Remember the Souper Combo?

February 27, 2014By Behind the Shelf Blog, Brand Marketing

by Jenny Kosek

Remember Campbell’s® Souper Combos? In the late ‘80s, these microwaveable meals offered the classic combination of a bowl of Campbell’s  soup and a toasty sandwich or companion food, in one easy-to-microwave tray. Seems like a sensible line extension, right?

But you likely won’t remember Campbell’s Souper Combos because they were a tremendous flop. The two components of the meal could not be microwaved together, and it took over seven minutes for the “fast” meal to become ready-to-eat. Consumers realized it was faster to open a can of good ol’ Campbell’s soup and prepare their own (better tasting) sandwich than to fuss with the newfangled combo*.

The failure of the Souper Combo was surprising to Campbell’s. The idea seemed solid and timely in “the era of the microwave,” and they did extensive market research before launching the product. But Campbell’s was off track from the start. The product was ultimately inconvenient, and the price point ensured that it would not become part of a shopper’s everyday eating.

An astounding 75% of CPG products introduced every year fail to make $7 million in their first twelve months, getting them yanked from shelves faster than you can say “tomato soup and grilled cheese.” Too often, what seems like a brilliant idea can quickly become a grave business mistake. However, there are often warning signs that appear well in advance of a complete launch that, if addressed by manufacturers, can help strengthen a product’s opportunity to thrive before it has the chance to fail.

Business brainiacs and marketing geeks (like me) spend a lot of time mulling the proper formula of product success. Mashing together a variety of sources, if there really were an equation, it might look something like this:

  • Passionate manufacturer committed to consumer experience
  • Brilliantly designed product including smart brand message and packaging
  • Impeccable market research that answers the questions, “Do consumers want this? Do they want it now?”
  • Comprehensive (not necessarily expensive) marketing strategy tailored to target audience



Seems simple enough, right? However, if we review our daunting failure statistic, the formula proves challenging. Fix yourself a bowl of soup and a sandwich, and we’ll explore each component of that equation and how it worked - or didn’t - for other manufacturers, and what that might mean for your next launch.

*For the record, I was 5 when the Souper Combo debuted, and I loved them. I can still sing the ad jingle, too, which makes me a walking example of how easy and nefarious it is to market to children.  

Leave a Reply