There are many ingredient and technical challenges that come into play when creating, manufacturing, and scaling up soups and broths. Whether beginning from a base of dairy, broth, or tomato, soups made for batch production have one thing in common: Consumers demand that they taste homemade.
Traditional tools to make soups shelf-stable are being challenged by changing consumer desires. Processors constantly are working to bring fresh and exciting ingredients and new tools into operations that allow them to deliver product as efficiently as ever.
As with any soup formulation, there always are some challenges when going from pot to kettle to large-scale production. Standardization is one of the keys to effective scale-up, as soup ingredients must be delivered evenly throughout that formulation. This is true for broths, dairy- and tomato-based soups.
For example, in creating new soups for Campbell Soup Co., the initial step involves taking each recipe design and formulating it with cross-functional technical partners. The objective is to ensure delivery of ingredient consistency and product integrity in order to meet a gold-standard design promise.
Campbell’s works with a fully integrated team across a variety of departments, including R&D, Procurement, Operations, Logistics, Marketing, and Finance. Each of these team members has input into deciding what needs to be changed, and determining what the group is doing to remain competitive. Responsibilities include determining not only whether to expand or edit the company’s portfolio of products, but whether or not to upgrade manufacturing procedures or facilities.
The formula design teams work together to create the best possible
outcome and continually challenge their level of expertise with new platforms. There is a constant drive to be flexible in creativity and execution and to evolve with new consumer preferences.
Soup creation starts when the cross-functional teams bring new ideas and solutions to the table. One example of how this method works involved Campbell’s “Well Yes!” brand of soup. Instead of using table sugar to round out flavors, the team opted to use jicama juice. The tuber has a natural, subtle, and dry sweetness.
With so much happening in soups today, and in food and flavors in general, there are a few steps that are important for a research chef to take to chart a good course. First, it is important to understand what is a fad and what is a trend. A good example comes from beverages, where we’ve seen more and more beverages that promote healthy digestion. What started as an apparent fad quickly became a trend, with more beverages and other products promoting foods that also have a functional benefit.
For the soup culinologist, it is important to recognize fads that are becoming trends and bring on those ingredients that will drive products to new levels. As the procurement team and chefs work together to find the new ingredients that drive the trend (as well as good flavor), the risk is that while we might find that next great idea, it could fail to be accepted by the consumer.
It’s a smart strategy to look at both the restaurant world and history for ideas. For example, it might be of value to examine how 2,000-year-old traditional Chinese medicine and the herbs and spices it calls for can drive flavor. It’s important to be open-minded and challenge ourselves to look outside the box.
Soups and broths have always figured significantly in the diets of persons raised in the cultures of the Far East. Starting the morning with a rich, savory broth replete with aromatic spices is considered healthful and satisfying for both body and soul.
Curries and Middle Eastern flavors and styles also have been taking the US by storm, and these are finding their way into a variety of soup options. Other rising flavor trends being expressed in liquid form include “marine greens” and Southern comfort foods.
As culinologists develop these trendy flavors and platforms, challenges will arise. Hard-to-find ingredients that meet high standards for quality, as well as how best to incorporate new ingredients into the cooking processes, will be foremost.
The overall development procedure should be collaborative and cross-functional, involving everyone from the procurement team to overseers of safety and development, all working together from “gold-standard” ideation to final production.
Dried soup mixes, a part of the soup landscape for decades, now are a part of this still-emerging ethnic soup scene. For example, Swanson has launched a new dried soup mix called Soup Makers that fits this growing category. As soup options continue to expand to reflect flavor trends in general, so, too, will dried soup offerings, with their “just add boiling water” convenience.
To build a successful soup product involves assessing a trend, whether that is a flavor profile, an ethnic note, or some specific, significant ingredient. Further, it is necessary to understand how these factors are perceived by the consumer.
A prominent example of this is the current push for protein, whether meat- or plant-based. Especially plant proteins, as these are trending strongly now.
