A hot future for the Hotcan?

Cans that heat themselves up. They’ve been around for 30 years in niche-fashion but a UK company, Heat Food & Drink, believes its Hotcans have a brilliant future. The firm has embarked on a promotional campaign, given its cans a design makeover, extended capacity with the opening of a new factory and launched new flavours. Self-heating food cans could rival sales volumes of Pot Noodles within a decade, it enthuses.

HotCan meals sales volumes are reported around 20 000 to 30 000 cans of food a month to niche markets, such as the emergency services, armed forces and remote building sites. But the firm has plans to grow sales of its range to 500 000 cans a month this year by breaking into other sectors where convenience is king such as the student market, with its ultimate prize being to secure listings in supermarkets.


The double-wall can contains a water sachet and granular limestone.

When you insert the spike into the three holes in the top rim of the can, the sachet pierces and the water then flows into the limestone. A natural reaction occurs between the limestone and water which produces heat, warming up the food within 8-12 minutes to an eating temp of 60-70°C.

Heat Food & Drink has seven self-heating meals in its range. Products include pasta meals, beans and meat balls, curry, a vegetarian chilli and rice pudding.

Accorinding to its MD, Mark Taylor, in 10 years the self-heating sector will be producing between 200m and 300m units a month similar to Pot Noodle volumes: “We aim to make self-heating products a mainstay of the supermarkets. We think it’ll be a huge market and we intend to be the Red Bull the brand synonymous with the sector.”

Heat Food & Drink is trying to succeed in a market sector where others had failed to make an impact, however. And the company has a sales mountain to climb: a spokeswoman for Mintel said sales of self-heating products were so small that the market research firm did not even keep track of them, reports Food Manufacture.

Cost is a major hurdle, no matter how convenient or tasty, as they currently sell for £3.30 per can.

Despite this obstacle, Heat Food & Drink recently completed a new facility near Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire capable of filling around 375 000 cans a month.

The firm plans to target speciality shops, such as those selling to students, army surplus and outdoor supply stores. This would enable it to build economies of scale and thus reduce the unit price of products.

Taylor said that if Heat Food & Drink achieves its growth targets by the end of 2012 it would expand its facilities and start making the contents as well, instead of buying them from other producers such as Heinz and Tulip.

Commentary from The Guardian…

So there are these tins that heat themselves up. HotCan. “No microwave. No kettle,” they seem to scold from the label. They’ve been around for 30 years but the company has just started to promote them more intensively: rebranding the tins, opening a new factory, releasing new flavours and so on.

There’s something almost alchemical about them. The tins are fixed in thick, insulated pouches. You take the plastic lid off and there’s a sort of pointy Allen key inside, which you use to pierce three little holes in the insulation surrounding the tin. Then you wait a couple of minutes, an ominous bubbling begins, steam starts to hiss from the holes, and you panic the can is about to explode and shower you in shrapnel and lava.

So you gingerly reread the label through slitted fingers, and it tells you you should have opened the tin first. You hold it at terrified arm’s length like a bomb you’re trying to defuse, lift its ringpull with a spoon, and give everything another 10 minutes to warm through. Or at least that was my experience.

They come in seven inescapably tinny flavours such as beans with meatballs, chicken curry with rice and cheese ravioli in tomato sauce. I had “spicy beef pasta” (at 8 o’clock in the morning – the things you’ll do to deadline). The contents reached 52°C according to my kitchen thermometer: emphatically tepid, and best described as a brown, lumpen, heavily spiced sludge….

The Guardian: Read the full article