Recent stirrings within the food industry show companies adapting to face changing consumer demand for breakfast items, soda and even soup packaging. Consumers still want what's inside—even if it comes in different flavors—but the last year has a presented numerous indications that canned soup products may be falling out of style in the U.S.
Pouches, cartons and little plastic cups make up a range of containers that the soup industry's heavy hitters are using to stay in the game. So who's betting on soup that doesn't come in cans? Just take a look.
SIGNS OF FRUSTRATION
"What I continuously [hear is that], consumers don't want to buy soup in cans today," Hain Celestial CEO Irwin Simon recently said during his company's fourth-quarter earnings call.
(Image credit: Facebook)
According to Irwin, the canned soup category is in decline. In the meantime, Hain is looking to can alternatives, including products in its tetra recart and aseptic soup category. Irwin's comments, of course, came in the context of talking up Hain's new chilled soup offerings, but he isn't alone with his outlook.
Campbell Soup Company has seen hard times for cans as well. Just last year, Campbell cut more than 700 jobs as it closed two plants in Sacramento, Calif., and South Plainfield, N.J. The move makes sense when viewed through the lens of data from Euromonitor International, which shows canned soup consumption dropping 13% over the past decade.
The soup market continues to heat up, as grocery stores offer their own options, which are prepared on-site. Irwin noted this in his earnings call comments. He explained that Hain wants to compete with stores' chilled soups, and his company's edge may come from cartons that give its New Covent Garden soups a shelf life of nearly two weeks—days longer than what's being poured near deli counters.
NEW SOUP OPTIONS ON THE MARKET
As recently as Wednesday, Campbell made its own splash in headlines by announcing a new partnership that will serve its soup in a new way—and give it some new retail exposure. Campbell's Fresh-Brewed Soup K-Cups will begin rolling out for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.'s Keurig machines, offering a new product that is easy to prepare, available on coffee and department store shelves and packaged in little cups, rather than cans.
(Image credit: Campbell Soup Company)
The K-Cup rollout follows the release of Campbell's Go soups, a move intended to drive soup sales among younger audiences with colorful pouch packaging.
Campbell reported a $158 million loss for its most recent quarter, and the company pointed to innovations such as its Go products and non-soup offerings as signs for hope. If everything works out, success in those categories could lead to sales growth of 6% in this fiscal year.
(Image credit: Campbell Soup Company)
WHAT CONSUMERS ULTIMATELY WANT
Bother younger and older consumers are adopting tastes for bolder pairing and textures, Euromonitor found. The research firm looked at what's ahead for soups in its January 2013 "Soup in the US" report. Its findings predicted the rise of new flavors and "ingredients such as chorizo, shitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes and curry" in soups.
Even if the overall soup category grows by 6% to reach $4.7 billion by 2017, as Euromonitor predicted, new premium and "health and wellness-oriented" products are expected to drive that growth. The report specifically cited Campbell's Go soups as one of the company's potential options for winning back customers.
In the meantime, there is still plenty of room for competition as new soup flavors launch. Whether those soups come in pouches, cartons or even self-heating containers similar to Canada Dry's new Hot Ginger Ale release, only time will tell. But the one thing is obvious. The soups that win new marketshare in the coming years are not likely to come from traditional cans.
Would you like to see more food and beverage industry news and information like this in your inbox on a daily basis? Subscribe to our Food Dive email newsletter! You may also want to check out Food Dive's look at 8 food journalists you should follow on Twitter.