Doing market research when you’re in the business of making cans often amounts to visiting the supermarket and seeing what’s on the shelves. I remember going to Florida on holiday and bringing back a shaped juice can as well as a quart can of Fosters. Good information to get some ideas for shaped cans and larger than standard size drinks cans.
Sometimes the places of research are more pedestrian, like when I wanted to investigated the can performance characteristics of Impress’s 2-12-2 bead pattern on their food cans: all I had to do was scan the shelves in my local Asda store, and once I had located their cans on an own brand soup make buy a crate full of them. All I had to do was to ask people at work to take the cans home, use the contents, and return the empty cans in a state suitable for further investigation of the can properties. Cheap and easy, even though I had to endure a sarky “on a liquid diet, aren’t we?” from the till operator.
Sometimes this supermarket research could have some unintended consequences, such as when Chris Elliot and Tim Fields spent such a long time in the aerosol can section of one supermarket that Security was called to investigate this “suspicious” behaviour. Still, I can’t think of another field where it’s so cheap and easy to examine a competitor’s product in attempts to reverse engineer them.