For many years the food industry has relied on tools like artificial flavors, so the challenge today is to avoid those and increase the use of natural flavors going forward. Since Campbell’s Foodservice soups and sauces do not use artificial ingredients or flavors, choices often include identifying other ingredients that deliver same functionality as the artificial ones.
Generating flavor in shorter cook times, without the use of artificial flavors, is another significant challenge, one that culinary, recipe development, and science and technology teams must work on every day. It involves a constant search for recognizable, desirable ingredients from plants or animals that drive cleaner labels and flavor.
When designing recipes, a strategy used at Campbell has been to bring home cooks into the test kitchen. They act as a proactive focus group, letting the team know exactly the qualities they are looking for. A recent emphasis has been on clean-label emulsions involving meats, broths, vegetables, grains, pasta, colors, flavors, and dairy ingredients. Using these can help ensure that labels stay cleaner and shorter, and include ingredients that are more recognizable to the average consumer.
With this need to add new ingredients to the culinary toolbox all the time, it is important for the chefs to work hand-in-hand with procurement and the culinology team to scout out the ingredients of the future. While constantly seeking such ingredients or alternatives to older, less desired, or trendy ones, it’s important to also reach out regularly to suppliers to identify emerging ingredients. This ongoing strategy is especially vital when it comes to broths and bases.
Stock is typically the clear liquid derived from cooking the roasted bones of beef, veal, or even poultry or fish. Similarly, broth is the clear liquid from stock or derived from cooking meat or bones with or without vegetables. Whether to be used as a base or to stand on its own as a consommé, a stock or broth is only as good as the ingredients that go into it.
While this should seem self-evident, it is not uncommon for some manufacturers to use lesser quality ingredients in something that is intended to be cooked down and strained or used as a base to carry other flavors. Many broth formulations, too, rely on flavor enhancers. But today the paradigm has shifted. The trend is toward using more whole, fresh ingredients, carefully prepared to preserve flavor and texture.
For all broth-based soups, clarity of the product is of the highest concern after flavor in general. But garnish distribution, too, is something that becomes a priority. It is possible to work the front end of a recipe to make sure the size and shape of the ingredients allow for quick cooking, the goal being the shortest cook time it is possible to obtain. This goal ensures made-fresh textures and flavors when the consumer reheats the product for serving.
Lowering cook times also helps with garnish stability as well as the clarity of the broth. But for slow-cooking success in batch production, safety, and process development must work together. This balance is crucial when adjusting the cooking time and temperature to allow garnish to stand to up to the retort procedure
Dairy-based soups add a level of complication to development, as all components must interact in a medium that supports the integrity of the emulsion that is liquid dairy. Exposing whole dairy ingredients such as milk, cream, and cheese to high heat and long cooking times causes drastic and irreversible changes in flavor, color, and texture.
Keeping cream soups creamy can call for binding and emulsifying ingredients that, while often completely natural, can position them too far up the label and in too many multiples to satisfy the minimalism modern consumers want.
To make such dairy products conform to cleaner labels, newer ingredients, methods, and techniques must be employed. This also means coming up with new standards that test product development and safety. Scaling up production of these dairy based soups—such as a cream-based mushroom soup or chowders, slow kettle soups, or trendy “fusion” soups like a chunky creamy chicken noodle—success is measured by being able to deliver truly representative flavors and textures consumers desire and expect.
Native starches from rice, potatoes, tapioca, and similar sources can act as emulsifiers and thickeners without risking a clean-label status. Best of all, when used with care and precision, they will not alter flavors.
Richard Calladonato, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, is the director of Campbell Soup Co.’s Culinary & Baking Institute, acting as executive chef and managing the CCBI Culinary Team. Prior to joining Campbell’s, he served as a vice president of food & beverage and corporate chef for diverse and established restaurants, including The Cordish Co.; Roma Restaurant Holdings Inc.’s Tony Roma’s; Bertucci’s; and Landry’s, Inc.’s Chart House restaurant group. Calladonato has developed multiple restaurant concepts and has worked with most of the large chain restaurants and retailers on marketing, innovation, and R&D/recipe development. He can be reached through Campbell Soup Co. (www.campbellsoupcompany.com) or through this magazine.
