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Clear Cans May Be the Future of Canned Goods

Food & Wine logo Food & Wine 10/18/2017 Mike Pomranz
a can of food © Courtesy of McCall Farms

If you're a food company that sells preserved food, at some point you likely made a choice—cans or jars. Each packaging has its own advantages and disadvantages. One of the biggest differences is easy to see, literally. Whereas glass or plastic jars can allow customers to see what's inside, a can leaves the appearance of its contents a mystery—or at least that used to be the case. Recently, at least two companies have introduced a style of packaging that may change the world of cans forever: the clear, see-through can.

Yesterday, McCall Farms announced that it had been named as a Packaging Finalist for the 2017 Gama Innovation Award thanks to the unique "See-Thru" cans the company introduced for its new Glory Farms vegetables brand. Described by McCall Farms as "ground-breaking" and a "category first," the TruVue can, as it is officially called, was developed in a partnership with packaging brand Sonoco and was first introduced late last year. The design features a metal top and bottom, including your usual pop-top, but has sides made of plastic, allowing customers to see inside. "Our new Glory Farms See-Thru can is the most notable packaging innovation in canned vegetables since canning was invented in the early 1800s," Woody Swink, Co-President of McCall Farms, boasted in a statement about the nomination. "When the consumer can see the vegetables it not only says 'fresh' but also gives them a sense of trust because they see what they are buying."

However, McCall Farms wasn't the only company gloating about see-through cans this week. The Cincinnati-based plastics company Milacron is also touting the rollout in Asia of its recently introduced Milacron Klear Can, which Del Monte-owned brand S&W Fine Foods International decided to use for its pineapple chunks and slices, making it "the first company in the world to offer tropical fruit in a clear plastic can."

"After years of development and strong positive consumer results, we're excited to have S&W Fine Foods International on-board as a partner to launch the Milacron Klear Can in key global markets," Milacron CEO Tom Goeke said in a statement. "We are also thrilled about the prospect of transforming the metal can industry."

Interestingly, similar to the language used for Sonoco's can, Milacron also calls its Klear Can "the first truly transformational innovation in the canned food preservation industry's nearly 200-year history." So as should be expected when two companies introduce similar products at similar time, the trash-talking has already started. Milacron states that its can "is far superior to the competition's extruded 3 piece 'clear' plastic can." Meanwhile, in an article for Packaging World, Sonoco lamented Milacron's two-piece approach.

But technical infighting within the packaging industry aside, one thing seems to be perfectly clear—and that's the cans themselves. Clear cans are coming. And if you haven't seen one on store shelves soon, don't be surprised if one catches your eye in the near future.

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