It Might Still Be Hard To Find Soup In 2021. Here's Why

As, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic closed us in, making us confront uncomfortable truths about how dependent we had been on pre-made dishes, HuffPost discovered cooking burnout was real. Our Twitter feeds went into overdrive, alternatively spewing sourdough recipes, that even celebrity chef Ina Garten couldn't handle, or becoming our kitchen anxiety release valves. "I just want an IV of nutrients shot directly into my body w/o me having to think about it. There's not even joy in banana bread anymore," wrote Elle's deputy editor, Jessica Roy. Meanwhile, supermarket soups found a new fan club.

In a September 2020 conference call, Mark A. Clouse, Campbell's Soup CEO, described the company's new consumer base: millennials. Soup flew off the shelves and off Campbell's e-commerce platforms, which, per Clouse, increased by 100 percent in the fourth quarter. In a December 2020 conference call, Clouse further elaborated that soup net sales had increased 21 percent across the board in Quarter 1 2021. Sales rose particularly among condensed soups. 

The problem isn't the demand. It's the supply. We want so much soup that Campbell's can't keep up. Neither, says Market Screener, can General Mills produce enough of its Progresso soup line to satisfy our newfound obsession.

Why Campbell's expects a continued demand for soup, even after the pandemic

As of early December, Clouse confirmed that Campbell's was "75 percent of the way back" to rebuilding its inventory. While that's a leap from September, when Clouse could only report a 50 percent "total inventory recovery," the company still has work ahead.

Campbell's predicts that our desire for soup will not wane. The company has detected a significant change in our habits since the COVID-19 pandemic caused us to go into cooking quarantine overdrive. "Think about cooking three meals a day, seven days a week for a couple of months. The amount of confidence these consumers have now in their ability to cook has really broadened their ability to add significant creativity," Clouse mused in the September 2020 call. That creativity is feeding into another use of Campbell's soup products. "Where for me," Clouse explained, "it might be 15-minute chicken and rice, for these consumers, it's Tuscan chicken and mushroom on rice cauliflower using still our ingredients, but doing it for a meal that feels far more consistent with where they're going."