Cubicle Cuisine Test: Soup Cups from Fantastic Foods
Our goal for today is to find a single-serve, ready-to-eat, microwavable soup that needs no refrigeration, and is healthy and, most of all, is tasty too.
With hundreds of dry soups on the market it was hard to make a choice, but our tasters chose to review two of the twelve varieties of Fantastic Foods Soup Cups. Fantastic World Foods, Inc. of Petaluma, California is one of the first companies to offer all-natural, dehydrated soups. Their products are found in supermarkets and are available to order online.
In the quick soup market, the leading categories are just-add-water dehydrated soups, completely microwavable soups, and the ever favorite industry leader, canned soup. Consumer preferences for soup flavors vary by gender, ethnicity, age, and region. Still, chicken and noodles remains the clear favorite among all soups flavors. Ramen noodles, beloved by kids, are usually high in undesirable saturated fat and sodium, and nutritionists find them lacking in protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals - health attributes looked for in a soup.
To open our discussion, we reviewed Fantastic Food’s Vegetarian Chicken Noodle Soup Cup and Green Onion Miso with Tofu vegetarian soups. They go for $2.00 - $2.50 per one cup serving although certain vendors sell them for less.
Our soups contain the following ingredients:
Vegetarian Chicken Noodle Soup Cup - 0.9 oz:
Tagliatelle pasta (durum semolina enriched with niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin folic acid), dehydrated vegetables (carrots, onions, celery, garlic), vegetarian chicken pieces (textured soy flour, soybean oil, evaporated cane juice, salt), vegetarian chicken flavor (yeast extract, salt, molasses, olive oil), non-GMO corn starch, natural flavor, spices, expeller pressed canola oil, silicon dioxide. Contains soy, wheat.
Green Onion Miso with Tofu Soup Cup - 1.3 oz:
Baked ramen noodles (wheat, potato starch, brine, salt), miso powder (soybeans, rice, salt), tofu (soybeans, magnesium chloride), natural flavor, yeast extract, green and white onions, citric acid, caramel color, expeller pressed canola oil, silicon dioxide. Contains soy, wheat.
The manufacturer’s preparation directions are: Add boiling water to the fill line, cover, let steep for 7 minutes, or to cook in the microwave: Shake the cup before opening; remove the cover halfway; pour water to fill line and stir well; microwave on High for 2 minutes; stop and stir well; microwave for 1 minute more, stir well, cover, and let steep for 4 minutes; remove cover, stir again.
(1) Describe the taste (for both):
Our group of six reviewers cited “watery” most often, along with weak, plain, bland, not too salty, and, overall, “not too exciting“.
(2) Describe the texture:
Both soups were not as soft as they should be; “didn’t quite reconstitute” aptly describes the problem. For the Vegetarian Chicken Noodle, 80% of reviewers described the carrots as rubbery, leathery or uncooked; the “chicken was okay“.
(3) Did you like them? (for both)
75% of the tasters liked “nothing” about both varieties, but 25% “loved the noodles and the flavor”. The broth was found to be not overly salty.
(4) What didn’t you like about them?
The package directions were not accurate because “no amount of hot water, microwaving or added time” could fluff up the dry mix; “tasteless” surfaced several times; for the Vegetarian Chicken Noodle, those crunchy carrots were the spoiler.
(5) Did they satisfy your snack craving? (for both)
Forty percent of the reviews said, “Yes” and 60% said “No”. The small portion could “take the edge off hunger without spoiling supper.”
(6) Did you need something with it? (for both)
Crackers would have been useful to soak up the excess broth.
(7) Would you recommend these two soups?
Eighty percent of our reviewers would not recommend either variety of Fantastic Foods Soup Cups, but 20% (all vegetarians) would recommend both varieties.
See more customer reviews of Fantastic Foods Vegetarian Chicken Noodle Soup Cup and Green Onion Miso with Tofu Soup Cup at Amazon.com.
The bottom line:
Fantastic Foods Soup Cups are healthier than ramen noodles because the noodles in this case are baked, not fried, and less salt is added. They are vegan, with 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, and a decent source of protein and Vitamin A; however, the failure to reconstitute left an unpleasant dish-water quality that most reviewers could not overlook. Neither could they forgive the sky-high price nor understand how the product could be called "all natural" since it contains the anti-clumping agent, silicon dioxide.
Question for you:
Can you puleasee help us to find a soup-cup to love?
Calorie Count follows About.com's Ethics Policy when it comes to reviewing products.