery bottlenecks. What was also interesting is that the lockdown meant that consumers were seeing a surge in cooking their meals , with an additional 17-21 meals per week which is 4 times more than they are used to. All the lunches that were eaten at desks are now at home, and almost all other meals too.
Cans have an increased number of variants and flavours available and are easy to store so many consumers are starting to try them out as a food packaging option. Once they try they are sticking as they enjoy the taste, convenience and storage possibilities. Fueled by the stockpiling at the beginning of the crisis this has led to the large increase in canned food sales.
Matthew Rogerson “One of the other benefits is that you can control the portions with canned goods more easily, which makes the manufacturing more simple, as uniform size and machinery needed to produce complete required volumes
NM That is the same direction that we concluded. Consumer perception and needs are driving economies of scale in metal packaging. We could tell from our consumer data that they prefer canned food, and after they had tried it for the first time they were more likely to continue and be brand loyal. We expect this trend to continue for several reasons. The jump in prices of fresh food is turning consumers to alternatives. With many people facing economic uncertainty because of the pandemic, consumers are looking for a way to cut back on grocery bills, and they’re trading in fresh food for canned varieties. Canned beans, for example, are nutritious, healthy, economical and very versatile. Consumers can use beans as a basis for different meals spanning different cuisines. Canned foods are also trending amongst chefs and the media, spurring more purchases. Jack Monroe (author of Tin Can Cook) and Phil Vickery are two celebrity chefs who are demonstrating the versatility of canned foods.
NM CanSealPro is a direct-seal aluminium membrane for cans that provides outstanding barrier protection, whilst also being easy to open for end-users. What makes CanSealPro special is its peelable membrane, which is applied directly to the can body. We designed CanSealPro with both our customers and the end consumer in mind.
For our customers, there are a number of cost and production advantages. The product’s peelable membrane eliminates the need for a ring on the can, which reduces the total can cost for manufacturers. In fact, the reduction of raw material and more efficient production process results in up to a 17% decrease in the total cost. Moreover, CanSealPro enables a 16% reduction on the total weight of the can, while also guaranteeing food protection and leakage prevention, thanks to the high seal integrity.
The advantage here is that you reduce manufacturing by one step removing one piece, without affecting the quality of the canning process or goods it protects. It has even won a gold DuPont packaging innovation award in 2017. That is a major saving in materials when you scale it across all cans being produced with this technology!”
For the end consumer, CanSealPro also has a number of benefits in the form of safety, convenience and easy opening. For families, older people or anyone who finds standard cans tricky to open – this is a safe and more convenient product.
The major advantage here is that you reduce manufacturing by one step removing one piece, without affecting the quality of the canning process or goods it protects. In fact it won awards for its outstanding barrier technology, with a gold DuPont award in 2017. That is a major saving in materials when you scale it across all cans being produced with this technology!”
CanSealPro was designed with safety in mind and is easy to access. Every year, 500,0000 people go to hospital for can related wounds. CanSealPro drastically reduces the risk of a can related injury and is safer for all. The packaging has a peelable membrane with no sharp edges, so there is no risk of injury when handling the can.
The easy opening structure also makes the can more accessible. In fact, opening a CanSealPro requires just half the strength it takes to open a standard ring-pull can, according to an internal R&D study that we conducted. From seniors to children, the pull tab on the can is easy to grab, making it a convenient option.
MR What else is new?
NM We are just about to introduce a new feature for cans, MaXQ, that will allow the brands to interact directly with consumers and track products through the supply chain. MaXQ is an end-to-end digital packaging system designed to grow consumer engagement and loyalty. A single scan – via a QR code on the packaging – allows consumers to view complete product information, see new promotions and even have a live conversation with the brand.
By scanning the MaXQ digital code printed on the packaging, they’ll be able to find out about features, detailed nutritional information and even whether the product is genuine. Better yet, since each code is unique, the consumer will get specific details of the exact product and personalised information, including localised content and bespoke allergy alerts. Additionally, MaxQ can be used to boost brand affinity by rewarding consumer purchases with loyalty programs and competitions.
This has been in the market for 2 years gaining traction. One of the really interesting parts is that by reducing the components used we are taking weight and therefore cost out of the canning and packaging process; both in weight savings of the can itself but also the impact of those lighter cans in transport and getting them to our customers.
We see this innovation resonate with consumers; it is convenient and safe to use, the membrane can be crushed and recycled with the can without issues...
In addition the easy open feature which requires less force to open makes it possible for a larger number of users to conveniently open the can. Our research has shown that this is very important for consumers to increase purchase intent and loyalty.
MR What is the Innovation process?
NM: We start with what drives the product, such as the best membrane. If that is step one, we can add complexity or structure from there depending on application or requirements of our partners. Start simple, fixing a problem , and layer in the technology on that solid foundation.
We then work with our partners on scale and learn about where there are efficiencies to be gained in the scale manufacturing process- which means we can go to the end customers and provide them a solution that we understand end to end and how it will work in real world scenarios. "
MR What are some of the categories it is most successful in?
NM Seafood has seen very strong growth, coffee, a number of fresh foods and moving into cans now as consumers want to keep them longer and retain their goodness which they can do with a can.
We are seeing growth across all categories - dry and wet canned foods. The key difference between uptake is mainly due to margins - wet foods are usually being sold at a lower price point. Though this innovation can justify its place even on a lower margin good, it is understandable that sometimes companies see the cost add as an obstacle.
We have many technologies however and so can find an alternative way to address these markets, even if it is not with cansealpro. The only addition with the product is a seaming machine that fits on the line, but there are no alterations to the operational machinery of the canning lines and changes to the format of the cans.
MR What is MAXQ ?
NM QR codes, printed on the membrane, allow all sorts of benefits which is behind our MaXQ digital code printed on the membrane. This allows a whole galaxy of connection between consumers and brands, interaction at every stage of the production cycle and packaging life. QR codes are individual, so a replicated code indicates counterfeit products trying to enter the supply chain. What is great about this innovation is that while you are able to assure consumers where their product was made and how it got to them transparently, you are also able to protect your supply chain as if the system sees duplicate codes it knows they are false and stops them entering the supply chain. Anti counterfeiting at the same time as brand loyalty and trust and transparency is a strong need for consumers.