Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Panicky Grocery Shoppers Rediscover Canned Foods – That’s Good!

 

Rich Zeoli is a popular morning radio talk show host in Philadelphia. On Saturday morning, he tweeted out a photo of nearly empty canned soup shelves at his southern New Jersey grocery store. It was something I thought I’d never see again – depleted soup shelves.

Amidst the fears that were spread this week about Coronavirus (COVID-19), including governments shutting down schools, public parks, and demands for the closure of “non-essential” businesses – even state-owned liquor stores here in Pennsylvania — Americans flooded neighborhood retail food shops to stockpile whatever would fit in their grocery carts. The dusty, sometimes-forgotten “center store,” where the shelf-stable “processed” foods have sometimes languished was rediscovered.

And it’s about time.

During my two decades in the food industry, I witnessed the slow but unmistakable long-term decline of canned food consumption. So-called “food journalists” and trendy bloggers urged Americans to ditch “processed” foods. The Organic industry, with a lot of help from Congress and the Clinton Administration, advocated, created and launched a taxpayer-funded Organic certification program, complete with a National Organic Standards Board. With the government’s imprimatur, over time, it became de rigueur to embrace fresh, minimally processed, and locally grown foods. Witness the explosion of “farm to table” restaurants and the meteoric growth of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, among others. No shortage of so-called “foodies,” like the blogger “Food Babe,” made sport of promoting fresh over processed products, even creating food scares (“bromated vegetable oil is a fire retardant!” she screamed, but I guess water is OK) about ingredients and growing methods.

As a result, frozen and especially canned foods became increasingly unfashionable. The industry’s inability to stem the tide with effective marketing programs and more attractive labeling – even with the Food and Drug Administration declaring that canned and frozen fruits and vegetables were just as nutritious as fresh – allowed misperceptions about the safety, nutrition, and value of such foods to gain traction. Sales began their inexorable slide, with occasional upticks during economic recessions or natural disasters.

Then here comes Coronavirus.

Hunkering down and preparing to work or school from home (if they can) with all favorite activities canceled, Americans are restocking their pantries. Canned and frozen foods have been rediscovered. Companies like Campbell Soup, General Mills, and ConAgra have ramped up production to meet this new-found demand. Food makers and retailers are struggling to keep their shelves stocked and supply chains are working overtime.

This is good news. Americans can rest assured that these packaged foods are not only safe but nutritious and able to last up to two years with no degradation in quality or safety. Cans and other forms of rigid packaging are recyclable. And most manufacturers, especially of multi-ingredient products (like soup or frozen lasagna), employ outstanding chefs who are always working to make their foods tasty and nutritious, with “cleaner” labels (fewer if any ingredients whose names you can’t pronounce). Campbell Soup’s “Well, YES” soups fit that trend perfectly. Canned other packaged foods are among the easiest to prepare and among the safety elements of the food supply. They are also more affordable and, in some cases, more nutritious than those slowing oxidizing fresh veggies and fruits sitting in your fridge.

Can makers also improved their products by replacing epoxy linings that protect food from the metal cans. Newer cans no longer contain trace amounts of bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupter, and have been replaced with new linings that are “BPA free.” Everything in a package that touches food must be evaluated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a “food contact substance.” Not that there is anything wrong with BPA, another victim of food scares. BPA, at levels found in foods and food packages, have long been declared safe by the FDA and other respected food safety authorities around the world. Many cans are now easier to open. And to the surprise of some, they contain the same real ingredients that you obtain in the produce section of your grocery store, including freshly harvested potatoes, carrots, and quick-frozen chicken and beef.

Having visited farms and followed freshly harvested tomatoes, corn, and peaches from farms in California and Illinois to processing facilities, these wholesome, real ingredients make their way from farm to package in about four hours. How long have those carrots, organic endive or broccolini been sitting your fridge?

And if you do come down with a cold, the flu, or that dreaded Coronavirus, eating broth-based soups (like Chicken Noodle soup) do, in fact, relieve symptoms and help you keep hydrated.

