Founder of Skinny Souping, Alison Velazquez, grew up in Mexico where freshly-made soups made from a variety of vegetables, spices, and herbs, were a common fixture at every family meal. Upon moving to Chicago, however, Velazquez found it harder to eat clean and fresh while pursuing a busy life as a wellness and fitness expert.
"At that point in my life, I was basically surviving on protein bars, because I was so busy and there’s only so many protein bars and protein drinks you can have. I was really craving real food and you can’t eat a salad in your car," Velazquez told FoodNavigator-USA.
Velazquez turned to soups as a natural vehicle for high-quality nutrition and fresh ingredients, and had her fitness clientele as the first consumers to test out the 'sip-able' soups packaged in BPA-free plastic containers.
"I had immediate feedback and support with the brand. I realized how many other people had the same problem of eating healthy on the go, and that was the catalyst for Skinny Souping," she said.
Velazquez added that the soup category was also ripe for fresh innovation. According to Nielsen, fresh/chilled ready-to-eat soups sales are outpacing its center-store canned counterparts (year-over-year growth of 16% vs. 1%, respectively, for the 52 weeks ended May 5, 2018).
"Soup is totally overlooked, and the cool thing about it is you can mix and puree so much nutrition into this one little bowl [or portable container]," she said.
Velazquez is also the author of Souping, a health book with over 85 nutrient-dense soup recipes published in 11 different languages.
'I don’t see souping as a trend'
Unlike the relatively recent juicing phenomenon which has consumers religiously following juice cleanses, Velazquez sees the souping lifestyle as a much more sustainable and enduring consumer behavior compared to juicing.
"What makes soup so much more powerful than a juice is you can pack in so many nutrients. You can add everything from spices to herbs and so many other ingredients that wouldn't necessarily work well with a juice," Velazquez noted.
Skinny Souping's line ranges from 110 to 270 calories per 16-ounce container, all with low sugar content (highest being 11 grams of sugar for its red pepper chickpea basil variety) and packed with dietary fiber.
Velazquez, who holds a degree in culinary arts from Kendall College, shared that the recipes were built around achieving certain macro nutrients across its six flavors: butternut squash coconut curry, tomato and ancient grains, broccoli lemon arugula, carrot lentil turmeric, spicy super greens, and red pepper chickpea basil.
"I wanted to them to be broad and all encompassing, so there’s something for everybody and I wanted to make sure that the soups could be delicious hot or cold," Velazquez said, pointing out that its BPA-free plastic 16-ounce container means the soups can be safely microwaved. Each soup has a shelf-life of 75 days (without the use of preservatives) after purchasing. According to the company, the soups can also be placed in the freezer to extend the shelf life even further.
"Unlike other brands where you typically see the top two SKUs selling the bulk of the product, we sell pretty evenly across all SKUs. That really speaks to the diversity of the flavors and the nutritional profiles."
'We wanted to build out the Midwest first'
The company has a strong distribution footprint in its home market of the Midwest, where it's sold in all Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, and Mariano's stores. According to Velazquez, the brand's online business has allowed it to tap into other markets where her team is seeing a surge in demand for its portable nutrient-dense soups.
"We knew we wanted to build out the Midwest first because this was where the brand was born and raised," Velazquez said.
"[Through its online business] We have consumers all across the country. We’re slowly but surely making our way across the country -- we're kicking off in East Coast pretty soon," she said.
While some eating trends and diet regimes may come and go, Velazquez believes souping is built to withstand the fluctuations of market trends.
"We really look at it as targeting individuals who are looking to eat healthy and in need of product that’s clean label, convenient, and delicious," she said. "I don’t see souping as a trend, because it's not going anywhere."