Portland, Oregon. — The pandemic has increased the demand for canned food. This global market has high home penetration and is approaching his $100 billion in sales. The founders of Portland-based startup Heyday Canning Co. want to bring innovation to an age-old category.
“Canned food is a huge industry. In most grocery stores, it still takes up an entire aisle…but if you walk down the aisle, it’s basically tumbleweed down there,” said the co-founder. Kathryn Kavner, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Executive Officer, said. “How is it that there are still billions of categories without startups that have really pushed the boundaries of quality, flavor and sourcing?”
She and fellow industry veteran Jaime Lynn Tully have developed a line of sauce-boiled canned beans with enhanced taste and ingredients. Apricot Glazed Baked Beans and Tomato Alla Vodka Cannellini Beans. Within the past two months, the products have debuted on store shelves at Whole Foods Markets and Sprouts Her Farmers Her Markets nationwide, bringing the total to about 900 stores.
“It speaks to how quiet the category has been,” Kavner said. “I think our intuition was right. Buyers are really hungry for innovation, so we gave them what they were waiting for.”
The founders met almost ten years ago when they joined the team early on at Sweet Earth Natural Foods, a frozen vegetarian food brand that was eventually acquired by Nestlé USA. Tulley was Director of Product Integrity and Development and Kavner was Marketing Manager. She later became her manager of the Clif Bar & Co brand.
“We have completely different but complementary backgrounds, both love food and always wanted to do something together,” Kavner said. “Over the years, we’ve constantly bounced back and forth between different ideas.”
As millions of Americans packed their pantries during the pandemic’s first lockdown phase, the pair “had this epiphany moment,” Kavner recalled.
“Theoretically, canned food still felt very relevant to the modern consumer,” she said, noting perks like convenience and extended shelf life. It’s a natural form of processing: it keeps food stable by just heating, and it’s completely free of preservatives, so you can develop really clean-labeled products.
“And it really felt like there was a sustainability story untold. When we started researching, we found that cans are the most frequently recycled form of food packaging.”
The duo started testing recipes in their home kitchens, incorporating a variety of popular dishes across their portfolio.
“It took us a very long time to find a co-packer. That was the hardest hurdle we had to overcome,” Kavner said. “We’ve been in this weird chicken-and-egg situation where you don’t want to go to a retailer without a copacker because it’s very hard to find a copacker and it felt like it wasn’t a good idea to find someone. We don’t have anyone excited and committed to fulfill orders, but going to a co-packer without a retail contract also made our pitch more difficult.”
The brand’s name and vintage aesthetic not only pay tribute to canning’s “warm history,” but are also “very positive and optimistic,” Kavner said.
“Our grandmothers used to eat canned food not too long ago. We felt like home canned food had this really golden, fuzzy feel that we wanted to capture,” she added. .
Heyday Canning Co. will be exhibiting at Natural Products Expo West March 8-11 in Anaheim, California. This year, the startup plans to raise capital to support its rapid retail expansion with promotions and in-store tasting events.
“Demos are the biggest part of our marketing plan,” says Kavner. “Our hope is that when people try this product for the first time, they really like it, understand it, and come back.
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