Something’s Fishy at Bumble Bee Tuna

Bumble Bee

Bumble Bee foods filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday. Its assets will be purchased by Taiwan-based FCF Fishery. Bumble Bee’s management cites the company’s recent legal challenges (it was fined $25 million for creating a price-fixing cartel with Starkist and Chicken of the Sea) as one of the causes of the reorganization and sale.

Putting aside Bumble Bee’s mismanagement and bad judgement, the headwinds for this “old school” food stuff are serious. Think about this… the trend away from canned foods is clear. According to The Wall Street Journal, only 32% of millennials buy canned tuna, and Starkist’s VP of Marketing says many millennials don’t even own can openers.

Digital transformation is usually thought of in the context of using new “digital” technology to solve problems. But I don’t ascribe to that limited view. Bumble Bee’s problem is demand-side disruption caused by a behavioral change that was clearly signaled by the adoption of digital technologies by Bumble Bee’s consumers. The behavioral trend away from its main product line was so clearly indicated by data, so early, that it is remarkable they did nothing to address it.

News flash: packaging canned tuna in a foil and polymer film pouch doesn’t get anywhere near solving for the social media mercury issue. Cans are understandably recyclable, plastic pouches… not so much.

As you think about your own business, watch the way the canned goods industry adapts or dies. There are both “solid white” and “chunk light” business lessons here.


Take the Survey

If the survey is not visible, click here.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



PreviousEven WiFi is Political NextMy Banned Words List

Get Briefed Every Day!

Subscribe to my daily newsletter featuring current events and the top stories in technology, media, and marketing.