Food can shipments drop in US as inflation erodes year-end spending

Food can shipments in the US declined for a fifth consecutive quarter at the end of last year as inflation gripped the economy, impacting food and retail sales.


US customers bought slightly more than 7 billion cans to pack food and general line products in the final three months of the year, 10.3% less than in the same period in 2021, according to the latest figures from the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI). The US canmaking industry’s trade group said full-year shipments were down 8.9% at 30.26 billion cans.

The only sector to make a gain was in pet food, the largest at 2.27bn cans, up 0.7%. But it was down over the year by 1% to 9.04bn units.

The other leading sectors fell in the quarter and for the year overall. Cans for vegetables were 8.26bn for the year, down 17%, and 1.73bn in the quarter, down 18.3%. Demand in cans for soups was less impacted, with 4.53bn units shipped in the year, down 3.5%, and 1.13bn in the quarter, down 5.9%.

Aerosol can shipments also fell in the final quarter, sliding 19.2% to 879m, but were less affected in the year, at 3.14bn, down 11.5%. 

Declines in food can shipments reflect the impact of the rising cost of living in the US last year. With inflation at around 8% throughout 2022, close to the highest since 1981, shoppers bought less food and other goods. According to US Census data, American retailers experienced a 1% drop in purchases in the October-to-December quarter.

The full-year figures are still higher than those of 2019, before Covid pandemic lockdowns of cafes and restaurants forced consumers to buy more-eat-at-home packaged products, sending food can shipments to their highest since the early 1970s.

Nevertheless, the sustained slowdown in shipments since the middle of 2021 suggests that the initial boost provided by the pandemic has now passed.

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