Packets of ready-to-eat soups

Ready-to-eat soups

A ready-made soup is a no-fuss winter lunch or dinner. You get the comfort of a steaming bowl without any chopping, whizzing or waiting, and there’s a flavour to tickle every tastebud. But don’t be fooled by soup’s healthy image. Some products deliver an extra serving of sodium and saturated fat.

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What we found

Salt’s a common seasoning in soup, and all 28 soups we bought listed it in the ingredients. It’s the sodium in salt that’s bad for you. Six soups – three Hansells All Natural products, Hellers Pumpkin & Smokey Bacon, Naked Locals Gisborne Tomato and Seasons Gourmet Soups Pumpkin, Parmesan & Basil – packed a lot of the stuff.

A 250g serving (about a cup) provided more than a third of the recommended daily sodium limit for adults. As well as delivering a sodium hit, Hansells All Natural Thai Pumpkin Soup, with 28% coconut extract, had a whopping 12.5g of saturated fat in a 250g serve.

Seasons Gourmet Soups Pumpkin, Parmesan & Basil was the next highest saturated fat offender. Hellers Pumpkin & Smokey Bacon and its Spicy Tomato & Chorizo were also higher in saturated fat due to their processed meat content.

These soups had lower-than-average sodium and saturated fat levels, and at least 3g of fibre per cup.
These soups had lower-than-average sodium and saturated fat levels, and at least 3g of fibre per cup.

None of the soups was low in both sodium and saturated fat. But products that had lower-than-average levels and at least 3g of fibre per cup were Tasty Pot Co’s Thai Pumpkin Soup, The Good Taste Co’s Creamy Pumpkin Soup and La Zuppa’s Roasted Pumpkin and Tuscan Chicken & Vegetable.

Most of the soups had a small amount of added sugar – it’s near the end of the ingredients list. But most of the sugar in soups is naturally occurring from the vegetables.

The vegetables (as well as legumes and wholegrains) in soup contribute to your fibre intake, but you can’t always work out the proportion in a soup because companies are only required to list the percentage of characterising ingredients (for example, the percentage of pumpkin in pumpkin soup).

Chilled vs unchilled

When it comes to nutrition, there’s not much difference between the soups you find in the chiller and the pouches on supermarket shelves. The ingredient lists are also similar – both types don’t contain added preservatives.

But there’s a big difference when it comes to shelf life. Soups in the chiller generally have a shelf life of 2 months (depending on the flavour) and must be kept refrigerated. Some unchilled pouches can sit on the shelf for up to 2 years. Chilled soups are also more expensive, ranging from $2.11 to $3.57 per 250g. Most unchilled soups set you back less than $2 per 250g.

So why the big difference? Manufacturers say the shelf life of soup pouches is determined by 2 factors – packaging and the manufacturing process.

Unchilled products are in opaque packaging – this protects the soup from light, which can cause food to deteriorate faster. Some brands have an additional foil layer for added protection.

They also undergo an additional processing step called retort cooking. This involves heating the soup to a very high temperature (similar to pressure cooking), so the soup will last for a long time.

All the chilled soups in our survey were in clear packaging and had not undergone the additional processing step. According to the manufacturers, this makes them more similar to home-made soup. We’ll leave the taste-testing to you!

Salt intake

Salt is sodium chloride. It’s the sodium in salt that can be bad for your health. A diet high in sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, a leading cause of strokes. It also increases the risk of heart disease and other health problems.

The Ministry of Health’s recommended maximum daily adult limit for sodium is 2300mg per day. That’s about 6g of salt (or just over a teaspoon).

Soup nutrition

Nutrition information is per 250g.

SoupLocationPriceEnergy (kJ)Sat fat (g)Sugar (g)Sodium (mg)Fibre (g)
Tasty Pot Co Thai Pumpkin SoupChiller$3.57 5152.2511.54553
Pitango Tomato & Basil SoupChiller$2.25 46838.84852.8
The Good Taste Co. Creamy Pumpkin SoupChiller$4.29 5751.514.35134
Pitango Free Range Chicken & Vegetable SoupChiller$2.25 3400.2575351.5
Pitango Organic Pumpkin & Ginger SoupChiller$2.25 28306.35352.8
Original Soups Pumpkin & LemongrassChiller$2.1141828.75568ns
Tasty Pot Co Good Soup for a Bad DayChiller$3.57 8532.755.35756.8
Original Soups Chicken & CapsicumChiller$2.1139022.25585ns
La Zuppa Roasted Pumpkin SoupShelf$1.62 283<0.15.56053
Artisano Pumpkin & Parmesan SoupChiller$2.75 4150.58.86102.5
Artisano Thai Chicken & Corn SoupChiller$2.75 7352.251.56381.8
La Zuppa Tuscan Chicken & VegetableShelf$1.62 3880.51.36435.3
Wattie's Soup of the Day Vine Ripened Tomato with CapsicumShelf$1.98 4000.2510.86502.5
Hellers Spicy Tomato & Chorizo SoupChiller$2.75 6584.258655ns
Wattie's Soup of the Day Harvest Pumpkin and VegShelf$1.98 46315.36881.5
The Good Taste Co. Creamy Tomato SoupChiller$4.29 6252.7512.57002.3
Wattie's Soup of the Day Thai style Chicken with chilli & limeShelf$1.98 70045.37131.8
The Good Taste Co. Homestyle Country Chicken SoupChiller$4.29 51322.87251.8
Wattie's Soup of the Day Old Fashioned ChickenShelf$1.98 6002.753725ns
Naked Locals East Coast Sunshine Pumpkin Soup with turmeric and gingerChiller$2.75 6231.510.37501.8
Hellers Roast Chicken & Bacon SoupChiller$2.757583.53.25750ns
Original Soups Tomato & BasilChiller$2.1150029765ns
Hansells All Natural Chicken & Corn SoupShelf$2.25 6653.253.57752.5
Seasons Gourmet Soups Pumpkin, Parmesan & BasilChiller$2.758685.7512.25775ns
Hellers Pumpkin & Smokey Bacon SoupChiller$2.75 7104.258818ns
Hansells All Natural Thai Pumpkin SoupShelf$2.25 130312.548352.5
Naked Locals Gisborne Tomato Soup with basil pesto and fresh creamChiller$2.75 7582.513.58754
Hansells All Natural Mexican Chicken & Tomato SoupShelf$2.25 8730.756.510258.5

GUIDE TO THE TABLE SOUPS are listed by sodium content (lowest to highest). PRICE is the price we paid per 250g. NUTRITION INFORMATION is from company websites or label information. FIBRE ns = not stated.

About our survey

We analysed the nutrition information of tomato, pumpkin and chicken soup pouches sold in supermarkets. Tasty Pot Co soups don’t come in pouches so we looked at its bowls. It’s difficult to compare soups per serving size because pack sizes differ – Wattie’s Soup of the Day range comes in a 430g single serving while Hansells All Natural soups, according to the packaging, contain two 200g servings. So to help you compare soups, we’ve calculated the nutrition information per 250g, which is about one cup.

By Belinda Castles
Research and Testing Writer