via Food Trends by Amanda Baltazar

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It’s hard to beat soup for ease and convenience and sales in the U.S. are reflecting that.

The recently released State of the Specialty Food Industry report from the Specialty Food Association and Mintel, shows that in March, soup sales grew a sizeable 125 percent over 2019, with shoppers confined to their homes. And the growth’s expected to continue with specialty soup sales projected to grow 14.6 percent between 2020 and 2024, due partly to curtailed restaurant options.

The soup category has many things going for it: It’s grab-and-go, convenient, shelf-stable, and it meets different nutritional needs. It can also be used for a quick lunch or as a dinner ingredient as Americans cook more.

“Soup continues to be a very strong category and candidly, the supply has not quite caught up with demand, which has been especially strong during COVID,” says Dan Glei, executive vice president of merchandising/marketing for K-VA-T Food Stores in Abingdon, Virginia, which operates the Food City chain. “It went up wildly at the beginning and is still at a very, very high level compared with what it would normally be. It’s now August and with no promotion we’re selling all the soup we can get.”

Best sellers at Food City stores are classics like tomato and chicken noodle. With fewer restaurant options, consumers are eating soup for lunch and combining them into dinner recipes, he says. “The soup category meets a lot of different customers’ needs.”

Soup sells in cans, cartons, and fresh in the deli, Glei says, and Panera at Home refrigerated soup is seeing particularly strong sales now. The retailer’s self-serve soup section is closed at the moment due to the pandemic.

Soup sales were up “dramatically” at Giant Food in Landover, Maryland, in March and April and they’ve stayed up by at least 20 percent through the summer, Monica Simmons-Dolce, director of edible grocery, dairy and frozen told SFA News Daily.

Specialty soup sales have risen substantially, she says, though larger brands like Campbell’s “seem to be the go-to brands, perhaps because people see Campbell’s as comfort food.”

At PCC Community Markets, a 15-store chain in Seattle, same store sales show a radical year-over-year increase from March 2019 to March 2020, says senior grocery buyer, Scott Owen, and even by July same store year-over-year sales continued to be up 20 percent. Primary sales drivers are soups in cans and aseptic cartons, but the big winner is broth, which constitutes nine of the top 10 sellers.

The need to stock up pantries certainly drove the March soup sales, Owen says, and if COVID rules remain the same, he expects to see sales rise again in the fall.

Related: Cheesemakers, Retailers Look to Alternative Sampling; Rice, Pasta Shortage Opened Door for West African Grain.