So, as you hunker down and or self-quarantine, rediscover the value, safety, nutrition, taste and convenience of processed foods. And, if you wind up having over-purchased, your local food bank will be glad to take some of those shelf-stable foods off your hands. Oh, and you’re creating LOTS or new jobs in rural midwestern and other states, including northwest Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, northeast Texas, and the Carolinas.

Kelly Johnston spent 23 years in the food industry as a communications professional and policy advocate. The views expressed are his own.

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  1. Hoyacon Member

    News you can use. Thanks for the post!

    BTW, I think Zeoli sat in for Mark Levin one day last week.

    • #1
    • March 15, 2020, at 4:53 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  2. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Bucknelldad:

    The Organic industry, with a lot of help from Congress and the Clinton Administration, advocated, created and launched a taxpayer-funded Organic certification program, complete with a National Organic Standards Board. With the government’s imprimatur, over time, it became de rigueur to embrace fresh, minimally processed, and locally grown foods. Witness the explosion of “farm to table” restaurants and the meteoric growth of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, among others. No shortage of so-called “foodies,” like the blogger “Food Babe,” made sport of promoting fresh over processed products, even creating food scares (“bromated vegetable oil is a fire retardant!” she screamed, but I guess water is OK) about ingredients and growing methods.

    As a result, frozen and especially canned foods became increasingly unfashionable.

    • #2
    • March 15, 2020, at 5:43 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. kedavis Member

    I’m a little pissed that so many people are horning in on MY best food supply!

    • #3
    • March 15, 2020, at 6:28 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. tigerlily Member

    Nice post. Thanks Kelly.

    • #4
    • March 15, 2020, at 6:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Went to Walmart tonight and noticed that the dog food aisle was stripped of product along with several of the human food and other household necessities shelves. But the supplies were fine in the cat food aisle. Not exactly sure what the takeaway is from that, but it was interesting.

    • #5
    • March 15, 2020, at 7:13 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. James Lileks Contributor

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    Went to Walmart tonight and noticed that the dog food aisle was stripped of product along with several of the human food and other household necessities shelves. But the supplies were fine in the cat food aisle. Not exactly sure what the takeaway is from that, but it was interesting.

    It is. Perhaps there’s a subconscious assumption that cats can take care of themselves. What that might be based on, I’ve NO idea. 

    On my shopping trips over the last fortnight I’ve added extra bags of dog food and canned supplies, but gently, so it didn’t hit the stores’s stocks. I want him to be happy and well-fed, and also, you know, Marie Prevost.

    (Kidding. I don’t blame the dog.)

    • #6
    • March 15, 2020, at 11:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    Jon1979

    Went to Walmart tonight and noticed that the dog food aisle was stripped of product along with several of the human food and other household necessities shelves. But the supplies were fine in the cat food aisle. Not exactly sure what the takeaway is from that, but it was interesting.

    This is very shortsighted on the part of humans owned by cats. That food is all that keeps back the plans of cats.

    • #7
    • March 15, 2020, at 11:39 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    I noticed that canned pasta sauce and dry pasta was pretty much cleaned out, along with most of the eggs, but not the canned fruit, nor the canned tomatoes. Every variety of canned tomato was available. While the meat section was looking pretty empty, there was a end cap refrigerated display that was absolutely full: big green cabbages next to packaged corned beef. Maybe people are not planning on having parties this year, or had them already before a midweek Saint Patrick’s Day. Whatever the case, there were plenty of cabbages, which keep in the fridge for quite some time. 

    Thin sliced, almost shredded, cabbage makes a great low carb alternative to rice or noodles, providing bulk with Vitamin .C and K.

    • #8
    • March 15, 2020, at 11:48 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. kedavis Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    Jon1979

    Went to Walmart tonight and noticed that the dog food aisle was stripped of product along with several of the human food and other household necessities shelves. But the supplies were fine in the cat food aisle. Not exactly sure what the takeaway is from that, but it was interesting.

