The shelf-stable soup category aims for broader appeal — and bigger sales.
There's a youth movement afoot in the center store soup aisle.
To publicize its recently introduced Go soup line, The Campbell Soup Co. late last year launched the "Campbell's Go soup Communal Tables" program, which invited millennials in New York and Chicago to enjoy food and lively conversation. The program was part of a wider marketing campaign to spark the demographic group's passion for food, humor, music and gaming via original content and socializing.
According to Darren Serrao, VP innovation and business development at Camden, N.J.-based Campbell: "Our Campbell team traveled around the world, meeting with millennials and experiencing firsthand what excites them. Eating from food trucks, at their favorite neighborhood restaurants and in their own kitchens, we learned about their preference for bold, adventurous flavors in food. Bringing millennials together at these communal tables is a great way to get them excited about what their generational peers helped create and offer them the opportunity to connect with influential subject matter experts about topics that interest them."
Additionally, in recognition of millennials' affinity for social media, Campbell's Go marketing campaign highlights digital communications, including a Facebook page, a partnership with social news organization BuzzFeed to develop shareable social content on BuzzFeed.com, a collaboration with digital music service Spotify to create custom playlists inspired by Go soups, and a launch sponsorship for Rovio Entertainment's Angry Birds Star Wars game.
This demographic is also much on the mind of Tualatin, Wash.-based Pacific Natural Foods, whose latest soup items include the Soup Starters product line. "Tools and technology such as smartphones, Facebook, online shopping and online recipe sites play a factor in our approach," notes Sibel Candemir, senior brand manager for soup and broth. "For example, many of our products contain on-pack QR codes with access to recipes and shopping lists, which especially appeals to the millennial generation looking for an integrated mobile experience while shopping."
Additionally, Pacific "created a how-to video that demonstrates the easy steps to create an authentic bowl of Vietnamese Pho using our Soup Starters," says Candemir. "The videos are accessible via the QR codes on packaging as well our website and Facebook page."
Millennials aren't the only ones in soup companies' sights, however. "Campbell is looking to reinvigorate the soup aisle and attract new consumer segments into the Campbell franchise with restaurant-inspired, bold flavors that are culturally relevant to new consumer segments," explains Jason Homola, director customer developmentsoup. "Campbell's three new varieties of Chunky soup are sure to appeal to guys who are looking for [the] bolder flavors" of chipotle, buffalo and jerk.
To that end, the company resurrected its "Mama's Boy" advertising campaign this season, starring Victor Cruz, New York Giants wide receiver and Super Bowl XLVI champion. "By reprising the successful campaign, Campbell is strengthening the brand's connection with the core Chunky soup eater and fully leveraging its NFL sponsorship," Homola says.
Soup for All
Among newer soup lines, The Original SoupMan, a brand inspired by the infamous line "No soup for you!" from an episode of the '90s sitcom "Seinfeld," has been making a lot of noise since gaining national distribution last October.
According to Arnold Casale, CEO of Staten Island, N.Y.-based parent company SoupMan Inc., the brand's recent marketing programs include in-store appearances at multiple retailers of celebrity partners Shaquille O'Neal, Jason Alexander (the "Seinfeld" co-star has also filmed a series of online promotional videos) and Reggie Jackson; milk carton advertising at Safeway, featuring promotional stickers and a Facebook sweepstakes offering the chance to win Soup with Shaq; a "Soup & Salad" promotion at H-E-B in which shoppers who bought any one The Original SoupMan carton got a free H-E-B brand bagged salad; and double-side, backlit advertising atop almost 200 cabs in the Chicago area, generating nearly 1.6 million impressions daily.
Starting this month, continues Casale, The Original SoupMan will support sales at various A&P banners through such initiatives as digital/ online offers; e-mail blasts informing recipients of hot price points via weekly alerts, general product news and in-store events; Facebook posts; and a targeted postcard mailer with a coupon offer.
Additionally, later in 2013, The Original SoupMan will introduce six all-natural varieties, including Broccoli & Cheese and Chicken Gumbo, to replace the line's existing four SKUs, according to Casale, who notes that additional varieties are on the way, along with more recipe ideas online.
Alongside such comprehensive manufacturer approaches, retailers are implementing their own successful in-store tactics to keep soup selling. "During the soup season, we have a dedicated end cap — we alternate the top brands and aggressively cross-merchandise these end caps with crackers, bread, etc.," says Greg Oldright, director of center store at Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets. "As a result, it's been a solid sales generator, and we have outperformed the market in the soup category. The key for us is solid planning, followed up with strong in-store execution — it's worked very well for us."
The two main category trends "picking up steam" that Oldright has noticed are "an uptick in interest for low- and light-sodium soups [that] we expect … to continue," and "soup … as a recipe starter in more sophisticated ways, often for healthier, lighter meals."
George Zoitas, CEO of four-store Westside Market NYC in New York, has also observed health-conscious shoppers reaching for better-for-you shelf-stable options, as well as "a move towards eco-friendly packaging, which helps to maintain the taste of the soup, and, of course, is better for the environment." Not surprisingly, Zoitas sees an increase in consumption and sales during colder weather, when consumers crave hot, filling but convenient meals.
In response to retail demand for healthier products, Somerset, N.J.-based Tabatchnick Fine Foods has "developed a line of single-serve reduced-sodium soups, kosher and all-natural," according to CEO Ben Tabatchnick. The line is expected to hit retail this spring.
"Our light-in-sodium creamy soups have had a strong appeal, especially among baby boomers looking for better-for-you options," asserts Pacific's Candemir, who says that "in-store sampling tours have been instrumental in driving awareness and trial of our new soup flavors," leading to a "significant sales lift."
Waukegan, Ill.-based Frontier Soups, which plans to debut its latest mix at the Summer Fancy Food Show, similarly courts a more nutritionally aware consumer. "Since our mixes are all-natural with no added salt, MSG or preservatives, we typically attract a more health- and nutrition-conscious consumer who wants convenience, but does not want to sacrifice authentic homemade taste," notes company founder Trish Anderson, adding that beyond catering to general health needs, "we have 28 mixes that are gluten-free and 13 that are vegetarian, either as prepared or with easy variations or omissions."
The company offers a range of display options, including stand-alone displays and clip strips that enable easy cross-merchandising, and collaborates with retailers such as Ohio-based Jungle Jim's International Market on tastings and demos. "The usual result is that not only do we see a boost in sales for our soups, but retailers also like that Frontier Soups demos encourage consumers to pick up the additional grocery items needed to complete each soup," observes Anderson.
And when it comes to sustainable packaging, SoupMan, Pacific and Tabatchnick offer items in BPA-free Tetra Pak cartons made from renewable, recyclable paperboard. "We definitely see other brands moving away from cans in the coming year," Candemir observes, "as consumers begin to prefer and demand BPA-free packaging."
For more about soup, visit Progressivegrocer.com/soup.
"Campbell is looking to reinvigorate the soup aisle and attract new consumer segments into the Campbell franchise with restaurant-inspired, bold flavors that are culturally relevant to new consumer segments."
—Jason Homola, The Campbell Soup Co.
"Tools and technology such as smartphones, Facebook, online shopping and online recipe sites play a factor in our approach."
— Sibel Candemir, Pacific Natural Foods