There probably isn't a convenience store in the UK that doesn't sell soup. And with this liquid asset clocking up a convenience market value of £61.5m, according to Kantar Worldpanel (52 weeks ending July 11, 2010), it's certainly a very solid sales category.

"We stock tins of Heinz and Baxters, and Knorr packet soups," says Karl Rasmussen, who runs Rasmussen's Costcutter in Skegness, Lincolnshire.

"The category always sells well all year round I've just unloaded 10 cases of it."

Ketley News in Telford, Shropshire, also champions soup. "We stock Heinz and the Happy Shopper brand both sell really well," says owner Naranjan Singh.

However, there is one area of soup that is failing to make its mark within independent convenience stores. Chilled soup accounts for a quarter of all UK soup sales, according to market analyst Mintel's May 2010 Soup report. But this doesn't seem to be reflected in the independent sector, where many c-stores sell little fresh soup, or don't stock it at all.

"We only stock tinned soup," admits Naranjan. "I haven't ever tried fresh I just can't see it appealing to my customers."

Meanwhile, Karl has given fresh soup a chance, but claims it didn't pay off. "We have tried fresh soup, but it didn't really take off. The only time we stock it now is when it's on promotion." He believes that the price is prohibitive. "Tins are just so much cheaper by comparison."

Belani Patel, who owns a Nisa Local, also recognises that fresh soup doesn't appeal to everyone's pockets. "One tub of fresh comes to £2.19, whereas cans of soup are just 89p each and a pack of five dried soup sachets is only 99p. The price of fresh can put people off."

top tips
Ranging : if space permits aim to stock: at least one soup that is filling enough to act as a meal replacement; one healthy soup; the best-selling flavour; and one quirky flavour to add a little mystery to your range 

Colour : think about colour as a range of different shades really helps to catch people's attention 

Limited edition make room for limited-edition flavours as they offer a point of difference and give people a reason to visit the category l

Deals: offer link deals on complementary products, such as crusty bread, in order to encourage additional sales. 

Source: Yorkshire Provender
However, he has discovered that while many customers remain loyal to ambient, when given adequate chiller space, fresh soup can attract a completely separate demographic. "Most of the people buying the ambient soups are locals, whereas it is usually office workers who buy fresh because it is handy to eat at their desks. Within fresh we sell four flavours of New Covent Garden, plus the soup of the month. It's nice to mix things up a bit and it keeps customers interested."

New Covent Garden Food Co claims that c-stores can afford to be more adventurous with their soup offerings as a large section of convenience shoppers are often just buying for themselves and therefore they might be looking for something a little different to the tinned crowd-pleasers.

"As c-store retailers, many of your customers aren't family shoppers," says New Covent Garden group category marketing manager Andrew Ovens. "Family shoppers are looking at what everyone in the household wants to eat, but those who don't have that responsibility can really look at food that appeals specifically to them."

He advises retailers to analyse their customers and then find fresh soups that meet their needs. "Retailers really need to look at their shopper profile. For example, leek & potato soup has an older profile, whereas tomato & basil has a younger following, as does our 99 calorie range."

Where you are located can also make a difference to what types of soup customers find appealing, says Belinda Williams, founder of fresh soup firm Yorkshire Provender. She acknowledges that fear of wastage is a concern for retailers who are new to the category.

"One struggle a lot of small stores have with fresh soup is that the sell-by date is much shorter than ambient's," she says. "This can be overcome by stocking the right products. We give retailers advice on what they should stock based on their location. For example, in the North, onion & ale and root vegetable soups are very popular."

She claims that providing tailored fresh soups will encourage people to come to your store, rather than your competitors. "There are lots of consumers who want something more than a can of Heinz to keep them interested," she claims. "Most people will already have cans of soup in their store cupboard, so they won't go out of their way to get it. You've got to offer a point of difference."

And once you have settled on a fresh range, it is important to give it a decent chance, says Suggs Khera, who owns several stores under his and brother Kash's Simply Fresh fascia. "We opened our Kenilworth store in Warwickshire two years ago and built up the chilled range gradually," he says. "When we first introduced fresh soups, they were on offer, but once the promotion ended, sales slowed."

But instead of dropping the soups, the brothers decided to keep them on. "It was a good six months before we got to the stage where we were getting zero wastage.

"It may take them time to get used to new things, but there is no doubt that customers love choice," he says.

"A strong chilled offering is so important to convenience stores today and it's vital that retailers persevere with new categories such as fresh soup."
new products
Foreign affair 
If you're looking to add something exotic to your chiller, then New Covent Garden's Lebanese lentil & chickpea soup of the month may just be the ticket. The firm is also adding excitement to the category with the launch of its winter range, which will include Morrocan tagine, and borlotti bean, bacon & ditalini pasta variants. The soups will be supported by national TV advertising later in the year. "We've experimented with TV ads regionally and this year we'll be running them nationally," says group category marketing manager Andrew Ovens. "Depending on the weather, they'll start running in October or January." rrp: £1.99 tel: 0113 248 0606 

Flavour fix 
Yorkshire Provender is introducing a range of eight winter soups, with flavours including mushroom with tarragon and juniper; onion and Hambleton ale with mustard; and pea & fresh spinach with coriander variants. "We'll also be revamping our website with new winter recipe video clips," says company founder Belinda Williams. "Ideas on presentation can really add value to a soup and get consumers thinking outside the box." rrp: £2.29 for 600g tel: 01765 641920