smoked-salmon-finalIt’s hard to believe now, but fresh soup in cartons didn’t exist before New Covent Garden arrived in 1987. Since then the brand has continued to lead the way with appealing soup recipes that combine the best of traditional and contemporary cuisine.

But there’s more to New Covent Garden than its best selling soups. Over the last couple of years, New Covent Garden has put its stamp as a fresh food specialist on a host of innovative food and drink products. As reported last month, New Covent Garden Food Co. is now strengthening its all-year-round brand appeal with the launch of its first ever range of deep-filled, chilled quiches, which build on the success of the extremely popular New Covent Garden soups.

So what’s next? Are there any limits as to where the New Covent Garden brand could go? Andrew Ovens, New Covent Garden’s Group Marketing Manager, is clearly used to such questions: “We are committed to only going into areas where fresh, natural ingredients are important. Our expertise is in coming up with flavoursome blends of ingredients, of which our soups are the ultimate example. We won’t be deviating from that.”

Andrew won’t drop any tasty hints about which product areas New Covent Garden might go into next but “we’re passionate about things we launch, and there are plenty of exciting products in the pipeline.”

The grocery industry has seen plenty of household names lose direction and drift out of their core categories. What chance of this happening to New Covent Garden? “We’d never allow ourselves to lose direction,” Andrew insists. “We stay clear about the things we do, and move on when the time is right.”

New Covent Garden’s NPD team is three times as big as the marketing team and much bigger, proportionately, than similar sized companies’ NPD teams. As a result, Andrew says, “We come up with far more ideas for new products than we can ever launch. But we will only take the New Covent Garden brand into areas with a clear consumer need and where there aren’t any similar products already. We have to feel passionate about everything we launch – if we don’t, it doesn’t happen.”

On the soup front New Covent Garden has trialled “hundreds” of flavours in the last ten years and created four recipe books with the recipes that didn’t make it as far as production. Of those that did get there, New Covent Garden released a staggering 26 new soups in 2009, of which 12 were limited edition Soups of The Month.

“We’re ruthless in our final selection of new soup flavours, as we are about our other products, and our soups of the month are the pinnacle of our ruthlessness.”

Soup remains at the heart of New Covent Garden’s production. It has outsourced manufacturing of the new quiches under licence to Meadowbrook Bakery. Following their initial success, Andrew is now looking at other opportunities to license the brand, possibly in cooperation with other companies in the Daniels Group such as Johnsons Juices. “We have completely different brand values to Johnsons, so there’s no overlap.”

The bottom line is that New Covent Garden remains committed to what it does best, making soup, and the dividend-paying discipline of bringing out a brand new Soup of The Month every month: “There’s a lot of mileage in the New Covent Garden name which we’re going to be exploring as far as we can with tasty products made with fresh, natural ingredients. But whatever else happens, readers can rest assured that we’re going to keep our primary focus firmly on soup, and our ethos anchored in flavour and innovation.”

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