By Grocery Headquarters Staff
Canning captures consumers’ attention and manufacturers are responding. By Allison Zisko Renewed consumer interest in canning—a homesteading tradition that never completely vanished—has prompted the launch of several canning tools and accessories, and even a small fashion trend. Fresh fruit and vegetable consumption is on the rise as more consumers make healthy changes to the types of food they and their families eat, according to market researcher A.J. Riedel of Riedel Marketing Group. There is also strong interest in locally grown produce and an increase in the number of people who grow their own fruits and vegetables. “It would stand to reason that the people who grow their own vegetables and fruits would be interested in canning,” she says. “Two years ago, when I first surveyed the HIPsters [Riedel’s Hometrends Influentials Panel, a hand-selected consumer group who are regularly polled on housewares-related issues] about canning, 31% of them were already doing some canning, and had been for several years, and 20% were thinking about starting to can.” With this forward momentum, some housewares manufacturers have embraced the trend. Fagor America’s Duo 10-piece canning set, which includes the 10-quart Duo Pressure Cooker/Canner, a canning cookbook, a canning rack, jar wrench, jar lifter and other tools, has become one of the company’s best-selling items, says Sara de la Hera, vice president of sales and marketing for the South Hackensack, N.J.-based company. Fagor plans to introduce its next pressure cooker canner this spring. “It is a growing consumer trend that more retailers are taking advantage of,” de la Hera says. “Sales are obviously stronger between June and September but they are also growing during the rest of the year.” In November, Jarden Home Brands, a subsidiary of Rye, N.Y.-based Jarden Corp., introduced the FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System, a countertop food preservation appliance. The company, which also manufactures Ball Glass Mason Jars, reported a 31% increase in year-over-year jar sales. “Canning is certainly a growing consumer trend,” says Steve Hungsberg, senior brand manager for Jarden Home Brands. Hungsberg sees the same increased consumer interest in fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy eating that Riedel did and adds that canning enables consumers to eat fresh, local foods year-round. “Also, younger generations have started canning thanks to new products that simplify the canning process and take the intimidation out of learning,” Hungsberg says. The company established a website, www.freshpreserving.com, to help consumers access more canning resources and make the canning process easier. The FreshTECH system uses SmartPRESERVE Technology, an energy-efficient and hybrid technology that senses and constantly monitors time and temperature. This enables canning to take place without the need for stovetop monitoring. It also uses dual temperature sensors and seven built-in safety features to ensure that foods are processed at the correct temperature for safe, shelf-stable storage for up to a year. Interest in canning jars—whether for actual canning or as a decorative accessory—has increased, say industry observers. “Our team receives countless inquiries about home canning,” says Laurie O’Hara, spokesperson for New York-based Bormioli Rocco, which offers two types of glass canning jars. “Consumers are mainly interested in the proper techniques of canning, but also are always interested in sharing creative and alternative ways to use our jars.” Bormioli Rocco’s Fido jars feature an easy-to-open metal clasp and a replaceable rubber gasket to keep food fresh. Its Quattro Stagioni Jars feature a one-piece metal lid with an interior seal that guarantees to keep contents fresh. The two lines sell equally well in all different channels of distribution, according to O’Hara, but different regions market the jars in different ways. “The South, Midwest and Northwest regions tend to market canning products in the most traditional sense—for canning and preserving foods—while the Northeast and West Coast market canning products as an all-purpose housewares item, great to use for canning, drinking glasses, serving food, storing and gifting. We’ve seen some chefs use our jars to serve desserts, appetizers and even full entrees,” she says. Jaci Volles, CMO for the Lancaster, Ohio-based Anchor Hocking Co., also sees the restaurant-home connection fueling the popularity of canning jars. “The whole trend starts with what the chefs are doing,” she says. “They have picked up on the whole farm-to-table trend. The style of the jars themselves—and the interest in vintage or mid-century designs—are popular, so you see them everywhere.” Anchor has been making canning jars to sell to the lighting and candle industries, but it also made a significant investment in a canning jar facility as part of a recent agreement with Walmart. The company invested $1.8 million in its Monaca, Pa. plant for the necessary high-speed automation needed to produce Made in the USA glass Mainstays Canning Jars for Walmart. The investment supports Walmart’s commitment to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next 10 years. “We’ve always looked for ways to grow,” Volles says. “We worked on this for over a year. This was a portion of business imported from China that appeared a natural fit for us—we have some classic shapes in the industry—and we agreed together that this was a viable opportunity.” After the Walmart rollout, which includes three sizes of jars sold in packs of 12, Anchor will make canning jars for other channels of distribution, with the opportunity for embossing, Volles adds. “This is one trend we know is big with consumers but also in our office—it’s easy to get excited about—there are so many opportunities to create ideas."