Canned Foods That Were Popular 50 Years Ago But No One Eats Anymore

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Canned foods — what would we do without them? Despite more recent movements toward fresher products and less-processed food products, there is no denying that there are some canned foods that are absolute staples that just belong in everyone's pantry. There's something to be said for food items that don't perish quickly, are affordable, and can be easily made into a delicious meal, either on their own or mixed with other ingredients.


All that being said, there are certainly some questionable canned creations that have hit the market in the not-so-distant past; some are even still available today. While many canned foods of yesterday may have been a hit during their prime, a lot of these products have been called into question since falling out of popularity. On the other hand, some simply never caught on. Regardless, the following list of canned foods should get points for their creativity, at the very least.

Canned mac and cheese

We are all familiar with boxed macaroni and cheese — one of the most beloved comfort meals known to children and adults alike. There is nothing more nostalgic than that iconic blue box of Kraft mac and cheese, which arguably serves as the face of this popularized food. As common as it is, boxed mac and cheese isn't the only way to get your hands on a mac and cheese that is made with just a snap of your fingers.


Canned mac and cheese, if you can believe it, has a long history in the U.K., where it has been widely produced by the popular brand Heinz (yes, as in the ketchup). While it only recently became available for orders to the U.S., this dish has been well-loved by residents of the U.K. Unfortunately, this canned good hasn't quite caught on with people on this side of the pond. This could be for various reasons, but the main one is the cost, which is currently fourteen dollars for a can on Amazon.

According to mixed reviews, this product is more of a hit or miss in comparison to the widely loved boxed mac and cheese that has remained a constant in Americans' pantries for years. Despite other brands, such as Chef Boyardee, bringing this dish to the U.S., the trend never quite took flight.



For many Americans, SpaghettiOs are one of those quintessential childhood meals. Easy to make, mess-free for kids, and extremely affordable, this food was at one time one of the hottest canned goods on the market. These days, several brands sell their own version of SpaghettiOs, but we can thank the thinkers at Franco-American for the original product.


While you can still find these canned goods lining the shelves of grocery stores across the country, they've definitely lost the appeal they once held back in the 1960s. The decrease in SpaghettiO consumption could be for a number of reasons, the primary one being that America started to turn its back on processed meats after solid links to cancer-causing substances were made, per Time.

This certainly won't stop the average American from consuming mystery meat here and there, but ultra-processed foods such as the once beloved SpaghettiOs are certainly not people's go-to anymore. Despite their fall from grace, SpaghettiOs will forever hold a special place in our hearts as a nostalgia-inducing food. 


Hunt's Pudding Snack Packs

If the name Hunt's Pudding Snack Pack brings an image of canned pudding to mind, then congratulations, you are part of a very specific subset of people who still remember when these popular desserts were served out of a metal can. Many are familiar with Hunt's modified version of the plastic pudding cups, which are still sold today, but when the product first came about in 1968, this shelf-friendly milk pudding was served out of a can. It came in a variety of flavors and was all the rage due to its convenience and tastiness.


While Hunt's pudding cans may be a symbol of nostalgia, those who know them will also remember these quick desserts for the dangerous metal lids that had to be discontinued due to safety concerns. After the allure of this can changed forever, Hunt's Snack Packs have become more of a symbol of childhood than a highly sought-after dessert. If you find yourself craving pudding, don't fret, there are plenty of delicious (and easy) recipes out there — including dirt pudding.

Canned cheeseburger

There are plenty of foods that we are accustomed to seeing in a can, from vegetables to fruits to soups. One thing that we could have never predicted being a hit, however, is cheeseburgers in a can. This canned good is not to be confused with Hamburger Helper, an American favorite. This odd food includes the whole burger in a bun and toppings with a shelf life that rivals your typical ready-made burger.


