Out in the cold: Tesco axes New Covent Garden soups

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Fresh soup pioneer New Covent Garden Soup Co has been delisted by Tesco - a year after the retailer launched its own chilled soup brand.

The retailer removed NCG - credited with creating the fresh soup category when it launched 25 years ago - as part of a winter range review that took effect last week.

“Tesco believe they can grow the category without the leading brand,” said Rob Dixon, marketing controller at NCG owner Hain Daniels, which acquired the brand a year ago.

New Covent Garden - which has fallen 8.3% by value year-on-year [Nielsen 52w/e 13 October] - has been under intense pressure from rival chilled soups - and particularly own label. The latter has risen 8.3% by value year-on-year while brands have grown just 3.3% [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 5 August 2012].

The situation has been compounded by the rollout of Tesco’s New York Soup Co brand a year ago - a range expanded in recent weeks with the Fully Loaded sub-brand of chunky fresh soups. When it was launched, industry observers predicted New York Soup Co would be bad news for the Hain Daniels brand.

“You will need to speak to Tesco to understand whether New York Soup Co had an impact on the New Covent Garden decision,” said Dixon, adding that - in Tesco - sales of NCG had been £10.8m in the past year compared with £2.9m for New York Soup Co [Nielsen 52 w/e October 13 2012]. “However, clearly Tesco has made a decision to invest in their own tertiary brands,” he added.

Tesco would only comment: “We regularly review our range to reflect changes in the products customers buy.”

News of the delisting comes just a month after NCG revamped its packaging - its second redesign in just over a year. From 5 November, the brand will be launching a £2m TV push, direct marketing campaign and outdoor advertising.

Quarterly figures already showed the brand back in growth, said Dixon, with supermarket sales up 12.7% year-on-year [Nielsen 12w/e 15 September].

NCG - which uses square cartons - had missed a trick when the pot format used by New York Soup Co started to emerge, said Claire Nuttall, partner at branding agency Thrive. “This has been key to competitor brands gaining integrity and stealing a lead.Covent Garden needs to get back to basics and behave like a challenger brand, which is what it has become,” she said. “Tesco’s decision to delist is a major sign of it being make or break time.”

Readers' comments (9)

  • Shopping this week I could not find the product any where, thought I was going mad so asked Night Manager - who looked at me with a blank stare 'never heard of that!'

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  • Alas it is always sad when a pioneer of something nutritious is unable to sustain. The real issue is that with the right food processor we can all make nutritious soups at home form the raw ingredients. The nutritional and healing value to the body is immense, and also brings your relationship with food onto a different level. Awareness, enjoyment and above all speed. I can make a nutritious soup to rival these soups in 10 mins if I have the raw ingredients in, which are mainly fruit and veg.

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  • NCG soup should have improved their recipes a long time ago. They're out date with the current trend for less salt and more flavour. Big new ideas on recipes aren't relevant if they don't taste any different from the other incarnations.

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  • The soup company that won country business of the year in country homes & interiors is modern, quirky and will take the chilled soup sector by storm.

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  • What a shame damn supermarkets run down other companies again I hate Tesco , Covent Garden soups have been a staple of goodness in these hard timed I will need to make time to mix my own, I refuse to line Tesco pockets

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  • This debate would be easier to sustain if it were not for the fact that, New Covent Garden Soup Co's soups, quite frankly ... suck. They are so overdone in the recipes. I bought a carton of their Bean & Bacon Warmer soup last week ... yeahhhh it was OK but Tesco's is probably better for 50p less. In fact, every soup I've ever had from NCGSC is the same, good basic concept, overdone. Their split pea and ham is another example. When I get bean & bacon soup, that's what I want it taste like (bean & bacon). Same with the split pea and ham. Both too sweet and over-flavoured for my taste, and needed needs of ground black pepper to make palatable. Boo.

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  • I would watch the category growth in Tesco carefully after this decision.

    If own label goes above 30-40% of category sales here is a tendency for stagnation as the marketing focus, innovation, support and buzz created by brands competing with each other is removed. If its too much own label this does not happen.

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  • From all the NCG soups I can only take 3 of them, the rest is too acid or too spicy.Not good. The tescos soups are not bad and they have quite good variety and good price too but you only find a good variety of tescos soups on a bigger store, the express has only the same boring soup. The probelm for me with all of these soups are the onions, too much onions flavour.

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  • Gutted that I couldn't get my Covent Garden soups. I notice that Waitrose stock them so will shop there in future and any other supermarket that stocks Covent Garden. Big mistake, Tesco.

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