Canned Tuna Once Reigned Supreme In The US

An easy go-to lunch or dinner, canned tuna has found a prominent place in the pantry during the past century. Whether mixed with mayonnaise and placed on slices of bread or incorporated into the classic tuna noodle casserole, the canned fish for decades was the most consumed fish in the United States, according to The Washington Post.

However, it wasn't even that long ago that tuna was rarely consumed in any form because it wasn't considered a good fish, in addition to the fact that Americans primarily chose to eat beef, pork, and chicken. In 1910, Americans ate on average 60 pounds annually each of pork and beef, and around 15 pounds of chicken, per The Washington Post. If fish did end up on the dinner plate, it usually was salmon.

While canned tuna has existed since the beginning of the 20th century, it didn't really take off until World War I because it was full of protein and easy for the soldiers to take with them, per Another selling point for canned tuna was its lack of strong flavor, per The Washington Post. Different tuna companies improved sales by comparing the taste to chicken in advertisements and in their names, and promoting that it was low in calories, high in protein, and inexpensive.

Soaring sales

With so many heralded benefits, canned tuna sales soared. From 1950 to 2000, tuna was the top-consumed fish in the United States, per The Washington Post. And in 1954, the United States was the top producer (and consumer) of the fish, reports

Things began to change in recent decades as tastes evolved and concerns arose about fishing methods and mercury in tuna, according to The Washington Post. Tuna consumption took a big dive after the late 1980s, with the amount of tuna eaten by each person reduced by about half by 2014.

According to the National Fisheries Institute, the European Union is now the largest consumer of canned tuna, equaling about 51%, compared to the United States' 31% and Japan's 6%. Additionally, canned shrimp now reigns supreme as the most popular canned seafood in the U.S.

While overall consumption of canned tuna may have declined in the United States, households are still enjoying the fish. The National Fisheries Institute learned that 88% of American households have eaten canned tuna, with about 50% eating it monthly and 17% having it at least once per week.

Tuna is still enjoyed around the world, and sales are anticipated to grow globally by 2027, per Grand View Research. The predicted value of the global canned tuna market size is $11.89 billion by 2027, with a compound growth rate of 4.7% every year. Where tuna sales are seeing growth in the U.S. is in easy-to-eat pouches that come in a variety of flavors (via Atuna).