Sip it from a cup, slurp it from a spoon – it’s the perfect last-minute lunch option for ravenous school kids, or a quick and nutritious meal in-between work and soccer practice. Only a few turns of the can-opener, five minutes on the stove, a couple stirs and presto – soup is served. Through much of history, soup has been a simple option, requiring nothing more than boiling a chunk of meat in water to create a warm, nourishing broth. Historical references to soup date back about 9,000 years ago, although some anthropologists now believe that soup was likely a staple of the Neanderthal diet suggesting its true origins are more like 300,000 years ago! While homemade soup is still very popular, soup made from scratch has become somewhat of a lost art in today’s fast-paced lifestyle. But the popularity of soup has not diminished and there is no shortage of convenient options for today’s soup savvy consumer-dried, chilled, canned, ready-to-eat, low-cal, low-sodium, gluten-free, organic – all offered in an endless selection of flavours.
Condensed soups arrived on the scene in 1897 thanks to Dr. John Dorrance, a chemist at Campbell, and they have been a mainstay in our canned good repertoire ever since. Although this segment of the processed soup category has declined as ready-to-eat and fresh soups have become more widely available, Canadians remain big fans, consuming it on average more than three times a month. In two recent product tests, we measured the sensory performance of condensed tomato soup and mushroom soup to explore whether the brands competing in this space all taste equally souper!
We recruited 50 females between the ages of 25 and 54 from the Greater Toronto Area who are the primary grocery shopper in the household and who were regular consumers of condensed soup. Within each test, four regular full-flavour brands were presented blind in varied order, with each participant evaluating 4 ounces of each sample. The soups were prepared using a combination of half water, half milk – despite the fact that instructions on the cans recommended water only. On this note, we asked participants how they normally prepare it at home and they were equally divided between water only, milk only, and a combination of the two.
These days canned condensed soups may not carry the same panache and excitement as the barrage of new pantry options that are competing for share of the shopping basket. But for a product that carries much of the same taste and benefits as it did when it was first introduced 120 years ago, it is a shining example of how a simple product which delivers value and consistency, can have extraordinary staying power. While there may be temptations to change it up in order to compete with the latest ‘soup of the day’ and deliver to shifting consumer food trends and tastes, for some products, change comes at a big risk. And if your mission is taking on a competitor in a space where consumer tastes have been conditioned over time and brand loyalties run deep, staying close to the existing consumer-endorsed template maybe the only way to avoid getting ‘bowled’ over.
Click here to learn more about our condensed soup case study results.
For questions about this research, or how you can leverage consumer taste buds in your business, contact Andrew Scholes at firstname.lastname@example.org