A bunch of colorful canned beans from Heyday stacked on top of eachother

The Future of Canned Beans Is High Voltage Flavor

These are not your mother’s (or grandmother’s) basic baked beans.

Imagine you’ve been tasked with inventing a food that could save the world. You’d probably dream up something that’s affordable and versatile, something convenient with recyclable packaging, a plant-based food that benefits the very soil in which it's grown and connects to every culture in the world in a unique way. Congratulations, you’ve just invented beans!

Humans have been cultivating and eating beans for the past 8,000 years, and we’ve been canning them on a mass scale since the beginning of the 20th century; but the industry is still ripe for innovation, and recently, emerging brands like Heyday Canning Co, Serious Bean Co., and A Dozen Cousins, plus established brands like 叠耻蝉丑’蝉 are pushing bean boundaries and serving up cans that elevate the bean beyond a simple side dish, right to the center of the plate.

Trey Taylor, co-founder of Serious Bean Co. explains the phenomenon: “It makes a lot of sense when you look at consumers,” he says. “Fiber, protein, a reasonable price, and convenience—those are all massive drivers for consumers of all incomes, and beans have the ability to hit on it.” Stephen Palacios, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Innovation at 叠耻蝉丑’蝉, pegs the new, bean-forward moment to the convergence of two factors—the continued diversification of the US population and the prominence of younger generations in the marketplace. Older millennials represent a big chunk of grocery shoppers, he says, and they’re looking for flavors that remind them of their heritage, travels, and the dish they just ate at their favorite restaurant.

“The one void was innovative flavors,” Taylor says. Enter the innovators.?

I was scrolling through Instagram when I first saw a shot of Heyday Canning Co.’s canned beans. The retro-meets-modern look of the bold font, warm colors, and cute ingredient illustrations drew me in, and when I looked closer at the flavors—Coconut Curry! Harissa Lemon! Kimchi Sesame!—I had a hunch that this was going to be the future of canned beans: The same nutrient-packed food we’ve loved for thousands of years, now flavor-blasted and in more stylish, display-worthy packaging.

When Kat Kavner and Jaime Tulley of Heyday Canning Co. first imagined a line of canned beans that could shake up a tired industry in 2020, they looked first to their own pantries for inspiration. Both home cooks with food industry backgrounds, Kavner says–the duo met while working at the plant-based brand, Sweet Earth–“We wanted to provide a range of flavors that would allow you to create a bunch of different types of meals.” Imagine a Mexican flavor profile like Enchilada Black Beans to pair with tacos or chilaquiles; or an Italian-inspired Tomato alla Vodka Cannellini Beans for spooning over warm polenta.

Older millennials represent a big chunk of grocery shoppers, he says, and they’re looking for flavors that remind them of their heritage, travels, and the dish they just ate at their favorite restaurant.

Today, Heyday offers 6 different flavors using 4 different beans, and they’ve tapped recipe developer and author Ali Slagle as a culinary advisor, lending culinary cool kid cred to the young brand. Apricot Glazed Baked Beans are a pleasantly familiar riff on a classic baked bean; Kimchi Sesame Navy Beans feel completely different than anything else on the shelves in American grocery stores and are the perfect jumping off point for zippy weeknight lettuce wraps. And Harissa Lemon Chickpeas are crying out for a warm flatbread to cozy up in.

For 叠耻蝉丑’蝉, Palacio says, new flavors were inspired by restaurant trends:? its Simmerin’ Caribbean Black Beans feature a Jamaican-inspired sauce and diced bell peppers; Rustic Tuscany Chickpeas, slowly simmered in a light tomato and olive oil sauce, pair particularly well with pasta.?

For founder Ibraheem Basir,? A Dozen Cousins is about creating distinct flavor profiles? with a sense of place and culture. “We’re headed to a world where the majority of US citizens come from a ‘minority’ background,” he says. “So you think about all the different regions and cuisines that they’re pulling from, and that’s going to become part of the American food landscape.”

In microwavable pouches, the beans at A Dozen Cousins tap directly into those cultural legacies. “All of our flavor inspiration is rooted in traditional Creole, Caribbean, and Latin American foods,” he says, citing family recipes like Trini Chickpea Curry and Creole Red Beans. “We look for products that combine taste, health, and culture in a very meaningful way.”?

At Serious Bean Co., says Director of Brand Marketing Matt Voltoline, the company's core consumer is a younger, likely male shopper, whom they’ve dubbed ‘Michael.’ “Maybe Michael isn’t a cook, but he likes to make food,” Voltoline says. “He’s social and loves social consumption occasions, watching sports, and having friends and family over.” For the imaginary Michael, Serious Bean Co.’s Jalape?o and Bacon Pinto Beans or Carolina Gold BBQ Beans are a perfect fit. They’re loaded with flavor right out of the can, so Michael doesn’t need to get too cheffy, but he can serve them with a twist if he’s feeling ambitious.

Steven Palacio says what we’re seeing in the bean world is just the beginning. “You’re witnessing a moment in time where products are being introduced to create [a new] sub-category,” he says. “It’s still in the gestation stage, the early days. We need mass adoption for it to take on steam and become what we think it can be.”

These beans are picking up steam. Heyday, Serious Bean Co., and A Dozen Cousins all plan to launch new flavors in the future as they continue their missions to introduce more bean innovation to save, if not the world, at least your next meal.

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