Traditional cuisines of many regions claim such recipes as typical specialities, for example:
Most commercial canned baked beans such as Heinz are made from haricot beans, also known as Boston Beans or Navy Beans, a variety of Phaseolus vulgaris, and sold in a sauce. In the United Kingdom, tomato sauce is most commonly used. A similar dish is Pork and Beans.
The popularity of baked beans may be due to the fact they are cheap to make and buy. British supermarkets may sell store brand baked beans for less than twenty pence a tinned can although some premium organic brands may be as expensive as £1.50. Baked beans are a classic example of a "loss leader", a product sold by supermarkets for an abnormally low price, often less than cost. This is done because some products are thought by marketeers to be widely used as benchmarks by consumers to judge how cheap a supermarket is, or simply to boost the sales of complementary products. Another example of a typical loss leader is white sliced bread. Baked beans have recently begun appearing in conjunction with other foods, such as a filler inside sausages, as a sidedish with bacon, or as a pizza topping.
Most probably, a number of regional bean recipes coalesced and cross-fertilised in North America and ultimately gave rise to the baked bean culinary tradition familiar today.
The Heinz company markets their product in the UK under the name "Baked Beanz", in reference to a 1960s advertisement campaign which used the slogan "Beanz Meanz Heinz". The 'strapline' for this campaign is likely to have emerged from an earlier market research report authored by Professor Gerald Goodhardt The principal finding of that market research report was that consumers associated the Heinz brand with baked beans, and little else. Goodhardt concluded that "to most buyers, the name Heinz means Beans". This finding was subsequently adopted by Heinz' advertising agency.
In the United Kingdom, Heinz is the top selling brand of baked beans. There are substantial differences between the Heinz baked beans sold in the UK and the nearest equivalent US product (Heinz Premium Vegetarian Beans). The US beans contain brown sugar where the British beans do not, and the US product contains 14g of sugar per tin compared to 7g for the British version (equating to 140 vs 90 calories). The US beans have a mushier texture and are darker in colour than their UK counterpart. For several years, the UK Heinz Baked Beans have been available in the US, either in different sized cans than those sold in the UK or in a 385 gram can (the same can as the 415 gram can in the UK) with an "export" label with American English spelling and the word "baked" dropped from the title on the label. These are sold in many US specialty stores. In July 2008 Heinz announced they would be dropping the word "baked" and changing the 's' at the end of beans to a 'z' on UK packaging, thus replacing "Heinz Baked Beans" with "Heinz Beanz".
Heinz Beans were first sold in the UK in the upmarket Fortnum & Mason store in London as an exotic import at a high price. Although they are now a staple food, and arguably a downmarket one, the store continues the tradition of selling Heinz Beans among its more expensive wares.
In the United States, Bush's is the top producer of baked beans, and the company produces several flavours. Most of these products are in a very sweet sauce with little tang. By comparison, home-made baked beans are considerably tangier.
In New England baked beans usually are sweetened with maple syrup, and are traditionally cooked with salt pork in a beanpot in a brick oven for a full day. A popular and widely available brand of New England or Boston baked beans is B&M's Original Baked Beans
In southern states along the eastern seaboard of the US, the beans become tangier usually due to the addition of yellow mustard. Ground beef also becomes common alongside bacon in these beans. They take on a flavor similar to Cowboy Beans, a similar popular dish.
In Poland, with addition of bacon these are known as Breton Beans (fasolka po bretonsku).
Many unusual dishes are made with baked beans including "cold bean sandwiches". These are slices of bread topped with beans and melted cheese.
In 2002 the British Dietetic Association allowed manufacturers of canned baked beans to advertise the product as contributing to the recommended daily consumption of five-six vegetables per person. This concession was criticised by heart specialists who pointed to the high levels of sugar and salt in the product. Some manufacturers produce a "healthy option" version of the product with lower levels of sugar and salt.