9:30 PM – I was not thirsty. That is an important observation. Just a few hours earlier, I was one of a collection of food bloggers sampling a new line of frozen soups: Bertolli Premium Meal Soups for Two.
FOOD SNOB ALERT: You won’t see many packaged food product reviews on my blog. There are enough boxed, bagged, canned items on store shelves that put no thought into making dinner. AND THE HONEST FLIP SIDE: In this household, we aren’t angels; our freezer does have Trader Joe’s enchiladas and such.
(Looking for the “celebrity?” Go to the bottom of the post…)
I accepted the event invite because (1) having worked for the Campbell’s Soup Co. early in my career, I’m a soup girl, (2) Bertolli is a Unilever company, as was one of my longtime PR clients, Lawry’s, so I was curious about the whole thing; and (3), we could use a few more go-to store-bought meals in the freezer.
Frozen soup, just add water. Sounded suspiciously unhealthy. I brought Larry to the dinner (pre-approved by the hosts, of course). I typically blog about “feeding Larry” — his role that night was to provide me perspective. After reading the packages, talking to the peeps, eating the soups and pondering the presentations, he said we may buy these. There ya go. Here is what we learned:
- The veggies are par-boiled and IQF (Individually Quick Frozen, food industry term). The meats are cooked slightly, as well. What that does is put everything on the same clock to reach “done” simultaneously.
- The stock, reduced, is in little ice cubes.
- Packaging is minimal. One bag. Good.
- At first glance, the long ingredient list has some stuff in there that one might think, “hmmmm.” But then if you made “homemade” minestrone and checked your macaroni, canned beans, broth ingredients… same stuff.
- Put one cup of water and package contents in saucepan, bring to boil, cover and cook for 5 minutes, stir a little, get everything hot, end up with some really good soup.
- Once home, I scrutinized the sodium (bugaboo of processed foods)… I decided to make a totally unfair comparison of the Chicken Minestrone to three varieties of “Light” and “Lower Salt” Progresso soups, and Swanson’s “33% Less Sodium” chicken broth. Since serving sizes varied, I compared per ounce. ?!?; did the math twice. Bertolli… lower sodium of them all. Go, Bertolli!
An in-depth convo with Bertolli Chef Michael Christiansen that evening revealed their heavy focus on herbs, spices and acids to help bump up flavor and offset the need for “as much” salt. We all consume too much sodium, by our own hand as well as packaged foods.
Surprisingly, the Serving Size of this product is a whopping 16 ounces – two cups. Meal Soup for Two, that’s their position. An honest reality check, I probably never dish up LESS than that of my own homemade soups.
We left the presentation having tasted 4 soups, met 2 client side folks, 4 agency folks and a bonus: 1 delightful, casual schmooze-fest with celebrity spokesman, Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani (at left, with Larry). Liked the guy. Liked the soup.