Soup manufacturers are turning to ancient grains, organic ingredients and bold flavors.

Soup, sauce makers seek to capitalize on consumer trends

Manufacturers of soups, sauces and condiments in 2017 all were looking to avoid declines associated with center-of-store categories. They were turning to ancient grains, organic ingredients and bold flavors.

U.S. retail sales of ready-to-serve soup slipped 3% to $1,669 million in the 52-week period ended July 9, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. Sales were down 0.8% to $1,532 million in the condensed wet soup category.


Soup sales for the Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., declined 1% in the fiscal year ended July 30. The company expects another decline in fiscal 2018 as it failed to reach an agreement on a promotional program with a larger customer.

The Well Yes! brand of soup should be a source of innovation, Campbell Soup said of these soup varieties. Some of the varieties are Cajun red bean and vegetable, black bean with red quinoa, and tomato carrot bisque.

Campbell Soup planned to launch five more Well Yes! varieties in this year’s soup season, said Denise M. Morrison, president and chief executive officer, in an Aug. 31 earnings call.

Campbell's Chunky Maxx soup
Campbell Soup recently launched the new Chunky Maxx line with 40% more protein.

“We have compelling brand partnerships with popular movie franchises to drive our kids’ soups,” she said. “We’re rolling out innovation in Swanson broth. We have robust holiday plans across the portfolio. We’re launching the new Chunky Maxx line with 40% more protein, and we have strong integrated marketing, including a new Chunky campaign that fully leverages our NFL (National Football League) sponsorship.”

Campbell Soup seemed to be doing better than other companies in the soup category, according to data from I.R.I.


“For the 52-week period ending July 30, 2017, the category as a whole declined 40 basis points,” said Anthony P. DiSilvestro, chief financial officer and senior vice-president for the Campbell Soup Co., in the Aug. 31 call. “Our sales performance was better than the category, declining just 10 basis points. We had a 58.8% market share for the 52-week period, and as we outperformed the category, we gained 20 basis points of market share. Our share gains in ready-to-serve reflected improved performance with Chunky and the launch of Well Yes! and were mostly offset by lower share in broth, which was impacted by increased private label activity.”

General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, this fall planned to launch a line of organic soup varieties under the Progresso brand. The introductions would follow two 2016 launches. Progresso chicken soup varieties came with antibiotic-free and hormone-free chicken breasts last year while a vegan line called Good Natured Soups used different bean varieties and vegetable purees to create a creamy texture without dairy ingredients.

Diverse sauce flavors

The U.S. market for condiments and sauces reached $24 billion in 2016, according to Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.

The U.S. market for condiments and sauces reached $24 billion in 2016.

“The trend toward healthy eating has created challenges for marketers of sauces and condiments as the perception that sauces and condiments are an unnecessary and unhealthy addition to many foods has made some consumers cut back on consumption,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “As a result, sauces and condiments are increasingly marketed as organic and healthy with new options such as low-sodium or low-sugar varieties supporting restrictive diets.”

Millennials seek new flavors, spicy foods and sauces, according to Packaged Facts. Diverse flavors are appearing, too. Mayonnaise brands feature wasabi, chipotle, pesto, garlic, horseradish and ginger flavors, according to Packaged Facts. Other opportunities for manufacturers of condiments and sauces could be to create gluten-free soy sauce, organic and non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. items, and items lower in sugar, salt and preservatives.