Okay, so maybe not everybody is literally in a car, truck or SUV, or rushing through the convenience store. It turns out there’s a sizeable number of consumers (including those hard-to-figure Millennials) who like to eat at home, save money and simply enjoy a hearty meal.

In fact, Mintel Group Ltd., Chicago, says soup’s very much on trend—as demonstrated by the firms’ “Soup-US” report in November 2015

“Since 2006, an increasing number of consumers have said they enjoy cooking, according to data from Experian Marketing Service,” said Mintel. “Sales of broth and stocks have risen in conjunction with this trend (17.8% to $1.1 billion between 2010-14) and are expected to continue increasing (13.2% to $1.2 billion between 2015-20).”

Mintel says its consumer survey data show that Millennials purchase broth more than any other generation. Additionally, Millennials, although they say they cook at home to save money and because it’s healthier than eating out, are less likely than other generations to cite these motivations – and are more likely than other generations to consider cooking a creative outlet, according to Mintel report Cooking Enthusiasts – US, October 2014.

Around one-third of consumers are looking for products with natural (34%) or reduced claims (32%) on packaging, says Mintel’s Food Packaging Trends – US, July 2014, and 38% of soup purchasers believe refrigerated soup is healthier than canned soup, report Mintel consumer survey data. In conjunction, Mintel says refrigerated and frozen soup experienced a 52% bump up in sales between 2010-14 to hit $295 million.

Sales are expected to continue growing another 26% between 2015-20, says Mintel. Growth likely will continue based on Millennials’ increasing spending power and their demand for more natural foods, as refrigerated and frozen soup rely on colder temperature for preservation instead of added sodium and preservatives.

Big Brands are Busy

General Mills, Campbell Soup and other large category players clearly have been busy with new product development and reformulation.

Campbell is making several key changes to recipes and increasing its organic offerings. Based on feedback from parents, the company simplified the recipes of existing condensed soups for kids, removed ingredients such as added MSG and continued to make the soup with no preservatives, no artificial colors and no artificial flavors. The first updated range of kids soups was expected to hit US shelves last August. The company plans to remove artificial colors and flavors from nearly all of its North American products by the end of fiscal 2018.

Building on Campbell’s Organic soups that launched last January, the company came back with Campbell’s Organic soup for kids in three kid-friendly chicken noodle varieties. Available last August, these new organic soups for kids will be non-GMO and use ingredients sourced from certified American organic farms.

Speaking of organic, General Mills brought its Annie’s organic brand into the soup aisle for the first time. Last year brought the debut of Annie’s Star Pasta & Chicken Soup, Tomato Soup, Creamy Tomato & Bunny Pasta Soup and a Bunny Pasta & Chicken Broth Soup.

Meanwhile, General Mills refreshed its flagship Progresso line with several new entries: Progresso Cooking Stock (no artificial flavors or preservatives), Progresso Roasted Vegetable Chili (vegetarian) and two new stews (entirely new to the portfolio). New Progresso White Chicken Stew with Savory Herbs is a thick and creamy blend of white chicken meat chunks, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, cream, peas, celery and onions, combined with savory herbs and seasonings. Hearty Vegetable Stew with Beef is a favorite including large cuts of beef, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, okra, onions, celery and sea salt.

More Options, Coast to Coast

From coast to coast, soup represents one of the most active and colorful food categories. A host of smaller, creative companies ladled out their own options for consumer considerations.  Here’s a brief review, by region.

Southeast: This year saw Tio Foods LLC introduce its fourth variety of refrigerated, drinkable gazpacho soups. New Gazpacho Rosado is made with watermelon, cilantro and jalapeno. It joins Gazpacho Verde, Gazpacho Clasico and Gazpacho de Sol varieties. The Miami-based company plans to expand distribution this spring beyond the Southeast.

 In other news, Beaver Street Fisheries Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., came out this February with two Thai-inspired seafood Soup Bowls—Shrimp Wonton and Tom Yum Shrimp—under its Sea Best brand.

Last fall saw Back to Nature Foods Company, LLC, Naples, break into the category with artisanal soups made with ancient grains. The line includes gluten-free and Non-GMO options and complements Back to Nature’s existing line of whole grain crackers. Flavors include family favorites with a twist, such as Chicken & Wild Rice with Kamut, gluten-free Chicken Tortilla with Red Quinoa, Beef & Barley, gluten-free Tuscan Three Bean with Kale & Millet, and Classic Minestrone with Farro.

Northeast: Blount Fine Foods, Fall River, Mass., extended its refrigerated soup line (16oz cups) with Blount Organics Savory Harvest Bisque. This certified vegetarian product features sweet butternut squash and carrots are pureed with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon and finished with diced apples, sweet potatoes and just a hint of rosemary.

Last August saw Soupman Inc., New York, N.Y., announce a nationwide roll-out of four soups in partnership Kroger and its affiliates. The program involves Soupman’s famous Lobster Bisque, Chicken Noodle, Chicken Gumbo and Crab & Corn Chowder. All of Soupman soups are sold in environmentally friendly, “green” Tetra Pak cartons.

Northwest & California: Happy Planet Foods, Inc., Burnaby, BC, launched a line of Grab & Go fresh soups, which are all-natural, gluten-free and come in a convenient single-serve microwavable container. Varieties include West African Squash & Cashew, Portuguese Kale & White Bean and French Lentil, as well as the top two fresh soup flavors in Canada; Thai Coconut and Tuscan Tomato.

Former Stockpot Soup founder Kevin Fortun now runs Fortun Foods, Kirkland, Wash. Last October brought eight new fresh retail soups including New England Clam Chowder, Wild Northwest Smoked Salmon Chowder, Lobster Bisque with Shrimp, Crab and Cognac, Louisiana Chowder with Shrimp and Roasted Corn, gluten-free Azteca Chicken and Rice, authentic Italian Minestrone, Cheddar and Broccoli and Roasted Tomato Bisque. 

Last summer brought the debut of refrigerated Asian Bone Broths (and noodles) from Nona Lim Foods, Oakland, Calif. Nona Lim’s Thai Curry & Lime Bone Broth also was a 2015 SOFI AWARD winner. Nona Lim’s new Asian Broth and Noodle line included gluten free, all natural Thai Curry & Lime Bone Broth, Vietnamese Pho Bone Broth and Miso Ramen (Vegan Broth).


Originally appeared in the March, 2016 issue of Prepared Foods as Soup's On (Trend).