Metal can packaging offers sustainability, versatility, quality and convenience, which creates exciting opportunities for the industry.
The Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) members are committed to providing safe, nutritious and refreshing canned food and beverages to consumers. As an association, we promote the can and communicate its many benefits to customers, consumers, media and trade analysts. CMI assumes many roles to meet the industry’s needs. On both the national and state level, CMI actively participates in the exchange of ideas influencing legislative, regulatory and administrative policies of interest to can makers.
Meanwhile, rapidly changing markets and consumer preferences require continual innovation and adaptation to provide packaging that busy lifestyles demand.
In beverage cans, the versatility of metal packaging is being explored like never before as can manufacturers continue to innovate to make the iconic beverage can even more relevant to today’s consumer. Aluminum cans provide great taste, convenience, innovation and sustainability. An aluminum can is also a designer’s dream, offering 360 degrees of branding real estate to create unique brand icons. New shapes and sizes are expanding opportunities for beverages to take advantage of the freshness of aluminum cans while also dazzling the marketplace.
Companies are increasingly marketing around the portability of cans, recognizing they can be taken places other types of packaging cannot — such as beaches, parks and campsites.
One of the most appealing attributes of beverage cans is their sustainability story – 100 percent recyclable and the most recycled beverage container on the planet. Cans are an exemplary model in the circular economy. They may be recycled again and again, forever, without loss of strength or quality.
Sustainability is a factor that more and more consumers consider a priority in purchasing decisions. Along with beverage cans, steel food cans are also continuously recyclable, which means that they may be recycled again and again without loss of strength or quality. On average, food cans on store shelves today contain 25 to 35 percent recycled content. This is important because new steel produced with recycled cans reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent. Metal cans also help reduce food waste. Light and oxygen are the biggest factors that cause food spoilage and cans are the best barriers, ensuring the quality and safety of foods and beverages.
As healthy eating and food safety become increasingly important to consumers, food cans continue to be one of the safest forms of food processing. There has not been a single incidence of food-borne illness from the failure of metal packaging in more than 40 years and the consumption of trillions of food cans. Food safety remains our top priority as we continue to innovate to provide consumers with the taste, quality and convenience they deserve. Clearly, there is much to celebrate for food can makers when looking into a crystal ball. There are also challenges, which demand focused attention. One such challenge is addressing the misperception among some consumer segments that canned food is less healthy or highly processed. Canned fruits and vegetables are usually harvested within four hours, locking in nutrients that would otherwise degrade over time in fresh foods being shipped to market. The heat used in canning improves the availability of certain nutrients found in fruits, vegetables and proteins.
Next-Gen Can Linings
Can manufacturers have also responded to the challenge associated with some consumers’ preference for linings that do not contain BPA. Can manufacturers and can lining companies have developed next-generation linings for food cans. The new linings have been formulated over several years with carefully chosen components to maximize performance as a strong barrier between the packaging and the food. The linings are typically made from acrylic, polyester, non-BPA epoxies or olefin polymers — classes that are not endocrine active.
The intensive development process also involves evaluation of potential linings in laboratory and real-world tests in the most challenging conditions. Companies literally fill test cans with specific food products and expose them to varying temperatures over long periods of time, sometimes several years, to assess their durability. Only can linings that exceed requirements are brought to market. The process is deliberately thorough and lengthy to validate the safety and endurance of next-generation linings. In addition, every lining component is evaluated for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via an explicit listing in the Federal Register or by a comprehensive premarket review. More than 90 percent of all food cans produced today use these new linings, which demonstrates that the industry listened to consumers who prefer BPA-free options. And we’ll keep listening.
Steel & Aluminum Tariffs
Another challenge facing the can industry is the new tariff on steel and aluminum. CMI has expressed disappointment with the U.S. Administration’s actions, which artificially create winners and losers in the very competitive packaging space. In the meantime, CMI members’ applications for exclusions from the tariffs sit at the Commerce Department awaiting approval. We have requested a meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross to explain why exempting can manufacturers from the tariff is essential to maintaining food and beverage can competitiveness.
The can industry relies on imported metal to make up for shortfalls of domestic steel and aluminum production. U.S. steel and aluminum producers are unable to satisfy domestic demand for production of beverage, food, aerosol and other can types. Forty-two percent of tinplate steel needs to be imported to manufacture food cans that provide nutritious product for American consumers. More than 60 percent of primary aluminum needs to be imported from foreign sources to produce aluminum cansheet used to manufacture beverage cans.
More than 22,000 can manufacturing employees take great pride in producing durable metal containers for nutritious, affordable, accessible foods and beverages. We continue to engage with customers, consumers, the media and policy makers to ensure an informed public dialogue. Through our engagement, we’re building trust in cans and can linings while demonstrating the benefits of including canned foods in diets to achieve nutritional goals.
The food system and food preferences are evolving at a more rapid pace than ever before. Through innovation and engagement, can manufacturers are keeping pace, helping families enjoy fresh, healthy meals and creative, great tasting beverages.
Packaging Outlook 2019 Articles: