Moving beyond their iconic red-and-white cans, Campbell Soup Co. have announced a new line of products to meet the growing demand for quick snacking options: "Fresh-Brewed Soup" pods.
Beginning next year, the company will start selling Campbell soup K-cups that can be heated on Keurig brand single-serve coffee brewers as an "ultra convenient" snack for busy professionals. Tapping into one of Keurig's biggest selling points, convenience, the soup pods have broth inside that can be brewed over a packet of dried noodles, a "vegetable blend garnish," and seasoning in a mug.
And apparently, it's what consumers want.
"This innovative partnership is a win for consumers and for both companies, and represents another important step as Campbell expands into higher-growth spaces," said Denise Morrison, Campbell's chief executive.
The company also said it's introducing the line of K-cup pods, which will include three different flavors, to meet growing consumer demand for quick snacking options.
"The union of Campbell's great taste and the speed and convenience of Keurig invites new consumption occasions," said Brian P. Kelley, Green Mountain Coffee Roaster's chief executive. The move "positions both companies to better meet the growing snacking needs of consumers in the U.S."
Although Green Mountain has assured that the Keurig machine's self-cleaning brewing process will not give us "chicken-flavored coffee," it does say something about this country's eating habits and our constant need for convenience when it comes to food.
As society gets busier and more stressed, we lean more and more towards convenience. But as the waistlines of Americans continue to expand, companies are manufacturing products that can be sold in individual serving sizes and that hit the trifecta of quick, easy, and cheap. When it comes to convenient food, however, what we see as a cheaper, time-saving option often ends up costing us more than we anticipate.
Health-wise, it's a no-brainer that pre-packaged food isn't good for you. Designed to save us time and effort, pre-packaged food contains excess sodium, sugar, empty calores, and in some cases, dyes that are even banned in other countries.
Take, for example, processed foods such as salad dressings, sweetened yogurts, cereals, lunch meats, and many packaged foods that are great on-the-go options for many busy professionals and milennials. They all are likely to contain high fructose corn syrup, a highly refined sweetener labeled as the number one cause of obesity today, that can lead to type 2 diabetes, and which possibly damages livers if consumed in excess.
According to a study in Australia, the consumption of energy-dense foods and instant meals increase the risk of getting chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Now, I'm not saying these cheap, convenient foods have no place on grocery shelves nor am I going to pretend I've never purchased pre-packaged food items myself.
But looking at how far the food industry has come to provide a wide variety of mass produced convenient foods made in some factory somewhere and filled with preservatives, long undecipherable names and a litany of colorants, salts and additives that add to shelf life, we have to ask ourselves:
Is the convenience really worth it?
According to a recent study, middle income people are actually the most overweight and eat fast food more regularly than anyone else. In contrast, 80% of those with low incomes cook at home at least five times a week.
In fact, 35% of meals eaten by millennials are really snacks, and about 70% of the food we consume is processed. While the Pew Research Center describes this generation as "confident, connected, and open to change," others have described us as driven by "cravings, cost, and convenience."
We are trained to be busy every minute of every day with jobs, computers, cell phones, iPods, and iPads, and be constantly on-the-go that we constantly feel we are at a loss for time. Breakfast often consists of a quick coffee from Starbucks and a cereal granola bar. Lunch is, for many, instant soup or a grab-and-go salad. Dinner is something from a box, packet or bag.
"America's favourite dining room," says Technomic's Dennis Lombardi, "has a gas pedal and a steering wheel."
"People really are stressed out with all that they have to do, and they don't want to cook," says Julie Guthman, associate professor of community studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "Their reaction is, 'Let me enjoy what I want to eat, and stop telling me what to do.'"
Today, cooking is now seen more as a hobby than a daily chore. Call me crazy, but making your own tomato soup, scrambling an egg, or tossing your own salad doesn't seem to take up too much more time than scrolling through your Twitter feed or spending an hour or two on Netflix. Cooking doesn't have to be defined as work, but fast convenient food is seem as both a pleasure and a crutch for many.
As a cubicle-run, fast-food loving, screen-obsessed lot, we need to take the time and slow down before the "convenient" food we eat slows us down.