S.C.-based Sonoco hopes clear cans are the future of food

Article/Picture Credit: Thad Moore, The Post and Courier

The hot new thing in canned food sits halfway down an aisle at Harris Teeter, flanked by aluminum tins splashed with pictures that show vegetables at their peak. Their wrappers show beans of all sorts neatly piled, piping hot and glistening just so, many set against a backdrop of rolling farmland.

The newcomer cuts the pretense: It’s see-through and plastic, a clear plastic tube with metal ends. You can see the pinto beans jiggle inside when they’re jostled.

It’s just beans and broth, but if one of South Carolina’s biggest companies has its way, that might be enough to breathe new life into the faltering business of marketing and selling canned food.

McCall Farms is using Sonoco’s clear cans at its Florence operation (above). Provided/McCall Farms

Americans, it turns out, aren’t all that interested in eating food out of cans these days. Buying fresh is in vogue, so when shoppers walk into the supermarket, they’re increasingly wandering past the produce section, the butcher or the bakery, not the aisles of shelf-stable packages in the middle.

Sonoco wants to change their minds. The Hartsville-based packaging giant thinks a clear can might make consumers rethink packaged food. If they can see the green beans or the peaches inside, the company figures, maybe they’ll seem fresher.

“We’re never going to be as fresh as fresh, but (we want to) have some level of fresh in the center,” said Melissa Lewis, who’s heading up marketing for Sonoco’s new cans

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