Tim Hortons expands grocery store offering with canned soup and chili

Alicja Siekierska
You can now find canned versions of Tim Hortons soup and chili at select retailers in Canada.
You can now find canned versions of Tim Hortons soup and chili at select retailers in Canada.

Craving a cream of broccoli soup from Tim Hortons? Now you can have one at home, without stepping foot in your local Tims.

The coffee and doughnut chain recently expanded the list of Tim Hortons products available at grocery stores, with cans of its chicken and rice, chicken noodle, and cream of broccoli soups, as well as its homestyle chili, now sold at select retailers across the country.

While Tim Hortons coffee, tea and specialty beverage products are already on Canadian grocery stores shelves, the expansion into canned soups and chili marks a shift into a food category that has largely struggled in North America in recent years.

According to a Nov. 2018 report from market research provider Euromonitor International, soup has been on the decline in Canada, a trend that is likely to continue.

“Canadian consumers, particularly the younger demographic, are becoming increasingly adventurous in terms of experimenting with flavours and styles, as part of the trend towards more international, authentic and interesting experiences in food and beverages,” the Euromonitor report said.

“This trend notably negatively impacted soup, an age-old staple food... Compounding this challenge was the negativity around artificial ingredients, which are perceived as unhealthy and unnatural, which are prevalent in major categories such as shelf stable, dehydrated and instant soup.”

Company spokesperson Jane Almeida said the decision to sell canned versions of Tim Hortons soup was “a natural extension” of its product lineup and offers more options for grocery shoppers.

“The soup category continues to be a very large one in supermarkets,” Almeida said in an emailed statement to Yahoo Finance Canada.

“We believe we have better soup taste and quality with a better brand compared to our competitors, so it was a natural category to introduce to supermarkets where Canadians are already buying soup. The same is true for instant coffee or home coffee pods in supermarkets.”

For now, the soups and chili are available at Sobeys, FreshCo, Shoppers Drug Mart, Save-On-Foods and Federated Co-Ops, but Almeida said the company is looking at selling the products in its restaurants as well. While the focus for Tim Hortons remains on keeping its restaurants profitable, the company sees opportunity in grocery stores.

“Our job is to offer our guests our products where they are already shopping,” Almeida said.

“It’s simply a question of whether we want Canadians that are already in the supermarket to pick up our brand or another brand – and we believe that we offer a superior product and a more trusted brand.”

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food policy at Dalhousie University, sees the expansion into new retail products as a solid opportunity for additional sales growth at a time of fierce competition in the quick-service retail industry.

“Let’s face it, the market is saturated right now for Tim Hortons, so they really need to find other ways to grow the business,” Charlebois said in an interview.

“This is one way to do it, without really investing too much on infrastructure. With canned soups, all you need is a contract manufacturer to get things done, make sure the brand is well protected and products are delivered on time and off you go.”

In fact, Charlebois said Tim Hortons could likely further expand its offering of retail products. He points to Quebec-based St-Hubert as an example of a food retailer that has been particularly successful in expanding its prepared food lineup. The fast-food chain has a range of retail products selling in grocery stores, including gravy, marinades, soups and chicken pot pies.

“Tim Hortons is taking a chapter out of the St-Hubert playbook,” Charlebois said.

“There is so much business being generated by retail sales. We’re talking about $120 billion worth of sales. If you can get one per cent of that, it gets interesting.”

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