People have been finding ways to preserve food for centuries. The method of storing it in a can dates back to France in the early 19th century. The military was going hungry, and the government offered an award for anyone who came up with a sustainable way to preserve food. A young chef started using champagne bottles sealed with cheese and lime. He later experimented with tin cans, and the rest is history.
Fast-forward to the 21st century: canned food is so popular that most Americans use it even when they cook meals at home. As much as 98% of Americans keep canned foods in their kitchens — an average of 24 cans — and 86% of parents say they don’t go a week without using food from a can.
This is not a bad idea considering half of all food produce in the country ends up in the trash. That’s more than 66 million tons of food worth about $160 billion wasted. The numbers are not much better worldwide. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that about a third of food produced is thrown away.
In the United States, the biggest category of food that is preserved in a can is soup. The 11 most popular canned soups alone sold more than 420 million cans in 2018. The second biggest food category is tuna with almost 286 million units sold among the nine most common brands, followed by complete meals, such as spaghetti and meatballs, with more than 253 million sold among the five most common types. Vegetables are also popular canned foods, with corn being the winner. About 63% of Americans have canned corn at home. Green beans and tomatoes are second and third.
The following list is based on the Canned Food Alliance’s latest report on top canned foods based on Universal Product Code (UPC) purchases in the United States. Data includes 2018 sales up to December 22. The price per pack comes from major online stores that sell groceries, such as Walmart, Amazon, Target, and Jet.com.