Campbell’s K-Cup “fresh brewed soup” was launched in 2014. Initially there was a lot of fanfare for these little cups of powdered broth, which came with a packet of dried vegetables and noodles.
“Consumers are looking for snacks that serve as mini-meals to satisfy hunger, and there is an increasing need for ultra-convenient options,” said Campbell CEO Denise Morrison back in 2013.
A spokesperson from Campbell told FoodNavigator-USA that “over time, the product has not performed to our expectations so we made the difficult decision to discontinue it from stores in April.”
Moving away from instant convenience
“As America shies away more and more from pre-packaged process foods, launches like this become a real toss of the dice,” Lori Colman, founder of Chicago-based CBD Marketing, told FoodNavigator-USA.
The environmental impact of K-Cups, Colman added, is one thing that may be put to blame to the product’s short life. “Keurig sales continue to slip,” she said. “We never had one in our office largely because of the environmental impact of the pods was upsetting to our employees, and a calculated $50 per pound of coffee was upsetting to me.”
Thomas Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director at Canadean was harder on the product’s concept to begin with. “Campbell’s Keurig K-Cups were a convoluted, expensive solution to a problem that did not exist,” he said. “The Keurig product really didn’t offer anything that topped either of those concepts – and certainly not at the price point Campbell was seeking.”
Colman concurred: “A can or packet of traditional soup isn’t difficult to begin with, so there is limited personal time savings/benefit to this serving option.”
For reference, a box of 8 Campbell K-Cup’s with the vegetable and noodle packet retailed for $11.99, based on Keurig’s online store pricing.
What Campbell learned
“While distribution and trial met our expectations, repeat purchases were not at the rate we expected,” the Campbell spokesperson said.
“One reason is that the product was designed to be a convenient, light mid-afternoon snack, but many people chose to eat it at lunch. In these occasions, they found Fresh Brewed Soups to not be as filling as our traditional soups,” she added.
But outside analysts and marketing experts believe there are more takeaways. Rallying consumers during the two year gap between product announcement and launch was one of them. “This delay was one of the longest I can remember from launch announcement to actual appearance on-shelf,” Vierhile said.
A survey by Canadean in 2014 found that soup ranked 25th out of 33 products ranked by the percentage of consumers that say they “often experiment with buying new products.” In other words, consumers don’t really seek novelty for soup. “I just think ‘soup in the coffee maker’ concept turns many people off,” Colman said.
But the low number of SKUs made it even harder to target and tap into the few consumers that want to experiment, let alone converting consumers to becoming interested. “The shelving for the product was [odd],” Vierhile said.
“It could be found in either the coffee aisle, or the soup aisle. It looked lonely and out-of-place in the coffee aisle, and it also looked lost in the soup aisle given the low number of SKUs for the launch.”