No Soup For You(ths)!

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No soup for you!

And by “you,” we mean your children, grandchildren and future generations of consumers.

If the free market has its way, and it usually does, it seems the consumer food category known as “soup” will be a quaint thing that oldtimers tell young whippersnappers about.

“Oh lordy, back in my day we had aisles full of soup. Soup for kids, alphabet soup, soup for one, low-fat soup, organic soup, chunky soup, creamy broth, soup we ate on its own as a meal — soup, glorious soup!”

The tempest in a soup bowl comes from new consumer demographic data showing that when it comes to soup, the up and coming generation just isn’t nuts about soup.[more]

Here’s the data, from a Morgan Stanley report on Campbell:

“Soup consumer demographics currently somewhat mirror the US population (i.e., for both, ~40% of people are under 45 and 60% are over 45). However, since 2001, MRI data indicates that the volume share of soup usage across younger demographic groups (i.e., under 45) is declining faster than the population share of those groups.

Soup consumption by those under 25 is declining twice as fast as the under 25 demographic is declining relative to the total population. Between 2001 and 2010, the US population under the age of 25 declined as a percentage of the overall population by 60 bps while the percentage of soup consumers under the age of 24 (defined as anyone who consumed canned soup in the past 6 months) declined by 130 bps, or over double the decline relative to the overall population.”

Just two years ago Campbell (and soup in general) was one of the few happy stories of the recession. In late 2008 and early 2009, at the height of worries over the economy, Campbell’s future looked good. Bloomberg wrote in late 2008:

“The appeal of a cheap meal is turning the world’s largest soupmaker, which says it sells to 85% of U.S. households, into an outperformer in hard times. The shares led the 12-company Standard & Poor’s Packaged Foods Index over the past three months before today, and their 1.5 percent gain this year beat the S&P 500 by 44 percentage points.”

What could possibly be worse news for Cambell and soup brands? How about another section of the report noting that Hispanic households, one of the fastest growing demographics, don’t really care for soup:

“MRI data indicates that over the past 6 months, 64% of US households have consumed soup and 34% of US households are deemed “heavy users” (4+ cans over the last 30 days).

However, only 47% of Hispanic households have consumed soup over the past 6 months, and just 24% of Hispanic households qualify as “heavy users”. Further, soup penetration in Hispanic households has declined from 50% in 2001 to 47% in 2010, while average US household soup penetration has actually increased from 63% to 64%. We believe this trend is particularly worrisome as the Hispanic population is an increasingly important population segment, having increased from 9.3% of the population in 2001 to 11.3% in 2010 and is forecasted to reach nearly 25% by 2050 (according to the US Census Bureau).”

Is there any happy news for soup brands? Sure. Here’s the story of a kitten that was rescued with its head stuck in a soup can. There’s a tale you can tell the grandkids over a piping hot bowl of… never mind.

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