FERNDALE, MICH. — Garden Fresh Gourmet is launching a new soup line, a move that may appear to be a page out of the playbook of its parent company, the Campbell Soup Co.
|Diego Norris, vice-president of marketing for Garden Fresh Gourmet|
“We actually operate fairly independently from the Campbell Soup Co., so these ideas came from some of the consumer trends that we saw in the marketplace and some of our expertise,” said Diego Norris, vice-president of marketing for Garden Fresh Gourmet.
While the inspiration for creating a soup line originated from within Garden Fresh, having Campbell employees contributing didn’t hurt.
“A lot of our team has the expertise from Campbell Soup, so it’s natural to try to leverage some of our knowledge and combine what makes Garden Fresh special with that expertise and opportunities that exist in the market,” Mr. Norris said.
The new line of small batch Garden Fresh Gourmet soups marks the brand’s first foray into the soup category. Garden Fresh also offers refrigerated salsa, dips and hummus as well as chips.
Garden Fresh Gourmet’s step into the soup segment is a response to several consumer trends, Mr. Norris said, including the shift toward fresh and refrigerated foods as well as a call for more recognizable ingredients.
“We saw an opportunity to develop a new line of refrigerated soups that bring some of the slow batch production into the category to offer more variety to consumers,” Mr. Norris said. “We felt that was something that was missing and that consumers were really looking for. So we saw an opportunity to fill that void. Specifically, what we heard from consumers is that they wanted products that were made with recognizable ingredients, that had familiar flavors they knew and love but had more of a modern or culinary twist and that were produced in small batches.”
Garden Fresh Gourmet soups are chef-developed and chef-inspired, Mr. Norris said. They are crafted in small batches with no artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives and no bleached flour, MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, hydrolyzed soy protein or high-fructose corn syrup. Instead, the soups boast garden vegetables and herbs paired with ingredients such as white meat chicken, beans, kale and ancient grains.
“We always try to make sure that, when you read the label of our product, you are able to recognize what you’re reading, and it actually takes a lot more work to make that happen and make that possible,” Mr. Norris said. “But it’s important, because our consumers really look for that.”
To whittle down the soup line to the final four recipes that met the company’s clean standards, Garden Fresh collaborated with both chefs and consumers.
“We did a really broad exploration when we started developing the actual flavors,” Mr. Norris said. “We took some time to speak with current Garden Fresh consumers and shared lots of chef recipes with them, and based on their feedback, we refined those recipes and shared them back with the group again to get additional feedback. There were several rounds of iteration until consumers were just really excited about what they were tasting. That’s when we knew we had a winning combination, a winning set of recipes.”
The four Garden Fresh Gourmet soups that made the cut are all classic recipes with a twist: chicken noodle with kale, chicken tortilla with roasted chiles, broccoli cheddar with Parmesan, and tomato with Parmesan.“Consumers love those basic recipes, the top performing flavors in the category like chicken noodle, chicken tortilla, broccoli cheddar, tomato … those are the flavors they’re looking for,” Mr. Norris said. “At the same time, we felt that it was important to provide a little bit of a modern twist, which is very true to what we’ve been known for. We are culinary, we are gourmet … after all, it’s part of our name. So adding those little touches like adding kale to chicken noodle or roasted chilies to chicken tortilla or Parmesan to broccoli cheddar and the tomato recipe, that just provides a little bit of a twist to a flavor that consumers already know and love and that they’re very comfortable with. It gives that extra little thing that makes you feel like you’re eating something special.”