Soup brands turn their focus to heritage marketing…but where is the emotional engagement?

As the nights are growing shorter and darker, and the weather begins to take a sharp turn, most people will be adapting their eating habits from summer salads to hot soup.

A summer salad, isn’t warming enough in this climate. People are looking for something more hearty and warming. Whilst a delicious, shepherds pie or lasagne may be the perfect weekend dinner time treat, soup us a perfect time-effective, cost-effective option.

This week’s “focus on…” feature in The Grocer looked at soup with a particular focus on the highs and lows of popular soup brand New Covent Garden. In many respects New Covent Garden pioneered the mainstream availability of fresh soup in the early noughties, but went on to lose their listing in Tesco last October to Tesco’s own line New York Soup Co., only to then regain the listing again recently.

Recent figures show that many fresh soup brands have been struggling recently and this hasn’t been helped by the dominance of some own label brands which have outgrown brands in the fresh soup category. The saving grace for brands, it seems, is that they still remain strong in the ambient (wet and dry) aisles.

Brands are having to work hard to keep up their share and have optimised on pushing boundaries on innovative flavours and taking a strong consideration on their brand identity.

Brand identity and history is not being lost on most soup brands. A strong marketing tactic being used is aligning the brand and products to a particular country and/or culture. Crosse & Blackwell and Yorkshire Provender for example, both draw on their British Heritage to bolster their brand, whilst Glourious!, Soupologie and Tropical Sun have utilised links to more exotic nations and countries like the Caribbean and Mexico, to offer less familiar and new flavours.

The Grocer quotes Belinda Williams, founder of fresh soup company Yorkshire Provender, testifying to the notion that brands are fighting for their positions in stores and confirming that supermarkets are “Expanding their own-label ranges, and heavily promoting them at all levels of the category, from premium to standard and value.”

So whilst many brands in the soup category are fighting for a position on the supermarkets shelf, we wonder if they are also fighting hard enough for consumers to love them and demand their position to be on shelves.

How many consumers are walking into stores and asking the sales assistant “Excuse me, do you stock brand x?” or “On which aisle can I find product Y?”. 

Figures show that most brands have heavily invested their marketing spend into TV and Press. With Knorr, Crosse & Blackwell, Glorious! and Campbell’s all favouring 100% spend on Press and Heinz, Baxters and New Covent Garden all placing the largest chunk on TV.

The grocer continues by addressing the challenge brands face in “fostering loyalty”, whilst New Covent Garden has tried to address encouraging “loyalty towards its new offerings among increasingly fickle customers” by “ramping up promotional activity” with its “classic two for £3 promotion”, we may argue that this is not enough. Brands need to do more to connect with the so-called “fickle customers” by creating and nurturing emotional attachments.

The battle for sales is rife and it is important that brands such as New Covent Garden can harvest an emotional connection with their target audiences on the ground which  gives them face to face experiences, makes them feel like they fit the brand ethos, offers them something more than just the product, offers them consistent engagement along their consumer journey and helps them to learn about the brand.

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