    This is very shortsighted on the part of humans owned by cats. That food is all that keeps back the plans of cats.

    I thought the food IS the plan of cats!

    Along with scritchys and stuff, of course.

    • #9
    • March 16, 2020, at 2:39 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Bucknelldad Coolidge
    Bucknelldad

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Bucknelldad:

    The Organic industry, with a lot of help from Congress and the Clinton Administration, advocated, created and launched a taxpayer-funded Organic certification program, complete with a National Organic Standards Board. With the government’s imprimatur, over time, it became de rigueur to embrace fresh, minimally processed, and locally grown foods. Witness the explosion of “farm to table” restaurants and the meteoric growth of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, among others. No shortage of so-called “foodies,” like the blogger “Food Babe,” made sport of promoting fresh over processed products, even creating food scares (“bromated vegetable oil is a fire retardant!” she screamed, but I guess water is OK) about ingredients and growing methods.

    As a result, frozen and especially canned foods became increasingly unfashionable.

    Everybody wants in on the action; this particular product is geared toward children and young teens – “organic” appeals to moms, like it or not. 

     

    • #10
    • March 16, 2020, at 6:25 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. WilliamDean Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    Jon1979

    Went to Walmart tonight and noticed that the dog food aisle was stripped of product along with several of the human food and other household necessities shelves. But the supplies were fine in the cat food aisle. Not exactly sure what the takeaway is from that, but it was interesting.

    This is very shortsighted on the part of humans owned by cats. That food is all that keeps back the plans of cats.

    I thought the food IS the plan of cats!

    Along with scritchys and stuff, of course.

    And knocking every glass off of every counter and coffee table.

    • #11
    • March 16, 2020, at 11:03 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. kedavis Member

    WilliamDean (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    Jon1979

    Went to Walmart tonight and noticed that the dog food aisle was stripped of product along with several of the human food and other household necessities shelves. But the supplies were fine in the cat food aisle. Not exactly sure what the takeaway is from that, but it was interesting.

    This is very shortsighted on the part of humans owned by cats. That food is all that keeps back the plans of cats.

    I thought the food IS the plan of cats!

    Along with scritchys and stuff, of course.

    And knocking every glass off of every counter and coffee table.

    They are the arch-enemy of the Society For Putting Things On Top Of Other Things.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFrdqQZ8FFc

     

     

    • #12
    • March 16, 2020, at 3:40 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. John Stanley Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    I noticed that canned pasta sauce and dry pasta was pretty much cleaned out, along with most of the eggs, but not the canned fruit, nor the canned tomatoes. Every variety of canned tomato was available. While the meat section was looking pretty empty, there was a end cap refrigerated display that was absolutely full: big green cabbages next to packaged corned beef. Maybe people are not planning on having parties this year, or had them already before a midweek Saint Patrick’s Day. Whatever the case, there were plenty of cabbages, which keep in the fridge for quite some time.

    Thin sliced, almost shredded, cabbage makes a great low carb alternative to rice or noodles, providing bulk with Vitamin .C and K.

     

    The old mountaineers in the central-southern Appalachian mountains would store fall planted cabbage in this manner:

    “You can also store cabbage in a garden pit or mound. To create a cabbage storage pit in the garden, dig a hole 2 or 2½ feet (61-76 cm) deep and line it with a heavy layer of straw for insulation. Store cabbages roots up, heads down then cover them with more straw and a burlap sack or tarp at the top so you can get in the pit once the snow covers it and the soil is frozen. During the winter when you need a cabbage head, open the storage and take a head then repack with straw and cover.”

    • #13
    • March 16, 2020, at 7:03 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. kedavis Member

    I’m not terribly unhappy that the panicky folks bought up all the “old stock” of canned soup, etc. That means when I restock here in a week or two, everything will be fresh and new, with the longest possible “expiration” dates.

    • #14
    • March 19, 2020, at 12:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like