The shift toward healthier eating is continuing to cause seismic shifts across the industry—and not just during resolution time. Traditionally healthy items such as salads and grilled chicken are big for dieters year-round, but another item that can be adapted to appeal to those who seek out better-for-you foods is soup.
Soup, served warm or chilled, is versatile for every season and provides a blank canvas for trending superfood ingredients. From ancient grains to leafy greens, soup can include a variety of healthy foods, and when made from real foods such as chicken, whole grains and veggies, they can be a better-for-you option during any time of year.
Check out these tips for adapting soup offerings across all seasons to appeal to diners who want a healthy choice.
Spring – Go green
After the snow melts and the holidays have passed, diners may be focusing more intently on counteracting some of the treats they indulged in over winter. In springtime, offer soups that feature the first breaths of new plant growth—vegetable broth-based soups, for example, or carrot parsnip and sweet potato varieties can tempt diners of all types.
And, since many spring days are still a bit brisk and rainy, soups can appeal to diners who want something that’s simultaneously healthy and hearty—for instance, vegetable minestrone soup. To ramp up the health factor of springtime soups, stir or blend in some fresh spinach—because springtime spinach is still tender and young, it has a lighter flavor and an easily blendable texture that’s perfect for springtime bisques. It can also boost the vitamin content in a variety of soups.
Summer – Highlight seasonal ingredients
Summertime is all about taking advantage of what’s fresh. Many foods on menus, including prepared soups, can benefit from the bounty of in-season ingredients. Vegetable-forward soups are ideal for summertime, as are chilled soups, which can offer a refreshing break from the heat. Think about cold cucumber-avocado soup, fruit soups (such as cantaloupe soup) and of course, the summer classic, gazpacho.
According to Technomic’s 2016 Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad report, 41% of consumers say they would order tomato soup at a foodservice location, and data also shows that tomato soup is considered by consumers to be one of the most comforting and healthy soups. With that in mind, operators can alternate between serve both chilled and hot versions of tomato soup, and can boost interest by offering a “choose two” pairing with salads or half-sandwiches.
Fall – Make use of hearty ingredients
A brisk wind and crisp leaves mean diners will be looking for coziness anywhere possible—and for restaurant operators, that means it’s time to bring out the big guns in the soup department. Butternut squash soup topped with pepitas and Greek yogurt is one option for operators to serve that pairs healthy ingredients with seasonal flavors, as is black bean soup topped with avocado. Broccoli cheese soup—though sometimes not the lowest calorie option—can also be a good soup for fall, but should made with real cheese and fresh broccoli to appeal to diners who want to eat whole, natural foods.
Other comforting soups that are considered by consumers to be healthy, according to Technomic’s 2016 Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad report, include mushroom soup, vegetable soup, chicken noodle and lentil soup.
Winter – Offer warm, filling options
According to Technomic’s 2016 Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad report, 65% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase soup when it’s cold outside. Operators can take advantage of that and offer more varieties of soup during colder months, which opens the opportunity to serve different types of things to appeal to different consumers—for instance, vegan or gluten-free soups, rich and meaty stews, globally influenced soups and more. In fact, 50% of consumers say they would be interested in trying new or unique types of soup, while 37% say they would be interested in trying more ethnic soups.
New twists on indulgent soups can also be menued to appeal to diners who want a comforting soup but don’t want to indulge too much—for instance, corn chowder and potato soups can be lightened up by using low-fat milk instead of rich cream, and chili can be packed with veggies such as zucchini, carrots and bell peppers to fill it out without adding calories from cheese or additional meat. Creating delicious wintertime soups is all about creating a comforting experience, and that’s easy to do without having to sacrifice taste.