The expiration date on this canned good may be the only appealing thing about it, and if you're raising your eyebrows at this one, we're right there with you. The canned hamburger was originally made by a German camping supplies company, which gives you a pretty good idea about the quality of the product. This bizarre food can be heated up by placing the can in hot water or by heating the burger itself over the stove. While it's possible that this food was a hit with campers in desperate need of non-perishable food, it never quite took on the same appeal as other popular canned foods.

Whole canned chicken

It might shock you to find out what you could squeeze into a can, especially with this next food that came in handy years ago. Finding a canned food that has chicken in it certainly isn't a shock to anyone, especially considering the popularity of chicken noodle soup by brands like Campbell's. However, a whole chicken in a can is a bit more of a head-scratcher than your typical canned chicken products. Produced by the brand Sweet Sue, the can was labeled as a whole bone-in chicken, fully cooked and ready to be served hot.


While there are multiple reasons why this food could have come to be, the idea of low-cost, ready-made food with extremely long shelf lives was highly appealing throughout history –- especially during times of economic peril. Nowadays, you would be hard-pressed to find a canned whole chicken anywhere and would be rightfully weary about consuming such a thing.

Canned tamales

If you've ever attempted making tamales from scratch, you know what a laborious task this can be. While it undoubtedly pays off to have a fresh tamale, not everyone has the time (or energy) to make this delicious creation by hand. These days, there are plenty of options from all of the frozen tamales that can be found at any grocery store. This wasn't always the case, though, and one popular alternative that came to be was a canned version of this food.


A canned variety of tamales came to be in the 1900s, thanks to the Workman Packing Company. Nowadays, there are quite a few different companies that sell what became a popular hit upon its original release. The decline in this food's popularity may not be for lack of quality, as it seemed to be a hit back in the day, but more in part due to the rise of frozen options that seem to be a satisfactory solution to the decline in fresh tamales that were once popularly sold by local street vendors.

Boiled peanuts

Unlike many of the canned items on this list, the popularity of canned, boiled peanuts is not rooted in a need for a long-lasting food of convenience. Rather, boiled peanuts have staked their claim as a deeply beloved food that is tied to traditions across the American South. This snack's history predates the Civil War and has remained a staple in that part of the country. Today, it has become widely recognized as a common dish served at weddings and other occasions.


Since it's best served fresh and hot, this food has a short shelf life that inevitably led to the creation of a canned version. However, the nonperishable rendition of this beloved food never quite caught on in the same way that the fresh version did. While the canned version is something that has remained in the past, avid peanut consumers will be relieved to find that the fresh version of this food is still a hot commodity in the South.

Canned brown bread

If you thought freezing bread was the only way to preserve it, think again. B&M's canned brown bread is a pantry staple that lives fondly in the minds of those who grew up in the New England region of the U.S. during the 1960s and beyond. If you're wondering what exactly this is, it's exactly as you might imagine –- a muffin-like loaf of brown bread that has been compressed into a can. The product comes in both an original brown bread flavor and raisin, which was favored as more of a sweet treat for many families.


This regional staple, albeit well-known by many New Englanders, wasn't exactly agreed upon as being the most delicious canned good. Canned bread's popularity also seems to be limited to the region of its origin, which is where the rest of this story ends. If you're genuinely curious to try out canned bread for yourself, buyers can still find B&M's products sold online and in certain grocery stores.

Campbell's pepper pot soup

There is no denying the place that Campbell's soup holds in all of our hearts, nor the brand's notoriety as being the most popular canned soup brand out there. However, not all of this brand's products have been popular hits across the states. One product in particular, Campbell's Pepper Pot Soup, is another canned good that never gained traction in the U.S.


While many of us might not be familiar with this soup, it is widely considered to be a signature in the city of Philadelphia and was sold for over one hundred years in the States before being discontinued in 2010. It's possible that many Philadelphia locals were disheartened by the loss of this canned good that was otherwise a bust in other parts of the country. There don't seem to be any glaring reasons why this food never caught on, and despite its discontinuation, there are still many copycat recipes out there for those looking to recreate this nostalgic dish.

