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Is Nalley Chili Discontinued?

Is Nalley Chili Discontinued?

Nalley chili, the canned chili that has been warming kitchens and satisfying taste buds for decades, is no more. The iconic bright green cans with the bold Nalley logo have become a nostalgic memory after manufacturer ConAgra officially discontinued the product in 2019.

For many chili aficionados, the news came as a shock. Nalley’s affordable yet flavorful chili was a pantry staple, topping hot dogs or sprucing up recipes for chili con carne. Its discontinuation left loyal fans bereft, frantically trying to find any remaining cans in stores or stockpiling their last precious cases.

So what happened to America’s beloved Nalley chili? Why was this household favorite unceremoniously scrapped after over 80 years in production? And is there any hope for its revival?

History of Nalley Chili

Founding of Nalley Foods

The story of Nalley Chili begins in 1918 with the founding of Nalley’s Foods. The company was the brainchild of two entrepreneurs, I.J Nalley and J. Humbert Lane, in Tacoma, Washington. Their original products were pickles and salad dressings.

Growth of Nalley Chili

Nalley’s first introduced canned chili in 1936. It quickly became one of their most popular products. Through savvy marketing and widespread distribution, Nalley chili grew into one of the biggest canned chili industry names over the following decades.

Nalley Chili Becomes Popular

Several factors led to Nalley chili’s popularity. It was affordable, convenient, and had a meaty, savory taste. The consistency was thicker than most canned chilis. Nalley’s was also one of the first to include small red chili peppers in their recipe, adding a touch of heat. Clever advertising campaigns cemented Nalley Chili’s reputation as a kitchen staple.

Acquisition by ConAgra Foods

In 1978, ConAgra Foods acquired Nalley Fine Foods. This expanded distribution resources for Nalley chili, though the recipe remained unchanged. Under ConAgra’s ownership, Nalley remained a leading canned chili brand.

Nalley Chili History
Nalley Chili History

Decline of Canned Chili Category

However, starting in the 1990s, the canned chili category declined. This was driven by several shifts in the food industry and changing consumer preferences.

Changing Consumer Preferences

American tastes were moving away from heavily processed foods like canned chili. Shoppers increasingly wanted “fresh” and “natural” foods. Canned foods came to be seen as overly artificial and unhealthy.

Growth of Fresh and Natural Foods

The rise of fresh, refrigerated salsa cut into canned chili sales. Newer supermarket chili options promoted fresher ingredients and less preservatives. Organic, preservative-free chilis offered more appeal to modern palates.

Canned Foods Perceived as Processed

Canned chili struggled with its outdated image. Shoppers viewed the metal can as symbolic of heavy processing, preservatives, and artificial flavors, regardless of any recipe changes.

Nalley Struggles to Adapt

While other brands rushed to meet the demand for fresher chili options, Nalley remained committed to its traditional canned product. Without innovation, Nalley could not counter-shifting consumer attitudes towards canned foods.

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Discontinuation of Nalley Chili

With declining interest in canned chili and stiff competition from fresher brands, ConAgra discontinued Nalley chili in 2019 after over 80 years of production.

ConAgra Ends Nalley Chili Production

In April 2019, ConAgra announced it was permanently discontinuing the manufacture and distribution of Nalley chili. The remaining inventory would be sold off until depleted.

Reactions from Loyal Customers

Devoted Nalley chili fans were stunned and disappointed. They bemoaned the loss of their favorite chili on social media and internet forums. Many customers had grown up eating Nalley for decades.

Trying to Find the Remaining Inventory

Die-hard Nalley lovers scoured grocery store shelves to locate any remaining cans. Online sellers found brisk demand for their scarce Nalley stock. Fans froze extra cans to preserve their stash.

Adjusting Recipes to Substitute Nalley

Home cooks struggled to adjust treasured recipes that relied on Nalley’s trademark flavor. Recreating dishes like Nalley chili dogs or Cincinnati chili became challenging without the familiar canned chili base.

Searching for Comparable Chili

Finding a viable replacement brand was frustrating for Nalley devotees. Competitors like Hormel Chili lacked Nalley’s distinctive spice blend and hearty texture. Supermarket fresh chilis could not match the nostalgic flavor.

