The Complete Package: Solving Soup’s Container Conundrum

Well, it’s officially January. The holidays have wound down – we celebrated, we spent a week in leisurely limbo, we counted down, and we landed in 2024. I don’t know about you, but to me, this time of year always feels the coldest. The buzz of anticipatory holiday energy subsided, we’re left only with the quiet cold of winter, and nothing warms a cold belly quicker than a rich and cozy bowl of soup. So it’s no surprise that January marks the annual celebration of everyone’s favourite slurpable meal: soup! 

Being takeout connoisseurs, we can’t help but focus on the fact that soup poses a uniquely challenging container conundrum. How the heck do you contain a hot liquid, that can’t always be sipped sans utensil, to eat on the go? Luckily, foodservice providers everywhere have come up with all sorts of creative solutions for us to dig into. 

You have the ever popular, classic plastic deli. Known and beloved by prep chefs everywhere, the deli is a perfectly serviceable option. It’s made of plastic strong enough to hold up to a hot liquid and comes with a (relatively) leak-proof lid. A good ramen restaurant will leverage delis to hold separated broth, ready to pour into another bowl-shaped vessel containing the noodles, meat, and toppings when you’re ready to eat. It’s masterful takeout packing really, a strategy crafted in response to years of spilly deliveries and sad, brothless customers I’m sure. 

But as society consciously shifts away from single-use plastics, some have turned their attention to paper bowls instead. Since a plain old paper bowl would melt almost instantly at the insertion of a hot bowl of soup, they come lined with a coating similar to what you’d see in a to-go coffee cup. Another perfectly serviceable option, though some do cite concerns about the compostability (or lack thereof) of paper products lined with that coating. 

Which brings us to the trusty glass jar. Is there anything a mason jar can’t do? Reusable, non-toxic, pretty to look at, but also rather expensive for our restaurant operators and hot to the touch when filled with a warm, cozy soup. This is a great option for to-go soups that you’ll be heating yourself! 

Though it does nothing to improve upon our recyclability concerns, the styrofoam soup cup holds a particular nostalgic enchantment because it originally held the iconic Cup Noodles. Plus this multi-functional cup gets points for versatility – serving as packaging, cooking vessel, and bowl. Originally invented by Momofuku Ando in post-WWII Japan, we’re talking about the first ever shelf-stable instant ramen noodles product. Just pour boiling water over the noodle cake and freeze-dried broth and voila, you have a delicious and inexpensive meal that you can eat right out of the “pot” you cooked it in. 

In more recent times, another iconic soup purveyor revolutionizing the way we sip soup is Campbell’s with their line of Sipping Soups. Pop the lid off, microwave for 2 minutes, put the lid back on and sip directly from the cup – no spoon required and perfectly fits in the palm of your hand or a cup holder! This is the perfect solution for a creamy blended soup or a rich and nutritious bone broth on the go. 

Where is the future of to-go soup containers headed? We’re glad you asked. As with most industries, takeout container trends are prioritizing options with a circular economy in mind – how can we make sure our soup containers never become waste? Recent years have unveiled numerous Canadian businesses helping to make the takeout industry more sustainable, like Friendlier, Suppli, and Reusables. These companies offer solutions that allow users to receive orders in a reusable container from participating foodservice businesses and return that container to be washed and reused. They take care of the logistics, while you can order takeout knowing your packaging never touches a landfill. 

Did we miss any great soup container options? Let us know! How does your local soup store creatively package up their takeout?