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Stand-up pouches debut for Stockpot's chilled soup concentrates

In its 15 years of existence, Stockpot Soup, Redmond, WA, has earned an international reputation among restauranteurs for high-quality, cook/chill soup concentrates, sauces, gravies and entrees.
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Now Stockpot relying on what it calls "old-world cooking techniques and next-generation packaging technology" hopes to make its brand a household name with the supermarket introduction of "fresh" soup concentrates in stand-up pouches. The pouches incorporate plastic zippers just below their heat-sealed headers and are designed to facilitate preparation of the soups as well as reclosure of the pouches.

Calling them "the first major breakthrough in soup packaging in years" Stockpot is introducing the stand-up pouches to consumers in refrigerated supermarket cases in the Seattle Boston and Washington areas. The concentrates are one of the first "wet" food products to be marketed in stand-up pouches in the United States and Stockpot's first U.S. use of the concept. Plans call for the company to introduce a line of cooking sauces and gravies in the pouches as well. As things now stand the ready-to-use sauces and gravies will be marketed in "boil-in-bag" stand-up pouches another first.

Stockpot may have gotten the idea for soup concentrates in form/fill/seal stand-up pouches from its work with Geest Prepared Foods (Spaulding Lincolnshire England). Geest has been marketing a line of ready-to-eat soups in the Tesco chain of retail food stores for several years. Unlike the new Stockpot line the British soups are packed in pre-made stand-up pouches.

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About his U.S. venture Stockpot President Kevin Fortun says "We're making home-made quality products with the most advanced high-tech equipment." That equipment consists of a customized RPM100 rotary horizontal form/fill/seal line from Klockner-Bartelt Inc. (Sarasota FL) that links up to one of Stockpot's 175- to 350-gallon steam-jacketed kettles in which batches of the soup are prepared. As the line forms the pouches hot soup is filled into them vacuum-sealed and cooled to 38° F in 40 minutes. The process claims the company results in a concentrate package that will maintain a remarkable "120-day shelf life under refrigeration without preservatives."

Running rolls of 5.5-mil laminated pouch stock consisting of reverse-printed polyester and an inner sealant/oxygen barrier coextrusion of ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) from Curwood Inc. (Oshkosh WI) the equipment produces around 50 "Delta Pac" pouches a minute depending on the product being run. Pouches hold 10 oz of concentrate. That reconstitutes into three 8-oz bowls of "Jamaican black bean" soup or four bowls of the 12 other varieties making their retail debut this Spring. Graphically the front of the pouches feature a bowl nesting on a bed of fresh soup ingredients. The concentrate itself can be seen through a clear window at the top of the bowl.

Preparation instructions for the soups are detailed and diagrammed on the back panels of the pouches. In addition to opening and reclosing the PE zippers provide a "hooping" force on the mouths of the pouches as they are used to measure out milk or water to reconstitute the soups.

At $2.89 to $3.49 per pouch the Stockpot line is much pricier than Campbell's "red and white" canned condensed soups that dominate the category. Still since most of these concentrates make a quart of soup the company figures "price per ounce is comparable to canned soups." And with a kick at the can Fortun points out "We never add artificial ingredients preservatives or MSG to our soups like the competition. We use only fresh all-natural ingredients." c

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