Those canned soups we grew up with (and that Andy Wahol painted)? On the way out. At least, that's what Campbell's is saying.
Growing up in Portland, I had a particular passion for Campbell's Bean with Bacon. On special occasions, we'd cut up some hotdogs and toss them in the soup. (Yes, it was a German household; Bohnensuppe, my mother called it.) Sometimes, I confess, I'd eat it straight out of the can. It seemed somehow more substantial than the other line of packaged soups available back then, Lipton Chicken Noodle. (It wasn't soup yet! At least, not fast enough.) Nowadays Unilever owns the Lipton soup brand, along with its Swiss counterpart, Knorr. Warhol never painted a bouillon cube, though.
The thing is, even Campbell's recognizes that the classic American can of soup is a thing of the past. For starters, they've all got pull-tabs these days. I haven't opened one in a decade, not even that "bachelor" standby, Cream of Mushroom. You could stir a can of that into almost anything--pasta, vegetables, leftover chicken--and it would taste pretty good, right? But we've put Campbell's aside, along with the rest of our teddy bears and youthful indulgences.
And Campbell's, having lost half its market share in the past decade, is looking desperately for new products. They interviewed shoppers on America's cutting edge (how'd they Portland, though?) how they can help you. Lunch? Dinner? A snack? Cup o' noodles? Cup o' soup?
I know what I'd like: a cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Please, Mommy.
Above: clam chowder at Duke's. By the way, none of the photos in this post have anything to do with packaged soups you find on grocery shelves. They're all made-from-scratch, in professional restaurant kitchens and commissaries.