Consumption of canned tuna has dropped 42 percent per capita from the last 30 years through 2016, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. And the industry places the blame on younger consumers, who want fresher or more convenient options.
‘A lot of millennials don’t even own can openers,’ Andy Mecs, the vice president of marketing and innovation for Starkist, said to the Journal.
The struggle of the three largest canned tuna companies, StarKist, Bumble Bee Foods and Chicken of the Sea International, mirrors that of others in the packaged food industry, like Campbell Soup and Kraft Heinz. Younger consumers are turning away from processed foods, and new competitors are catering to changing tastes faster than the industry’s giants.
To Ken Harris, managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group, the bigger picture is about convenience.
‘In the last 15 years, can openers became passe,’ Harris told CNBC.
Harris, who has worked with canned tuna businesses, believes that the traditional companies have fallen behind because it’s a low-margin business and investing in packaging falls low on the list of priorities. The main priority for canned tuna companies now, according to Harris, should be packaging that makes it easy to remove and drain the tuna.”