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Packaging innovation could lead to a resurgence in soup popularity

Readers of a certain age can scarcely forget “The Soup Nazi.” This Seinfeld episode centers on chef Yev Kassem, whose soup is so extraordinary patrons obediently observe the strictest etiquette just to be bestowed a bowl of simple bouillabaisse. Those who breech protocol (asking for extra bread, order indecision, etc.) are humiliated, denied service, or even banned from the eatery for a period up to a year.

 

“No soup for you!” Kassem would decree to offending patrons.

 

Today, it seems that few would endure such indignation—much less be inconvenienced—over a bowl of soup. Over the past five years, soup sales have increased a paltry one percent. Worse yet, it’s projected that over the next five years the category could see declines of up to five percent.

 

What gives? With all of the various soup varieties at our disposal and soups still commanding a large amount of grocery store real estate, why the stagnant or even declining popularity? According to a recent Mintel study, there are three main reasons for this trend.

 

Sodium.  Over 70% of respondents feel that canned soup has too much sodium.

 

Processing. The nationwide trend of eschewing processed foods is definitely not in soup’s favor. Not surprisingly, 59% of survey respondents feel the packaged soup is too processed.

 

Inconvenience. Previous generations looked at soup as easy or even convenient. In today’s on-the-go society, however, few want to take the time to add water to or heat soup to the optimal eating temperature. Nearly 30% of parents reported to Mintel that soup is inconvenient to feed to their children.

 

In spite of these perceived negative factors, there are some compelling reasons to think that soup’s fortunes may rebound. Consider the following:

 

Dieting. Turns out that soup is really complimentary to many of the latest dietary trends. Intermittent fasting? Consider a soup reset! Vegan? Soups can be loaded with hearty vegetables. Whole 30 soups? Dozens of them, if not more. Eating lots of meat and higher fat contents? Yeah, soup can do that, too.

 

Tastes. Soups are relatively easy to innovate to cater to the bold, cultural tastes favored by younger consumers. Soups can evolve with these tastes, but they’ll need to get out of the stale center isle of grocery stores.

 

Packaging. Innovation in the way soup is processed and packaged may help shelf stable soups regain popularity. Soups packaged in cartons like Tetra Recart™—a retortable carton that features a thin layer of metal film inside renewable paperboard—offer  lower sodium content and more nutrients to comparable canned soups. These cartons have a thinner profile which enables a more rapid heat transfer, resulting in up to  a 30–40% reduction in processing time. Less heat exposure means less degradation and improved taste with less salt, color, and flavor along with lower nutrient losses.

 

“Soup really never went anywhere, the cateogry just needs to be re-imagined a bit,  says Pawel Marciniak, President of IPM Foods. “The newer, on-trend soups you see are often in cartons. And, if you look at the ingredients of those soups you’ll notice lower sodium and claims of more natural, better tasting products.”

 

As an exclusive Tetra Recart™ partner in North American, IPM Foods in helping to innovate the packaged foods industry—including soups. To discuss a packaging audit or to learn more, contact an IPM Foods representative today.

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