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According to the December 2013 “Soup in the U.S.” report from Euromonitor International, “Soup is expected to rebound slightly between 2013 and 2018 and grow by 8 percent in constant value terms to reach $5.4 billion, while volumes are expected to decline by 4 percent.” Dollar share is predicted to grow in spite of declining unit share thanks to higher per-unit prices, with products often gaining added value through premium positioning and/or health-and-wellness rubrics.
The report notes that Campbell Soup Co. still holds a significant share of the market, at 47 percent in 2013. Part of this success comes from its range of ready-to-serve, condensed, chilled and other options, under the Campbell’s Chunky, Campbell’s Select Harvest, Campbell’s Healthy Request and Soup at Hand lines that are targeted at different consumer demographics. “Despite its dominant position, however,” notes the report, “Campbell has seen its share fall since 2011 due to both lower-priced private label products and small competitors offering healthier options and high-quality soup products.” Convenience will likely factor into growth edges for soup, with heat-and-eat single-serve options hitting the market, including new K-cup products. Blount Fine Foods recently entered the convenient, single-serving market with its line of refrigerated 10-oz. soup cups, which have a 70-day shelf life.
Private label is generally trending along with the overall soup category (up 1.10 percent in dollar sales, down 1.04 percent in unit sales for the 52 weeks ending January 26,2014). While refrigerated fresh soup—a strong point for private label in recent years—is relatively flat, it’s still a strong shopper draw, and private label has a decent 11.55 unit share of the category per IRI data for the 52 weeks ending January 26, 2014. Overall, the shelf-stable soup category is largely flat, with dollar share slightly up and unit share slightly down. In private label, the only bright spots in the center of the store are bouillon, ramen and wet broth/stock trending in a positive direction (see chart below for complete data). Aligning select products with specific demographics can help jumpstart sales of pantry staples like broth and stock, as seen in the Simply Nature Organic Free Range (and MSG-free) Chicken Broth from ALDI. On the ethnic side of things, Trader Joe’s offers a shelf-stable Miso Ginger Broth in a resealable carton.
Concentrated paste soup bases is another area poised for penetration by private label. The Better Than Bouillon products manufactured by Superior Touch have enjoyed strong sales over the past few years and see little to no competition from retailer brands. These premium-priced products promise more-robust flavor, upping culinary quality.
Frozen is another bright spot these days for retailer brands. Both frozen private label chili and soup are up in dollar and unit sales for the past 52 weeks. This makes sense, as shoppers seek a higher value and quality metric in the products these days, something frozen products can often better deliver than traditional retorted canned products (although new types of carton packaging, suited to a lighter retort process—ideally resealable—hold promise for shelf-stable soups with higher culinary merit). Plats du Chef, which offers its products for private label, carries a restaurant-quality frozen French onion soup, with club packs divided into single-serving, heat-and-eat pouches. And national brand Bertolli offers several frozen soups, including Ricotta and Lobster Ravioli in a Seafood Bisque.
Higher quality—in tandem with stronger culinary profiles—drives products into premium territory, helping retailers grab more dollar share. Premium regional American, seasonal and ethnic soups should all trend positively moving forward.
|Dollar Sales||Dollar Sales % Chg YAgo||Dollar Share||Unit Sales||Unit Sales % Chg YAgo||Unit Share|
|Private Label FZ Chili||405,868||2.61||0.37||272,195||8.82||0.86|
|Private Label FZ Soup||1,553,980||8.41||1.43||302,402||12.06||0.96|
|Private Label RFG Chili||1,772,991||(17.15)||0.13||335,756||(19.33)||0.12|
|Private Label RFG Fresh Soup||137,359,000||(0.93)||10.38||32,054,990||(3.66)||11.55|
|Private Label Bouillon||14,907,510||4.59||0.26||7,795,799||4.01||0.17|
|Private Label Condensed Wet Soup||270,537,200||(7.20)||4.66||286,659,500||(6.65)||6.31|
|Private Label Dry Broth/Stock||12,604,040||(8.16)||0.22||6,693,287||(8.21)||0.15|
|Private Label Dry Soup||27,612,250||(6.46)||0.48||23,418,320||(7.69)||0.52|
|Private Label Ramen||2,701,034||4.63||0.05||2,141,876||(7.28)||0.05|
|Private Label RTS Wet Soup||74,308,270||(2.65)||1.28||42,437,150||(1.66)||0.93|
|Private Label Wet Broth/Stock||199,498,000||7.06||3.44||143,858,800||2.86||3.16|
Source: IRI, Total U.S. Multi-Outlet (Supermarkets, Drugstores, Mass Market Retailers, Military Commissaries and Select Club & Dollar Retail Chains) Latest 52 Weeks Ending Jan. 26, 2014