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Up Front: STEELYARD BLUES
A $12 MILLION TIN TRUMPET?
AMERICANS ARE KICKING THE tin can around. They think canned food is soggy, salty, declasse--and they prefer fresh or frozen food. So says a steel industry study that found the public doesn't even know that tin cans are made of steel, or that steel is recyclable.
Result: The steel industry, which had seen aluminum wrest away the beverage can market, has launched a $12 million public-relations blitz to rescue the $2.4 billion tin-can market. Big Steel is promoting canned food in Red Book and Ladies Home Journal. And industry types are touring the malls, preparing such recipes as shrimp-salad tortellini for curious shoppers. The pasta and shrimp are fresh, but the reps supplement them with canned olives and artichoke hearts.
Steel hopes to avoid repeating one of its worst disasters. In the '70s and '80s, it watched as aluminum horned into the can market with aggressive marketing.
Steel still holds 95% of the food-can market. But canned-goods sales are flat and falling per capita among the affluent--the ones the industry most wants. Its aim isn't so much to lift sales as to stem a decline. EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABI Stephen Baker