According to a report by Persistence Market Research, the tinned fish market in the U.S. is predicted to reach 17.2 billion dollars by the end of 2033. That's a jump from $9.5 billion in 2022.
Part of the demand is driven by consumers becoming more health-conscious. Tinned fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to help with heart and brain health, and they help protect against the negative impacts of mercury, which some other fresh fish are known for.
Health coach Karen Kelly from Season Cravings says tinned fish is excellent for several reasons. "I often recommend canned fish to my clients who need more nutrient-dense foods in their diet and are looking for convenience. It is readily available, easy to prepare, and affordable," she says. "It tastes great in grain bowls, with leftover roasted vegetables and a drizzle of your favorite salad dressing."
What is Tinned Fish?
Tinned fish, or canned fish, are fish that have been processed, sealed, and sterilized. Some popular examples included tuna, sardines, salmon mackerel, anchovies, and herring. And while many may be familiar with a classic tuna sandwich, tinned fish has gone way beyond that - finding its way onto everything from charcuterie boards to upscale restaurant menus.
Part of the recent increase in sales is attributed to the 'rediscovery' of tinned fish on social media. Anna Hezel is an Epicurious senior editor and the author of 'Tin to Table: Fancy, Snacky Recipes for Tin-thusiasts and A-fish-ionados.' "Getting into tinned fish is a little intimidating if you've never bought a particular product, and you have no idea what it's going to look like when the lid is peeled back. TikTok has really helped demystify this category of seafood for so many people and celebrated the social and visual aspects of collecting and eating tinned fish".
The hashtag #tinnedfish has 116.4 million views on TikTok as of this writing, and it's also cultivated a community called #tinnedfishtok, which has nearly 68 million views.
Although a younger North American audience may be discovering tinned fish for the first time, it's a food with a long history. It originated in the 1700s in France, as preserved foods were in great demand. The long shelf life and accessibility were particularly valuable for the French military.
Hezel says COVID-19 played a part in opening up American markets to the industry recently. "I think there was a big cultural shift during the onset of COVID-19 when people started seeking out shelf-stable foods way more and also started to do their grocery shopping online a lot more," she says. "This coincided with the launch of a bunch of new tinned fish brands with availability in the U.S., and from there, the trend hasn't really slowed down."
Booming on TikTok is revamping the image of tinned fish for many young people. Either they didn't know what to do with it or were scared off by it. Now, says Hezel, it's become an approachable form of luxury, mainly at a significant cost reduction to fresh seafood, like ahi tuna.
"I think a of certain hobbies, like collecting wines, which require hundreds of dollars just to get started," says Hezel. "By comparison, you can buy a really beautifully crafted, hand-packed tin of sardines in amazing olive oil from Portugal for $6."
Much like appreciating the craftsmanship that goes into a chef-made lobster ravioli dish or a perfectly selected bottle of wine, "you get to taste all of this skill and tradition that's gone into preparing the fish without buying a plane ticket or paying for a restaurant meal," says Hezel.
How to Use Tinned Fish At Home
Tinned fish is a versatile ingredient. A quick search online will reveal a wide array of pasta, salads, charcuterie boards, toasts, and more creative ways for tinned fish lovers to consume this product.
Food blogger Iryna Bychkiv says she eats tinned sardines at least once a week. "They make an excellent 'emergency' food when you're too tired or busy to cook a complicated meal," she says.
On the flip side, if she has time, she'll make a sardine salad with boiled potatoes, eggs, chopped cucumber, and green onion. "It's very filling and satisfying, plus sardines are packed with protein...so it's a win-win."
Hezel loves to make tinned fish the star of the show when she's having a fancy dinner or a date night. "I love to make a big, elaborate salad, buy a nice loaf of sourdough, and open two or three tins to try," she says.
Here to Stay
With the market set to grow over the next ten years, the availability and choice for tinned fish is set to go nowhere. Affordable, nutritious, convenient, and versatile, it may show up on pantry shelves, restaurant menus, and date nights for years to come.
Hi, I'm Cara! I'm a food writer, journalist, and recipe developer. I'm obsessed good food, good wine, good cocktails and entertaining. I've picked up a few tips over the years, and love sharing them with others.