Within all trend cycles there’s always a return to the classics, but with a fresh take. This time around, the kitchen staple getting its comeback is the humble can of fish, or “tinned fish,” which has found the limelight on TikTok.
The boom in online popularity sparked a sudden rise in sales of canned seafood. According to data provider Euromonitor International, sales of canned seafood rose almost 10% nationally during 2022, to $2.7 billion, thanks to growing interest among young consumers, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Canned fish, or tinned fish, is nothing new. In fact, there’s a word for it in Spain and Portugal: conservas, meaning preserves. In a region ripe with seafood, local canneries source, cook and pack the freshest product and preserve it in water, flavored oils, or natural brines.
RECENT SALES SURGE
Look through different vintage, fish-based recipes, and canned fish often serves as a centerpiece. These are your classic seafood salads and fish casserole dishes. While these are sometimes dated or acquired flavor profiles, the concept behind using canned fish is still relevant to consumers today.
A quick glance through social media reveals many different applications for tinned treats. Whether it’s a simple tuna on toast or a delectable seafood charcuterie spread, users across social media have displayed various dishes that utilized canned seafood, and the sales results have spoken for themselves.
Brands like Scout Canning have seen revenues jump over 80% in 2022, Chef Charlotte Langley, chief culinary officer and Scout co-founder, told The Food Institute. These cans might not be everyone’s first choice, but over the past several months the conversation has built momentum among recipe content creators.
PREPARATION IS KEY
Canned seafood is cheap, convenient, and easy. The delicate protein can be seasoned and prepared in countless ways to deliver a savory and light texture. The trick is understanding which kinds of fish to use and knowing how to prepare them just right.
Once opened and drained of their liquid, these fish products can be shredded and mixed with various condiments, sauces and other extras to create the desired flavor and texture. The reserve oils in the can may even be used within the dish.
Most canned seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and essential vitamins, adding healthy benefits to nearly any meal. The saltiness of the fish can complement all kinds of bases to make for a lovely appetizer, side, or main protein without breaking the bank.
“The ongoing cost of living crisis is bound to increase the likelihood of consumers indulging in canned goods,” said Natalie Warb, financial expert at CouponBirds. “As the financial uncertainty continues, the sale of expensive or fresh goods is likely to decrease with the sale of canned alternatives likely to go in the opposite direction.’’
One ideal aspect of using canned fish in everyday recipes is that there’s virtually guaranteed freshness. Especially with higher quality, imported canned seafood, producers know how to preserve their fish at peak freshness. And, depending on the preservative used, the fish will stay fresh and flavorful for a long shelf-life.
SOME CONSUMERS STILL WARY
The trouble with seafood, of course, is its divisiveness. Many consumers love seafood in any form, while others barely go near it. Still, the goal for manufacturers is to market their product to all buyers, and for canned seafood, marketing its versatility can lead to success.
Consumers not aware of the benefits of canned seafood need to be shown how it can be incorporated into many kinds of dishes they already enjoy. A quick can or two, plus a few extra ingredients added together can make for an easy snack or a protein-rich meal.
Chef Langley’s advice is to dive straight in and simply try a taste.
“’Open and eat’ is always my number one suggestion when it comes to trying tinned fish for the first time,” Langley said. “Try species that you recognize to start or carry similarities with something that you love and expand from there. Neutral crackers and some fresh lemon is a great addition.”
HOW FOOD BUSINESSES CAN BENEFIT
Upscale restaurants can capitalize on the trend by adding a conservas spread to their menus, complete with recommended wine pairings.
With some expert presentation, a few simple cans of fresh fish can be served with delicious cheeses, cornichons, dried fruits and toasted bread or crackers. While seafood lovers rejoice in the canned fish trend, canneries can take this moment to try and find ways to appeal to less-convinced consumers.
Packaging with recipes and suggested pairings are a good way to market to picky eaters. Also focusing on easy-open and BPA-free packages are important to young consumers.
As canned fish enjoys its comeback, it can be seen as a great opportunity to revamp other cooking staples yet to be rediscovered.
The Food Institute Podcast
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