Many processors could increase the nutrient content of their products and improve their environmental profile simply by switching their packaging to cans, delegates at a packaging presentation organised by Impress heard.
“Canned is better than supermarket fresh as canned products are picked when they’re ripe and haven’t had consumers handle them, which can spread disease,” said can firm Impress. The company is about to launch its new easy peel flexible membrane cans into the European vegetable market. Impress chief executive Francis Labbé said: “The can is safe for nutrients and vitamins - even vitamin C, which is known to deteriorate after heating.”
The British Nutrition Foundation agreed that canned produce could provide a good source of nutrition. “Canned foods are often overlooked as an economical source of nutrients, but the very process of canning preserves foods and nutrients and in some cases increases the bioavailability of nutrients,” the group’s website stated. “The majority of canned products are canned immediately or very soon after harvest, when nutrient concentrations and eating quality are at their highest. Canning is a useful way to preserve vitamins, as concentrations of some vitamins can decrease by 50% within the first seven days after harvest when stored at ambient temperatures.”
However, there was an unwillingness to use cans because of their poor reputation with consumers, said Impress. “People have certain views on cans, but all the ready meals in M&S [Marks and Spencer] and Tesco could go into cans,” it said.
Educating consumers on the benefits of canned produce was not straightforward, said the company. Food manufacturers would find it difficult to promote cans to consumers because they would not want to discredit other types of packaging. “Our customers are multi-material users, so they have to be PC [politically correct]. They can’t promote one over the other,” said Impress.
Despite this, Impress was confident that once cans’ environmental benefits were more widely publicised, they would become more popular. “With NGOs [non-governmental organisations] carrying out lifecycle analysis studies, we don’t need to be aggressive [with our marketing], as the truth will come out,” said Impress group risk and excellence manager Ken Wood. Labbé added: “The can has a very low impact on our environment - 15% of waste is household, of this 15% is packaging, and just 15% of this is can. This means that 99.9% of waste is not metal packaging.”