Retail Foodservice

Consumers Give Soup, Salad a Closer Look

Snacks that stand in for meals, a preference for cleaner eating and flavor profiles that break out of traditional boundaries: These trends, and more, are fueling an appetite for soups and salads in both restaurants and groceries’ prepared foods departments.

Soup and salad also align with growing demand for takeout options, as both lend themselves to portability and their quality typically doesn’t suffer during the trip.

According to a 2016 study by Nielsen, 66% of consumers said they were eating healthier than they were two years before. Nearly the same percentage said eating a healthy diet is a challenge—one that restaurants and grocers can help them conquer by offering soups and salads.

What do consumers deem healthy? The Nielsen study found that terms like “made from vegetables/fruits,” “high in protein” and “high in fiber”—all potential qualities of both soup and salad—scored highest among consumers.

Among consumers who don’t purchase soup and salad away from home, about a quarter say it’s because they can easily make these items themselves, according to Technomic’s 2016Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Saladreport. By challenging that perception and providing something unexpected and craveable, salad-centric and soup-centric concepts like Tender Greens, Sweetgreen and Zoup! have thrived. Sophisticated flavors, reliance on premium ingredients and providing imaginative choices that break out of the Caesar salad and chicken noodle soup mold are keeping these operations busy.

A number of approaches can help drive salad and soup purchases:

  • Offering more than one portion size gives customers the ability to tailor their order to their appetite and budget.
  • Similarly, a choice of proteins provides a customized experience and emphasizes a made-to-order message. And offering a vegetarian “meat” or high-protein grain substitute will win over vegetarians accustomed to salads sans protein.
  • Garnishes—a swirl of herb-infused oil, a dollop of sour cream, fresh chopped herbs, house-made croutons or crackers--can turn a “plain” soup into something memorable.
  • Two-fer deals provide value and allow guests to customize. Suggesting complementary combos will help facilitate orders.
  • Both soups and salads should change with the seasons. Lighter broth-based soups, gazpachos and other bowls packed with fresh vegetables will sell in the summer; heartier creamed and pureed varieties will fare better in cooler months. Cool-weather salads similarly can take on heartier grains, roasted vegetables and heavier flavors when there’s a chill in the air.
  • Regardless of the time of year, presenting both healthier options and more indulgent selections will appeal to a broader audience.

Boosting sales and interest in soup and salad is all about playing to what consumers want; rotate options based on weather, offer a variety of options both light and indulgent and make soup and salad options a craveable value.

This post is sponsored by Blount Fine Foods