Tampa, Fla. — More than a century of risk-taking and remaking helped set the stage for McCall Farms Inc. to be the first to commercially introduce the TruVue plastic can.
The polypropylene container made by Sonoco Products Co. with steel ends is squarely taking aim at the steel food can business.
But neither Sonoco nor McCall Farms, which is packaging its Glory Farms line of beans in the plastic containers, is looking to unseat the metal can with its nearly two century head start.
Instead, McCall Farms wants to rely on its long history of entrepreneurship to carve out a niche in the market that will complement, not cannibalize, existing business.
“Plastic is a different animal, so this definitely was a big risk to do that and get out of our comfort zone with the metal can,” said Annie Ham, marketing director at McCall Farms. “You've got to innovate.”
As food companies go, McCall Farms is not a huge company, Ham said. But it is big enough to make decisions and move quickly.
Such was the case with the TruVue can, which has been on the shelf at retailers Harris Teeter and Ingles for about three months. It's a bit too early to have extensive sales data, but Ham said the company is happy with the initial response.
“Overall, the customers seemed to respond well to it. Some items, our blackeye peas, are selling incredibly well. It takes time. We will be putting on a much stronger marketing push,” Ham said at the recent Packaging Conference in Tampa.
McCall Farms sees the TruVue can as a bridge between canned and fresh food.
“We're impressed with the early feedback that Annie and McCall are getting from their customers,” said Steven Gendreau, division vice president of sales and marketing for global plastics at Sonoco. “The retailers are loving it.”
The container, which is extruded, features five layers that include polypropylene on both the inside and outside. Two layers of adhesive bond the PP to a center EVOH layer that acts as an oxygen barrier.
McCall Farms is packaging seven varieties of beans, at this point, in the TruVue can and is pushing a freshness message to consumers.
Being able to see the product in the can allows McCall Farms to show off product freshness, Ham said. But it also provided a challenge on the canning line. Because of the transparency, customers could easily see if cans were not properly filled, which sometimes happens.