Smurf's Beef & Ravioli Pasta

Chef Boyardee, the king of ravioli in a can, has long and wide dominated the market for canned meals. However, despite the hold that Chef Boyardee products have held over Americans for years, not all of its products could be a smashing success. In the 80s, Chef Boyardee released a version of its classic ravioli in a can that included colorful images of the iconic movie characters, The Smurfs — naming it Smurf's Beef & Ravioli Pasta. Everybody loves a good collaboration, and Chef Boyardee saw the marketing opportunity and took it.


Despite the uptick of movie-inspired ad campaigns in the 80s, particularly with popular food brands, this product has failed to find longevity in the canned food market. Some might recall the television commercial that aired to promote this crossover, playing into a craze that has since died down. Both the Smurfs and their pasta product had a moment in the spotlight but are unlikely to spark excitement in Americans these days. This canned food remains in a nostalgic part of the past.

Canned cheese

Cheese makes the world go round and comes in all shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors. One thing that we never expected, however, was canned cheese. We're not talking about Easy Cheese or Cheez Wiz, the well-known and loved sprayable cheese that is still sold in grocery stores today. We're talking about Cougar Gold canned cheese, the brainchild of Washington State University and a highly forgotten-about version of everyone's favorite food.


Cougar Gold is recognized for making an imperishable cheese product that claims to last indefinitely when placed in the fridge. The other major pull of this product is that it isn't processed and is labeled as completely natural. Even though the method for creating this long-lasting cheese product is recognized as being the first of its kind, it has not made a lasting impression on the consumer population. So, do not worry if this is your first time hearing of such a product – you're not the only one. Buyers can still find Cougar Gold on the market, though the prices of these canned goods are staggering due to the limited amount that Washington State produces each year. 

Monarch Alaskan king crab

Today, Alaskan king crab is notoriously known for being an expensive delicacy, only in season for a very brief period, making them less readily available. However, one popular solution to this came to be in the early 1900s, when a brand known as Monarch found a way to preserve and can this highly sought-after food so that people across the country could enjoy it. While there certainly may be some debate over how great the quality of the crab is in its preserved state, this method worked for those looking for a way to get crab meat on the table. 


Despite all of the rage around Alaskan king crab, Monarch's vintage product never seemed to be a huge sensation, although for 1930, it seemed to be an innovative feat. Other fish like canned tuna and canned salmon can easily be found in any grocery store, but crab meat of the same quality as the Alaskan King Crab is hard to find by way of can these days. 

Canned pork brains

Bear with us on this next one — canned pork brains are next up on a list of once-popular canned foods. While you might be wondering how canned pork brains have been made appealing to the masses, many might be surprised to find that the consumption of this food has been and is quite the norm in certain parts of the world, including the United States. In particular, pork brains are commonly seen in many dishes throughout the South, including things like scrambled eggs with pork brains. Another popular food that has traditionally incorporated brains as food is the taco — as certain parts of Mexico often use this as a protein in the dish tacos de sesos


While this food may not appear to be as common today, there are still many readily available products. Rose Pork Brains is a popular brand that is widely sold on Amazon and other sites. If you're feeling brave and adventurous, take a blast to the not-so-distant past and try this canned food out for yourself. 

Deviled ham

The South is bringing us all of the most popular canned foods from the past, including something known as deviled ham — a pantry staple for many that has a longer history than you might think. While popular in the South, this canned good's origins start in New England. Beginning back in 1868, a New England-based manufacturing company began producing this funky product. 


Deviled ham, if you're unfamiliar, is simply ground-up ham spiced and packed into a tin can and used primarily as a spread eaten on sandwiches. Now owned by the company Underwood Spreads, this home favorite for many is still sold in grocery stores today. There are various other ways to eat this product, including as a dip for crackers or vegetables. Aside from the fact that it never gained traction in other parts of the country, there's nothing that points to the fact that deviled ham isn't still enjoyed by some today.