Thursday, March 28, 2013

Taste-test: How are the new Campbell's Go soups?

So many products cross my desk that I have earned my own red barrel from Second Harvest. Most things go straight into the barrel - they're either not all that new, not all that tasty-looking or not all that interesting.

The fairly new Campbell's Go soups, though, caught my attention. First, there's the rethinking of an iconic brand. Buh-bye, can with the red label. For those us who eat lunch at a cubicle desk, this is a smart product extension: Shelf-stable pouch, clear directions for venting and zapping in a microwave. If you want to eat it straight out of the pouch instead of using a bowl, it would be messy, but you could do it.

Second, there's the marketing: Eye-catching graphics, with those black-and-white "hipster" faces, pushing hard at the same vibe you see in the food truck world. It may get dated quicker than a co-ed with her first apartment, but for the moment, this is kicky stuff.

Third, the flavors. Speaking of those food trucks, Campbell's has caught that vibe too:
-- Spicy Chorizo & Pulled Chicken With Black Beans
-- Coconut Curry With Chicken & Shiitake Mushrooms
-- Moroccan-Style Chicken With Chickpeas
-- Chicken & Quinoa (yes, quinoa!) With Poblano Chiles
-- Golden Lentil With Madras Curry
-- Creamy Red Pepper With Smoked Gouda.

So how are they? We did a quick taste-test at my desk with the Chicken & Quinoa and the Golden Lentil. I love the design of the bag, including attention to detail. The bags are even marked with  "cool touch" fingerprints to show you where to hold the bag when it's hot from the microwave.

Taste: A solid A-. Spicy, bright, flavorful. Chicken & Quinoa had good-size chunks of chicken and a hint of lemony acidity. Golden Lentil had curry heat and no muddiness. The only problem with both? Meet me at "nutrition."

Nutrition: Everyone here? OK. The bags claim to have 2 servings, but who's doing that? If you take it for lunch, you're going to eat most or all of the 2-cup bag. And while the calorie counts and fat grams aren't bad -- 320 calories and 4 grams of fat for the whole bag of Chicken & Quinoa (160 and 2 if you stuck with the 2-serving recommendation), the sodium is WAY out of line. Chicken & Quinoa had 790mg in HALF the bag. If you ate the whole thing, not unreasonable, you'd get 1,580 milligrams of sodium, That's more than a day's worth for most of us. And yes, all the others ran about those same numbers. Unfortunately, the soups taste like it, too. You'll be grabbing the water bottle after that lunch.

Price: $2.99 for a 14-ounce bag.  So they cost a lot more than a can of soup, but that's not unreasonable for something tasty you can haul to work. If you were eating them at home, for lunch or dinner, you also could serve them over rice, which would stretch them and make that sodium a little bit more reasonable again. Also, Campbell's is offering a $1 off coupon right now at

Bottom line: A good start. Campbell's, please find a way to reduce that sodium. There's so much to like here.