MISSOURI – Refrigerated fresh soup sales increased 18% in 2017 to a whopping $325 million. The newest (and now biggest) contributor to that space? Panera Bread, taking home $113 million.
Panera announced that its line of refrigerated soups under the Panera at Home brand made more than $100 million in sales last year. That’s a 27% increase over 2016, which qualifies Panera as a top competitor in the refrigerated soups arena. It helps that the company has more than 2,000 physical U.S. locations and some established brand loyalty to its name, but experts say the shift is due to the consumer push for greater transparency on ingredients and nutrition information, as well as the larger trend of health and wellness.
“People are looking for fresher, healthier alternatives, both in the ingredient side and on the formulation side,” said Chris DuBois, an analyst with market research firm IRI. “People believe the fresh soup is formulated healthier for them.”
Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar soup is the most popular, with Baked Potato, Autumn Squash and Creamy Tomato close behind. Panera said it plans to test Southwest Corn Chowder and Minestrone Soup with Chickpeas and Kale this year.
IRI found that Americans spent $116 billion on food in the perimeter of the store in 2013. This includes produce, deli, meat and seafood, bakery and prepared food areas. Now, that number’s up to $140 billion—nearly 30.5% of the $425 billion food and beverage business. Needless to say the “fresh food” movement isn’t going anywhere.