Why Campbell's Convenient K-Cup Soups Were Ultimately Discontinued

It seemed like the perfect, can't-miss product: Pairing one of the oldest and most familiar packaged food brands with hip, popular technology. In the 2010s, The Campbell Soup Company expanded out of the canned soup aisle into the coffee section of the grocery store with Campbell's Fresh-Brewed Soup. How does one brew soup, a product usually just poured out of a can, mixed with water, and heated? With Campbell's idea, customers could buy a special kit designed for use with the Keurig single-serving hot beverage maker — a plastic K-Cup pod containing broth powder is brewed into a bowl loaded with dried soup solids. The result: A warm, comforting soup dish ready to eat in just a few minutes.

While the product promised (and delivered) convenience, it proved to be a hard sell to consumers set in their soup-making ways, who were also likely just beginning to explore the possibilities of these potless brewing gadgets that were cresting in popularity. But for those who owned and operated these single-serving coffee makers, Campbell's Fresh-Brewed Soup was absolutely a convenient alternative. So what gives?

Campbell's Fresh-Brewed Soup made single-serve coffeemakers more versatile

Single-serve coffee makers exploded in popularity in the early 2010s. Nearly half of coffee machine sales revenues in 2012 came from one-cup devices pioneered by market leader Keurig. Parent company Green Mountain Coffee Roasters made up more than 50% of those sales and enjoyed a 16% year-to-year revenue increase in 2013, largely due to K-Cups sales. With what looked like a sunny future ahead, GMCR partnered with Campbell Soup to take K-Cups beyond hot beverages with Campbell's Fresh-Brewed Soup. 

The convenient product was also an attempt by Campbell, long established as a provider of canned meals and recipe components, to enter the lucrative snack market. In a press release unveiling the yet-to-be-available product, Campbell called Fresh-Brewed Soup a convenient snack and explained how the whole thing worked. Customers would buy a kit — a deconstructed can of soup into its solid and liquid components: A packet of dried noodles and a K-Cup loaded with hydrated broth.

After the announcement of Fresh-Brewed Soup in 2014, but before it hit stores, the public turned on K-Cups. In 2015, Keurig endured a 26% sales drop, necessitating layoffs of 5% of its workforce. Those problems were related to the public perception that K-Cups, disposable after one use and made from difficult-to-decompose plastic, were environmentally unsound, a problem Keurig addressed in 2024 with its plans to finally discontinue plastic.

Campbell's Fresh-Brewed Soup flopped

In 2013, Campbell promised that Fresh-Brewed Soup would debut in 2014 with a lineup of three flavors. However, the two-part soup kits didn't hit shelves until 2015, in just two similar styles: Homestyle Chicken Broth & Noodle and Southwest Style Chicken Broth & Noodle. The marketing backed away from the snack talk, too, with Campbell now touting the product as a low-calorie food, as both varieties packed under 70 calories. That masked the fact that a Fresh-Brewed Soup offered about half as much food than a standard can of Campbell's soup in a comparable flavor.

Even before Fresh-Brewed Soup arrived, Campbell endured criticism that the product was needlessly complicated and purported to solve a problem that didn't exist. Campbell's Fresh-Brewed Soup held up as convenient, but tearing an envelope and combining it with a pod usable with only a Keurig-branded appliance was arguably more labor-intensive and involved than just emptying a can of soup and some water into a pot or a microwavable bowl. 

At any rate, customers with Keurig-equipped kitchens just weren't interested, and Campbell pulled Fresh-Brewed Soup from stores in April 2016. "Over time, the product has not performed to our expectations so we made the difficult decision to discontinue it," Campbell Soup communications senior manager Megan Haney told FoodDive, adding that the company planned to redouble its efforts to promote its legacy soup products.