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Bowl them over with spring soups!

mushroom-asparagus-chicken-soup

With spring in the air, diners are ready to park the comfort foods and switch to lighter fare. That extends to soups, too. Here Heinz Canada chef Juriaan Snellen dishes on soup for the lighter seasons.

By Juriaan Snellen

Operators focus more on broth-based soups in the spring and summer months rather than rich cream-based soups. In addition, there is growing interest in gluten free, low fat and vegetarian soups, but this can’t affect the overall flavour experience. Above all, consumers demand great taste!

The addition of seasonal vegetables like asparagus, tomatoes or leeks can turn your soup offering into a lighter option more appropriate for spring or summer. The rule of thumb is that the heavy, cream-based soups are traditionally offered in colder winter months, while broth-based soups are offered during spring or summer months. If you start out with a broth-based soup, you can lighten it up with more seasonal vegetables or garnish with fresh herbs, such as chives, on top of your Tuscan vegetable soup.

Garnishing the soup in an appropriate way is always going to bring attention to it – for example, roasted tomato and garlic soup topped off with a whole roast tomato in the centre. You want to offer something that is unique, fresh and tasty but that doesn’t take up a lot of your prep time.

Today there’s a strong focus on legume-based soups with lentils or beans. A lot of vegetarian or gluten-free diners are looking for proteins, so the demand for these soups is increasing.

In Canada, we are seeing more Hispanic soup offerings. They’re already big sellers in the US, and we’re slowly starting to see them move up here – like tortilla- and jalapeño-based soups. In the US, you also see Creole soups using okra, one of your more interesting vegetables. Those are exactly the types of innovations people are looking for. They’ve seen them on TV shows and tasted them on their travels. Now they want to taste them at home and in restaurants.

You’re always going to have chicken noodle and cream of broccoli – your traditional soup profiles – but people are increasingly open to trying different flavours from different parts of the world. Soups are an inexpensive way to introduce ethnic flavours to a menu. Masala Curried Lentil inspired by Indian vegetarian cooking, Chimichurri Steak and White Beans (a staple in Argentinian cuisine), or Chicken Pho Ga, based on the popular street food soups from Vietnam, are some of the offerings that Heinz can help bring to the table.

Soup has a relatively low price point. Diners are paying $5 or 6 for a bowl of soup, so if it turns out not to be their flavour, they haven’t wasted a lot of money, and neither have operators. Some restaurants are doing a good job with their soup, but generally speaking it is not a focal point, and that is a shame. The average soup costs 10 or 15 cents an ounce for a 10 to 12-ounce bowl, so there is significant markup. The margins are fantastic, and it is very easy for a kitchen to execute.

Operators can bring their soup category to life by adding interesting garnishes or soup toppers, like a variety of croutons, pretzel sticks and oyster crackers that provide texture and additional flavour. The position of the soup offerings on your menu can play an important role as well. Too often the soup offering is listed in a corner on the bottom of the menu where it can easily be overlooked. Why not have an insert showcasing today’s soup? After all, soups are highly profitable and they’re kitchen friendly!

Juriaan Snellen is corporate chef with Heinz Canada.