Millions of people consume canned soup every day. When sensory testing popular brands of chicken noodle soups in cans and boxes we discovered a few commonalities. Certain popular soup brands are easily recognizable by consumers, and a blind taste test reveals that the marketplace is open if a company can nail down the sensory characteristics that will cause a consumer to choose one over the other.
By far the most popular canned chicken noodle soup choice was described as having the taste of a vegetable soup almost like a homemade soup from childhood. The chicken chunks in the soup were hearty and believable with the chicken flavor being quite evident in the broth. It also had an ever so slight lemony taste. The second most popular choice had a good flavor quality that was described as hearty and salty enough to taste the flavor. Although the broth was flavorful, the chicken within was described as not believable and of a less popular texture. The popularity of the noodles allows this to be a preferred choice even though it lacks in other areas. The next most popular choice was described as being excessively salty, but satisfying nonetheless. The chicken was not appealing for most testers and although they liked the noodle shape and texture, they found the noodles to be bland. The fact that the noodles are thin and mushy seems to be a positive with this choice. The next on the list was an organic chicken noodle soup which consumers found easy to taste the vegetables and garlic. They loved the size of the chicken and found the pieces to be big and bold in your mouth; however, it is unanimous that these chunks do not taste like real chicken. That is important for “chicken” noodle soup, right? The next option was described as having a sweet broth, but not enough overall flavor. They found that texture of the noodles was appealing, but the broth is bland and watery. As we continue, it’s becoming evident that consumers do not like bland soup and will prefer overly salty or flavorful rather than a bland product. Consumer popularity seems to drop off quickly as the next option was described as having huge noodles, but they are undercooked, almost devoid of flavor. Consumers feel that it’s just saltwater with weird plastic tasting noodles, mushy chicken, and with a chemical aftertaste.
Some argue that the canned soup market has seen better days. After decades of sustained growth, the global market has experienced lukewarm growth for the last 4 to 5 years, growing less than 1%. The move away from soup is likely tied to a growing consciousness about the downsides to processed and canned foods. The vast majority of soup is canned, preserved, or both. The can appears to be the least-appreciated part according to consumers. Not only are cans difficult to open, heavy, and harmful to the environment; they’re also perceived to be not fresh. Still canned chicken noodle soup is a billion-dollar industry and understanding what consumers want from a sensory perspective can provide a competitive advantage.
This article is free information from Contract Testing Inc., an established leader in sensory product research and consumer product research for the food, beverage, and (QSR) quick service restaurant industries throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more about the complete scope of product research services, please call 1-905-456-0783 or visit us online at www.contracttesting.com.