Opinion: Time to can these meals


My son Brett brings his lunch to work every day, avoiding dining in restaurants during the pandemic. I asked him what he was eating, and his response was: Frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (you defrost them before the meal).  I bought a box out of curiosity, and now I’m hooked on the stupid things. I have to hide them in the downstairs freezer behind the Healthy Choice dinners. If my wife finds out what I have been paying for this rip-off, she may never microwave anything good for me again.

I also discovered another peanut butter innovation that has apparently been around for several years. It’s called a Candwich, a product name that was market-tested and produced the fewest number of people sticking their forefinger in their mouth and pretending to gag.

Instead of buying a ready-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a vending machine or purchasing the separate items in a supermarket to create your own masterpieces, all the stuff comes in a portable kit for four times as much money. Consumers are unhappy that, like their new IKEA deck chair, some assembly is required. But there are no instructions included.

Inside the container is a hot dog-like bun in a cellophane wrapper, and one squeezable packet each of jelly and peanut butter. Dispensing ketchup and mustard this way has always been a hassle, so why not try it again with the world’s two slowest-moving foods?

Included is a utensil for easy spreading. Sales for Candwich have been brisk through the years, the company reports, but not without some drawbacks. Prisons and airlines will not offer the product to their diners. Said one of the company investors, “We think it might be because there’s a knife in the can.” There is also a piece of taffy for dessert, an odd choice because combined with the peanut butter embedded in your palate, it eliminates any chance of word-of-mouth publicity.

Busy parents looking for an easy lunch for the kids applaud this meal-in-a-can, although some are concerned that their 6-year-olds might not be able to negotiate the pull-tab. “But I think they’ll figure it out,” said one mom, “and it will be a good learning experience to prepare them for when they start drinking beer.”

Americans are buying lunch sandwiches in sealed containers the same way they purchase Quaker State Motor Oil. It seems there is no limit to where this convenience may go with future product development. Pizza in a Can and Christmas Dinner in a Can are both on the table — not that you need a table to enjoy the contents. Of course, when you ask consumers what food manufacturers should consider canning next, there’s a unanimous response: How about the entire concept?