America has fallen out of love with tuna.
We’ve moved past our romance with cheesy tuna melts and tuna casseroles topped with smashed potato chips. American palates now lean toward fresh and more sophisticated ingredients. So long, tuna-stuffed avocados. Hello, lightly seared ahi salad dressed in a tangy Asian-inspired ginger vinaigrette. That’s the gist of a recent Washington Post piece about the decline of canned tuna sales, which have reached their lowest level in 15 years.
The long, slow break-up has certainly been felt by two big tuna brands headquartered in San Diego — once known as the “tuna capital of the world” — Chicken of the Sea, with 2013 sales of $1.12 billion, and Bumble Bee Foods, with 2013 sales of $1 billion, according to SeaFood Business magazine, which ranked the companies second and third, respectively, in its list of North America’s top 25 seafood suppliers.
What caused the rift between eaters and canned tuna? The Post points to a host of problems that tuna can’t seem to shake: ongoing concerns over safe levels of methylmercury found in some tuna; lingering issues of bycatch (when species other than what’s being targeted by the fishery — in this case, tuna — are also caught and discarded) including dolphins and sharks; rising prices and the simple fact that eating from a can isn’t as common as it used to be.
Bumble Bee Foods CEO Chris Lischewski told me in May that BumbleBee is aware of the trend, and he added another explanation of his own:
“People are looking for convenience. At the end of the day, canned tuna is an ingredient. Most people don’t eat it out of the can. It’s not as convenient as deli meat you can buy and slap on some bread. Consumers have to open the lid, drain it, put in a bowl and mix it with mayonnaise. And more recently, we’re losing market to Greek yogurt, after all, it’s a protein.”
In December, Bumble Bee entered the frozen tuna business. Company factories that historically processed albacore now focus on yellowfin and big eye tunas headed for the frozen market.
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Well, for starters they could stop shrinking the amount in a can and then cutting it with SOY (and 98+% of soy is GMO). All of the big names have started doing it recently. Trader Joe's is one of the only affordable ones I can find that doesn't have soy in it (I think Polar is one of the others you can find in supermarkets, but you'll pay a premium for it).
Canned fish in the US = canned tuna that tastes blah. Canned fish outside of the US = 100 million different flavors of many varieties of fish. If our local canneries want to spur a comeback, they better start making better flavors with different fish. Canned tuna tastes like wet cardboard. I can buy better tasting canned fish blindfolded in any of the ethnic grocers here in town.
@Mike Tastes bad? My cat goes crazy for canned tuna. ;)
Why would anyone care about what your cat likes? Your cat would probably like raw mouse or Terry bird too.