Food can shipments in the US, the largest global market, rose by 2.2 per cent to almost 9 billion units
in the third quarter, as detailed in Table 1. This is in contrast to a 13 per cent increase in 2020, at the height
of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to sharp increases in canned foods for preparation at home, such as soup and
vegetables. Shipments of cans for pet foods, even after strong growth last year, continued to rise in 2021,
increasing by 13 per cent.


There were further increases in shipments of cans for vegetables, ineluding tomato sauce and juice, with
shipments rising by 3.5 per cent in the quarter, the sector maintaining its position as leading in end-uses
(36 percent of US food can shipments so far this year). Also, this category recorded
a 21 per cent increase over the prepandemic third quarter of 2019.


Pet food cans ranked second in metal packaging shipments (31 per cent of the total),
rising by 9 per cent in the first nine months. Volumes of cans for soup slipped again
after strong growth in consumption last year, as the major suppliers predicted,
with trailing 12-month can shipments falling from a peak of 5.2bn units in 2020
to 4.9bn in 2021; they declined by 13 percent in the third quarter and 10 per cent
through nine months, from last year.


After the positives and negatives of this period, trailing 12 month US food can
shipments were positive, rising to 28.8bn units to the end of September
2021: a record, compared with last year’s total of 27.9bn in 2020 and 25.4bn in 2019.


Food canner Conagra Brands noted in its last quarter report that volume was down from
the blowout period in the prior year, which was spurred by in-home meal preparation
and consumption at the start of the pandemic, and boosted by younger consumers buying
canned products.


This trend is expected to continue into 2022. Chief executive Sean
Connolly indicated that Conagra will face unprecedented inflation which
will impact its products, with food ingredients and metal cans and other
packaging up by 11 per cent in its fiscal 2022. Also, the company is encouraged
that”the elasticity of demand (due to price) has been better than previously
expected”, implying that price increases have not hurt its sales outlook.


Campbell Soup, the largest US soup producer with more than half of the
market, reported that in its fourth quarter (ending in September), sales
of soup declined by 14 per cent (after deducting last year’s extra reporting week).


On the positive side, chief executive Mark Clouse noted that 4m new households
purchased Campbell’s products compared to the prior year.


A notable change was that many consumers were using e-commerce and
‘click and collect’ for groceries, which gave an advantage to well-known
brands in the market.