Communicating with Cans

CLIENT: The Can Manufacturers Institute

The Challenge

Can manufacturers had made the decision to move away from using BPA as a protective lining for food and beverage cans. However, consumer watch groups continued to focus attention on BPA use. Though the canning industry had moved toward newer alternative linings, a concern persisted about can linings’ long-term health effects. Additionally, the growing marketing push for “fresh” food swayed some shoppers from purchasing more canned food.

Canned food is safe, more accessible, more affordable and equally as nutritious as other options at the grocery store. The aluminum and steel containers are infinitely recyclable and the contents last much longer than most food from the grocery store, reducing food waste. CMI needed a strategy to more prominently share the positive impacts of alternative linings in canned foods and improve overall consumer perceptions.

The Results

Our Approach

The Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) is the national trade association of the metal and composite can manufacture industry and its suppliers. CMI members are committed to providing safe, nutritious and refreshing canned food and beverages to consumers. Which is why CMI took the consumers’ concern about the safety of can linings seriously and replaced more than 90% of today’s food cans with alternative linings.

To establish a solid foundation and build trust in next generation linings. The desired outcomes were to:

  • Identify key stakeholders influencing and affected by the industry
  • Educate key media on the evolution of can linings
  • Engage third-party experts to serve as unbiased influencers
  • Involve the right consumer influencers to broaden acceptance of canned foods


Identify key stakeholders

Since CMI is a collaborative, member organization, we established a steering committee representing all CMI can manufacturers and can coating companies to provide strategic guidance on our efforts, leveraging the collective strength of the industry.

In order to shift the perception needle on can linings, we first needed to identify the key stakeholders influencing the can industry. In a strategic mapping session, Look East and the steering committee identified different stakeholder groups and defined their level of interest and influence. Segments included media, NGOs, food companies and more.

After these important groups were defined and prioritized, we recruited stakeholder ambassadors, drafted materials for them to use and scheduled briefings to help them understand critical information and messaging about next generation can linings.

Educate key media on the evolution of can linings

After establishing the target audience through digital ethnography, it was time to develop a compelling values-based story and test the messaging to be sure it would resonate.

The Look East team started by gathering information for key industry topics of concern from the steering committee. We then developed a message to address each concern and tested the information with consumers, gathering feedback and finalizing the messages for market consumption. These messages would later be used for media training with the third-party experts and briefings with media.

After the messaging was developed, we met with media outlets that were open to industry briefings on the latest safety research and connect them with the third-party experts.

Engage third-party experts

In order to help CMI remain informed about evolving stories that involve the can industry, news about linings or CMI, Look East employed our media monitoring (LINK) system. The Look East team would gather and distribute a weekly report and provide insights on any traditional and social stories that had been covered in the past week. This kept the steering committee informed of any new or growing concerns from online conversations.

A Rapid Response Team of third-party experts in the field was assembled to respond and engage in discussions about next generation linings with media to correct misinformation. Third-party experts included professionals with extensive knowledge in sustainability, nutrition, toxicologist and other fields that relate to inquiries received by the can industry. To date, members from the Rapid Response Team have been featured in more than 15 online media sites.

Broaden consumer acceptance of canned foods

Look East conducted digital ethnography research to identify the consumer segments most likely to influence high impact CMI target audiences.

“Wellness Mommas” were identified as the most influential audience. They take on the responsibility of trying to get their family to eat, drink and exercise in healthier ways, and their food and beverage choices reflect what they think is best for their family’s health.

After gathering the data from the digital ethnography research, the Refreshingly Real campaign, was established to encourage acceptance of canned foods and beverages by a normally food-critical, health-focused consumer audience – “Wellness Mommas.”

Refreshingly real (LINK) was rolled out on three social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and the content used was to engage an online community with content focused on showing how cans can make mom’s life a little easier.

The Results

Messaging > has been adopted by the organization and has been integrated into other CMI campaigns.

Media Monitoring & Crisis Response > the media monitoring report is still delivered weekly for CMI members to keep them connected to the conversations taking place. To date, members from the Rapid Response Team have been featured in more than 15 online media sites.

Stakeholder Engagement > Look East and the CMI team mapped and prioritized, 100 industry stakeholders, recruited 10 stakeholder ambassadors, drafted constituent letters that were received by 48 members of congress and completed 22 briefings. Additionally, Look East created the following briefing materials to tell the story of the industry’s innovation and commitment to safety and canned food nutrition.

The Refreshingly Real influencer farm-to-can tour experience had a total reach of 1.3 million consumers and created 16 new guest blog posts about canned food.

Multi-Channel Consumer Promotion > Look East received a Gold Award for a Multi-Channel Integrated Campaign and “Best in Show,” the highest scoring award entry, for the Refreshingly Real campaign, presented by Social Media Club of Kansas City.  The Multi-Channel Integrated Campaign Gold Award recognized the fresh approach by Refreshingly Real to speak directly to the target audience segmented as “Wellness Mommas” using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The channels share beneficial content, recipes and experiences that showcase the advantages of canned food and beverages.