Several niche segment brands and products have come and gone in recent years – Medlie from Sonoma Brands (formerly Züpa Noma, Drinkable Veggies line from Bonafide Provisions, Mucho Gazpacho, among others) – suggesting that consumers were not not quite in love with the idea of drinking their soup.
However, dollar sales and year-over-year unit sales of the chilled soup category (which includes ready-to-heat soups and chilled ready-to-drink soups) may paint a different picture.
According to SPINS data for the year to October 2, 2022, chilled soup dollar sales increased +20.3% year-over-year to $819.2 million across channels. retail sales measured*, while unit sales increased by +11.3%. The double-digit growth comes on top of an already strong 2020-2021 year where dollar sales increased by +18.3% and unit sales increased by +11.6%.
Within the total soup category, chilled soup was the best performing sub-segment of the entire soup category, ahead of frozen and shelf stable.
Key segments 52 weeks to October 2, 2022 (dollar sales, US retail):
- Total soup: +8.8% to $6.57 billion
- RTE shelf-stable soup: +7% to $3.81 billion
- Chilled soup: +20.3% to $819.2 million
- Frozen soup: +1.8% to $74.1 million
- Shelf stable soup mixes: +22.9% to $398.37 million
Siempre Soups: “It wasn’t the category, it was the product-market fit”
Alison Velázquez, founder of refrigerated soup brand Siempre Soups (formerly Skinny Souping), said that instead of cutting the category, the company is “double” by entering new retail accounts and expanding store areas.
“The chilled soup subcategory is the fastest growing category and it continues to grow,” said Velázquez, who launched the brand in 2016.
Velázquez acknowledged that the category has shrunk to a few players over the past few years.
“There were a lot of players who tried to establish themselves and they went broke. We’ve seen more than a dozen competitors like that over the years. It wasn’t the category, it was the category. product-market fit,noted Velázquez who said some products relied too much on a beverage identity.
“What a lot of competitors have tried to do is position themselves as a drink, where we’re very clear that we’re a meal,”she says.
Although it’s sold as a chilled, ready-to-eat soup that can be consumed straight from the large plastic bottle, Velázquez said the brand has never focused on being a “drinkable”soup, but more of a fresh and convenient meal option. Emphasizing its fresh food credentials bodes well for the brand, as consumer interest in convenient fresh food options is a trend that will never fade, Velázquez noted.
“Fresh Food Goes Nowhere”she says.
While committed to expanding her line of chilled soups, Velázquez sees further growth opportunities in shelf stable soups and has launched a complementary line of shelf stable soup pouches, which she described as a little more hearty with flavors such as Vegan Beef Chili (using Beyond Meat), Vegan Chick’n & Rice, Vegetable Lentils and Tomato Basil.
“I think it’s going to be really confusing when you see the stable shelf line on the shelf,”said Velázquez, who noted that she anticipated some consumer overlap between her refrigerated and shelf-stable line, but in general, the shelf-stable line would take advantage of a new eating opportunity for consumers.
Asked about investor interest, Velázquez said Siempre Soups was in the midst of a fundraising round to fuel its next chapter of growth, as she noted that investors are still excited about the future of the soup category. in refrigerated and shelf stable categories.
“We double the soup. Even if we get a small piece of the $8 billion soup category, that would be very significant,”she says.