Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hey, Charlie, Look at This Tuna! ; Leading Sellers Offer No-Drain Pouches as Alternative to Proverbial Cans

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hey, Charlie, Look at This Tuna! ; Leading Sellers Offer No-Drain Pouches as Alternative to Proverbial Cans

Article excerpt

"Almost everybody has canned tuna in the cupboard," says Barbara- jo McIntosh, author of "Tin Fish Gourmet," which contains recipes for canned seafood products. The Vancouver, B.C., resident says this is true even where fresh seafood is plentiful. "It's one of those things that when people are shopping, they just naturally put in their basket."

Why? Because it's convenient, versatile, nutritious, and inexpensive.

"Basically, no matter what your budget is, people can afford canned tuna," says Michael Mullen, a spokesman for StarKist Seafood, the leading American seller of canned tuna, with about 45 percent of the market.

Grocery stores, he says, often discount tuna, selling it below cost as a "loss leader," since tuna generates other sales.

"If you buy canned tuna," Mr. Mullen says, "the likelihood is you are also going to buy mayonnaise, you're going to buy bread, maybe celery to mix into it, and butter." Tuna cans stacked sky high at the end of grocery aisles have long been a common sight in supermarkets. But those days may be numbered.

Tuna packaging is changing. Last October, StarKist introduced tuna in a vacuum-sealed foil pouch. The Bumble Bee brand followed suit, and Chicken of the Sea, the other member of America's Big Three tuna processors, now includes a pouch with its tuna-salad kits.

The industry expects this packaging breakthrough to rejuvenate sales, which have been flat for the past five years, with about 2.1 billion cans of tuna consumed in the US each year.

The pouch "will change the way people think of, and use, tuna," says Peter Bowen, Star-Kist's CEO.

In a consumer survey, the company found that people who tested the pouch in home trials preferred the new product 5 to 1 over canned tuna.

The company claims pouched tuna is fresher-tasting and firmer because of less cooking and processing. Its shelf life, though less than the four or more years for tuna in cans, is a respectable 18 months.

Greater convenience for consumers is another selling point. …

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