Representing a $265 million category, the refrigerated soup segment is only a small slice of the much larger $5.9 billion soup category, but it is growing fast – making it an attractive growth opportunity for Garden Fresh Gourmet, Diego Norris, VP of marketing for the company, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Specifically, he said, the segment grew around 9.4% so far in 2016 and is expected to grow a whopping 44% by 2020 from 2016.
“That is about $115 million in growth that we will see between now and 2020,” he added.
Several macro-trends are fueling this growth, including consumers’ shift towards fresh foods, Norris said, noting that he has seen figures estimating 78% of consumers are trying to eat more fresh foods.
“Generally we see this migration from the center of the store towards the perimeter of the store and more specifically fresh products and refrigerated products,” Norris said. “That shift is actually more pronounced even for millennials. So when you look at how millennials consume foods and the foods they buy there actually are about twice as many millennials versus all other age groups that shop the perimeter of the store for groceries.”
He noted that as millennials continue to age and the next generation comes up behind them, that shift towards fresh foods will become even more significant.
Familiar flavors with a modern twist
Reflecting on these changes and opportunity, Norris added, the refrigerated soup space “is a great place to be right now and we are excited to launch a new line to really help us continue to expand our presence.”
The new line of 24-ounce refrigerated soups hitting shelves in October features familiar flavors but with a “modern, culinary twist,” including on-trend ingredients such as kale in chicken noodle soup and roasted chilies in chicken tortilla soup, Norris said. The line also elevates iconic flavors with premium ingredients, including the addition of Parmesan to the tomato soup and to the broccoli cheddar option.
“Our chefs really started to push the envelope and try to think about what are the best possible combinations that would deliver against the flavor profile. And that process evolved with co-creation from consumers,” who tried the soups and provided feedback for the chefs to incorporate into the finished line-up, he added.
The competitive landscape
The updated but still-familiar flavors help set Garden Fresh Gourmet’s products apart from other players in the nascent refrigerated soup segment, Norris explained.
“Certainly, you have seen a lot of competition in this segment, especially in the past couple of years, and in general we are seeing two things,” Norris said. “We are seeing some of the more established companies that are moving into the space with more traditional flavors, but we are also seeing some niche type offerings where companies are trying to develop and deliver soups that, for example, are consumed cold for souping,” which is a spin on juicing.
Small batch production resonates with consumers
Garden Fresh Gourmet sets its soups apart not only with the familiar yet fresh flavors, but by making them in small batches, Norris said.
“Garden Fresh Gourmet is really focused on small batch production and it has been since day one,” Norris said, adding that small batch production “is really almost obsessive about some of the details and really crafting these products with a lot of care,” such as in how the company cuts the vegetables, which can be hard to do with large batches.
He also noted that small batch appeals to today’s consumers because they view it as “a little bit more progressive and having more connection to their community,” and the local food movement.
Small batch also signals to consumers that the product is made with clean ingredients, Norris said. He explained that Garden Fresh Gourmet’s soups meet this by using premium ingredients and being free from artificial flavors and sweeteners, using no artificial preservatives or bleached flour and no MSG or partially hydrogenated oils or hydrolyzed soy protein.
“The things you can find your pantry or your kitchen are the types of things consumers feel about eating and that is really a great advantage for our line, in addition to their great taste and the fact that they are clean,” Norris added.
Building consumer awareness
As the line launches, the company will build consumer awareness around the presence of soup outside of the canned goods aisle by reaching out its existing base of consumers who buy its fresh salsas, hummus and dips, Norris said.
It also will sample the soups in stores and emphasize the fresh ingredients, he added.
Plus, he said, consumers who already shop the perimeter of the store will organically discover the soups as they peruse the different sections of the store.