Del Monte fights perceptions about canned goods

With sales of canned fruits down, Del Monte launches new campaign underscoring freshness

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Del Monte is launching a defense of its maligned steel cans.

The company, which was founded in 1892 with the introduction of canned peaches, will start airing an ad campaign Monday in hopes of changing perceptions about canned fruits and vegetables at a time when consumers are increasingly putting a premium on freshness. The "Bursting With Life" ad features a can of green beans being snapped open and cooked to an upbeat jingle, then cuts to a happy couple riding their bikes through a sun-drenched countryside.

Del Monte, based in San Francisco, says it's the company's biggest ad campaign in a decade. And it comes as supermarkets have seen a shift away from the center of the aisles where packaged foods such as potato chips, cookies and spaghetti sauce are sold. That's had an impact on Del Monte, which has seen a steady erosion in sales volume — about 2 percent a year since 2005. Although it introduced refrigerated fresh fruit cups in 2000, the company's primary business remains canned fruits and vegetables.

Brian Ng, director of marketing for Del Monte, says the declines are largely as a result of misperceptions about canned fruits and vegetables. At the same time, Ng concedes that Del Monte hasn't done a good job of educating people about canned fruits and vegetables at a time when the "center of store has become very suspect." For example, he noted that Del Monte products have no additives and that the fruits and vegetables are preserved through a heating process.

"People thought they were full of additives and didn't think they were nutritious at all," Ng said.

Del Monte isn't the only one hurting from being in the canned business. After years of declining sales, Campbell Soup this year introduced a line of soups in plastic pouches that can easily torn open and microwaved. While its condensed canned soups remain its mainstay business, executives have said that the can just doesn't appeal to younger consumers in their 20s and 30s. The Camden, N.J.-based company also introduced its Homestyle soups in containers intended to resemble the to-go soup cups found at supermarket fresh food bars. And this summer, Whole Foods abandoned the can for its house brand soups, instead moving to small rectangular cardboard boxes.

Del Monte isn't ruling out such new packaging, either. But for now, the company is focusing on convincing consumers that canned isn't bad. This spring, the company plans to roll out redesigned labels for its cans.

"We believe there's still a lot of relevance there," Ng said of the steel can.

The Del Monte ads were developed by Juniper Park, a division of BBDO Canada Corp. It ends with the voice-over, "Grown in America, picked and packed at the peak of ripeness, the same essential nutrients as fresh. Del Monte, bursting with life."

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