Nalley Chili recipe
Nalley Chili recipe

What Led to Nalley’s Demise?

Nalley Chili’s discontinuation did not occur overnight. Several factors led to its downfall after decades as a leading canned chili.

Lack of Innovation

Nalley stuck by its original canned chili recipe rather than innovating for contemporary tastes. Without new products like organic or natural chili, the brand lacked appeal to younger shoppers.

Failure to Adapt to New Food Trends

Nalley did not respond quickly enough to growing nutrition concerns about canned foods. The company failed to reposition itself amidst rising competition from freshly prepared chili brands.

Rising Competition in the Chili Category

Old El Paso, Hormel, and other chili brands outpaced Nalley in rolling out innovative new product lines for health and convenience-focused shoppers.

Dennison’s Chili competitor
Dennison’s Chili competitor

Declining Sales and Profits

Eventually, lagging sales made Nalley Chili no longer profitable enough for ConAgra to continue production. It was costlier to revitalize the brand than discontinue it.

Is All Hope Lost for Nalley Lovers?

For bereft Nalley enthusiasts, the discontinuation felt like losing a beloved friend. But there are still some avenues to bring back Nalley or potentially approximate the flavors they crave.

Petitions to Bring Nalley Back

A few diehard fans have started online petitions pleading for ConAgra or another company to restart Nalley chili production. Their success seems doubtful, but their passion is evident.

Possible Revival by Another Company

A consumer foods company could theoretically purchase the rights to the Nalley brand and recipes to bring back a version of the classic chili.

Finding Ways to Recreate the Taste

Without Nalley, devotees try blending other chilis to match its flavor or spiking them with extra spices. Some fondly share memories of the chili they miss.

Moving On to New Favorites

While initially upsetting, most former Nalley lovers eventually find new staple chili brands. Hormel, Skyline, and organic varieties fill the void at family meals.

The Future of Canned Chili

While the discontinuation of an icon like Nalley is a blow, canned chili remains a viable category overall. However, brands need to adapt to changing tastes.

Shifting Demographics and Preferences

Millennials and Gen Z shoppers want bolder flavors, meat alternatives, and natural ingredients in canned foods. Chili must shed its heavily processed image.

Newer Brands Gaining Popularity

Smaller, innovative entrants like Texas’s Own and Uncle Ray’s are disrupting canned chili with new flavor profiles and ingredient transparency.

Possible Nostalgia-Driven Comeback

Some legacy brands see success playing on consumer nostalgia for simpler times. Retro packaging and marketing recall the glory days of canned chili.

Innovation Needed in Category

To stay relevant, canned chili needs more choices like organic, vegetarian, and gourmet varieties. Convenience features like microwaveable bowls add appeal to busy lifestyles.


For die-hard chili fans, the discontinuation of Nalley chili is the end of an era. Yet the category overall can survive and possibly thrive with creativity. Canned chili still has the potential to blend comfort foods with modern tastes. Brands like Nalley can live on through the rich memories they create in every bite.

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Why was Nalley Chili discontinued?

Nalley chili was discontinued in 2019 after struggling for years with declining sales and an inability to adapt to changing consumer preferences for fresher, less processed foods. Owner ConAgra decided to end production rather than invest in revitalizing the outdated brand.

Where can I still buy Nalley chili?

Any remaining Nalley branded cans were sold off in 2019 after production ended. Limited quantities may still be found through online resellers but will be permanently discontinued once that stock is gone.

What’s the closest replacement for Nalley chili?

Fans suggest Hormel as the most similar nationwide canned chili brand. Smaller brands like Skyline or Texas’s Own also offer comparable flavors and textures. For some, homemade chilis modified with extra spices come closest.

Could Nalley Chili ever come back?

It’s unlikely under ConAgra ownership, but theoretically, another company could revive the brand if it purchased the rights. Some petitions appeal for this outcome, but major brands have not expressed interest so far.

Is canned chili still popular today?

While the category has declined over the decades, canned chili still has a following, especially among older consumers. Brands that innovate with bolder flavors, better quality, and natural ingredients help modernize canned chili’s appeal. Nostalgia also drives interest for some shoppers.


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