- Posted April 21, 2014 by
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What is The Most Popular Soup in The US?
The Campbell Soup Company (NYSE: CPB) has been claiming that its chicken noodle soup, tomato soup and cream of mushroom soup are among the top 10 food items sold in grocery stores each week. This holds true based on IRI Scanner data for shelf-stable grocery food items, which includes canned and packaged goods, as well as chocolates and candies.
IRI Scanner data shows that Campbell’s chicken noodle soup has consistently been leading the soup category but only second to Maruchan chicken ramen noodle soup. The two chicken noodle soup brands are followed by tomato soup and at times by Nissin Top Ramen chicken ramen noodle dry soup. In the end, it is quite clear that the chicken noodle soup remains the most popular soup variant in the United States.
Made from water, vegetables, chicken and noodles, the classic chicken noodle soup has become a favorite food during cold weather and as a convenient source of nutrition. The famous book series Chicken Soup for the Soul was named after it because the editors “wanted it to soothe and provide comfort, just like their grandmothers’ cooking.”
In the packaged food industry, every brand has their own version of chicken noodle soup. In Amazon alone, there are more than a thousand chicken soups to choose from, second only to the vegetable soup category.
Browsing soup reviews online, it is difficult to decide on what the best chicken noodle soup brand is. While Campbell’s and Maruchan sold a lot, they also received mixed reviews.
Campbell’s chicken noodle soup
Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in January 2014, sold more than 200 million cans last year in the United States alone. Undeniably, it is an important innovation in the food industry as the first soup of its kind. After all, Campbell was the company that invented condensed soup and its chicken noodle soup, created in 1934, is among America’s oldest products that still make it to the bestseller’s list. However, many reviewers didn’t like its high salt content. On the other hand, a review by The Daily Meal listed Campbell’s Chunky classic chicken noodle soup as its top choice when it comes to canned chicken noodle soup.
Through the years, Campbell’s have come out with several product lines catering to niche markets. It is a necessary move to keep consumer interest while maintaining its classic products. This is why its chicken noodle soup now comes in many versions – from the classic condensed soup to the “chunky” version with large pieces of chicken and vegetables. Campbell’s also has chicken noodle soup in its “homestyle” and “healthy request” product lines.
Progresso’s chicken noodle soup
But what is interesting to note is that in many of the reviews, Campbell’s was overshadowed by its rival Progresso.
Progresso, which is the soup division of food giant General Mills (NYSE: GIS), has been positioning itself as a healthier and upmarket alternative to Campbell’s. It came in larger cans that were ready to eat as opposed to condensed soup, which must be prepared first by adding water.
It is said that Campbell’s came out with its “chunky” line in response to Progresso, which was known for the large pieces of vegetables or meat in its soups. Campbell’s also eventually started selling ready to eat microwaveable soups.
In both reviews of Huffington Post and Epicurious, Progresso bagged the best chicken noodle soup title based on blind taste tests.
Progresso’s traditional hearty chicken and rotini was voted best out of 11 soup brands by Huffington Post, followed by Campbell’s 100% natural chicken with egg noodles and condensed noodle soup. The chicken and rotini was said to have tasted “like vegetable soup from childhood” and the chunks of chicken “believable” as opposed to other canned noodles that. One reviewer said “the chicken flavor is very evident in the broth.”
Unlike Campbell’s that was usually criticized for its high sodium content, Progresso is less salty and is packaged towards health-conscious consumers.
In Epicurious’ review, Progresso’s traditional 99% fat free chicken noodle soup won “Best Overall Chicken Noodle Soup” for its homey taste and “big, firm pieces of carrots and celery, toothsome curly noodles, and large chicken chunks.” Its traditional chicken noodle soup also won in the “traditional” category for its “rich herb-filled broth.”
Besides the trend to go organic, fat-free or healthy, the soup market is currently expanding to accommodate brands that cater to sophisticated tastes – consumers who want more than just the canned soup experience.
Analysts believe that while canned soup sales are declining, the industry will continue to achieve increasing retail value because of a shift towards higher quality and high cost products.
With the economy recovering, unemployment is addressed and more jobs mean more busy people looking for convenient but tasty meals. With higher incomes, consumers are able to demand or buy food items that cater not only to both their needs and wants.
Gourmet soup has become a viable product in the past few years. Unfortunately, its niche market limits its exposure to mainstream consumer.
One notable brand with a popular chicken noodle soup version is The Original Soupman (OTCQB: SOUP - http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=SOUP), which started out in 1984 as a soup kitchen.
Buyers on Amazon called it “quite delicious and satisfying” for a “convenience food” though a little pricey compared to its canned counterparts. Some mentioned its restaurants in New York, saying the packed soup is the “next best thing [to] getting it fresh in NYC.” While another one said standing in line in the cold for Soupman’s (http://originalsoupman.com/) chicken noodle soup is worth it.
Soupman has gained notoriety for the long line of people that is often seen outside its soup kitchens or food trucks. Its popularity and iconic founder Al Yeganeh resulted in the creation of the character “Soup Nazi” in the famous sitcom Seinfeld.
One reviewer, who writes at ALuckyLadyBuy.com, said Soupman’s chicken noodle soup was “the most unique tasting chicken noodle” she had tasted in a long time. “I don’t have a clue what the seasoning is…but it had a potent flavor” that complemented the vegetables and noodles, she said.
In addition to chicken noodle soup, Soupman has more than 40 varieties, many of which are considered “exotic” or “gourmet.” The company prides itself in its unique flavors, like jambalaya and eggplant parmesan soup, and the fact that its soup is not mass produced. The soup is “slow-cooked in small batches” and packed in Tetra Pak pouches instead of cans.
Powder-based chicken soup
In addition to canned or packaged ready to eat soup, there are also powder-based or dry variants like Maruchan.
For Epicurious, however, the best in the category is Nissin Cup Noodles Chicken Flavor and Lipton Soup Secrets Chicken Noodle. Both are in pouches filled with dry noodles and soup seasoning.
Nissin Cup Noodles was cited for the slightly sweet flavor and corn kernels, as well as the vegetable seasoning while Lipton Soup Secrets won over the judges with its “buttery noodles and foamy broth.”
Chicken noodle soup continues to endear consumers with its satisfying taste and savory broth. With many still in search for packaged soup that tastes like chicken noodle soup from home, there are still a hundred or so brands and variants to choose from. Consumers will just have to decide on their cup of tea, or in this case, soup – be it canned, ready-to-eat or in powder form.