Nothing But Broth
Newcomer Zoup! Specialty Products LLC’s culinary team, under culinologist and chef Eric Ersher, makes its “super-premium” traditional chicken and beef broths in small batches, using hormone-free chicken and gluten-free, non-GMO fresh ingredients. The result is a more complex flavor that replicates homemade and is naturally low in calories, without sugar, fat, trans fat or saturated fat.
Savory Creations International Inc. recently added an authentic Vietnamese-style phô broth to its portfolio of premium broths and demi-glacés for industry, foodservice, and retail. Chef Douglas Takizawa designed Savory Creations’ phô to be free of trans-fats and gluten, and used no preservatives, MSG, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein in the formulation. It’s available in beef, chicken, and vegetable, and can be used to support an authentic phô noodle bowl or as a clear, aromatic-yet-savory sipping broth for a quick pick-me-up. The company also makes a line of broths from clams, lobster, and seafood as well as more mainstream chicken and beef broths and concentrates.
Soup in the Clear
By Rachel Zemser, CCC
Broth, stock, soup, consommé—all basically describe one product: a liquid resulting from cooking meat and/or meat and vegetables in hot liquid. They are flavorful preparations enjoyed on their own or used as a base for other soups, sauces, and gravies, or incorporated as an ingredient into recipes such as stews or chilis.
A few years ago, there was a jump in popularity of clear stocks called “bone broth.” There is no legal definition for bone broth or bone stock, but typically, there will be bones—often roasted veal or beef bones—in the original formulation. How much bone and how much meat are used is up to the broth creator.
The past few years have seen this humble liquid go from an inexpensive commodity to a growing and well-marketed trend. Some companies that already made shelf-stable packaged stock simply changed names and marketing angles. But others revised their formulations or started from scratch with different goals.
Kitchen Witch Bone Broth LLC adopted the “starting from scratch” approach, with the team acknowledging that time is its “secret ingredient.” The company slow cooks its broth for a minimum of 24 hours, allowing for more complete release of the nutrient- and texture-rich collagen and resultant gelatin. The concentrated broth thus has higher gelatin levels, creating a rich, clean texture and a mouthfeel described as “silky.”
Most consumers buy chicken stock in boxes and cans, and use it as a soup base instead of water for cooking pasta, potatoes, or rice to add flavoring to these starches. Kitchen Witch also promotes its broths as a “tonic-tea,” with the inclusion of other ingredients including herbs, butter, lime, and hot sauce. BRU Broth LLC, the first USDA organic-certified, cold-pressed “sippable bone broth” encourages consumers to sip bone broth daily as an alternative to coffee or tea.
The best bones used for bone broth will have some meat and joints and connective tissue (cartilage) attached to them to provide an ample source of collagen. This becomes part of the broth’s intrinsic make-up and contributes to its savory character as well as a high mineral content. The amino acids that comprise collagen proteins are popular nutraceutical ingredients, having been long promoted for joint health and inflammation relief and supporting the health of hair and nails.
Frozen bone broth storage and shipping costs can add up, and shelf-stable retort broths have high minimums that many newcomers in the broth space cannot reach. This has led to a number of dry bone broth powder retailers such as Axe Wellness LLC entering the space, marketing beef and chicken broth powders that are manufactured by third parties and typically sold as dry soup mixes or in seasoning blends. The company recognizes that consumers appreciate the portable, shelf-stable nature of its product and positions it as a replacement for other protein powders.
Such dry bone broth products allow for shelf stability and portability at a much lower price point. Bone broth powder, according to the marketing, includes protein co-factors such as collagen as well as other healthful compounds, including glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, and minerals.