MILL VALLEY, Calif. -- A new line of private-label soups is getting a warm reception from shoppers at Mollie Stone's Markets.
A vendor makes the soups for Mollie Stone's following the retailer's specifications, and delivers the product ready-to-serve, so there's little labor involved in preparing the chowders and bisques, said Dave Bennett, co-owner of the eight-store chain. The "Best of Both Worlds" line, introduced last month, features 11 varieties: Boston clam chowder, fully loaded chicken noodle, low-fat Golden Gate red chowder, vegetarian three-mushroom bisque, broccoli with stilton and cheddar, chicken basil chili with bean, tomato basil bisque, low-fat hearty steak and bean gumbo, vegan Moroccan lentil, and white bean spinach and pancetta minestrone. One of the best sellers is the vegetarian butternut squash and yogurt curry bisque, Bennett said.
Customers can buy soup hot from kettles in the salad bar area, and enjoy it in the dining area. Or they can pick it up chilled and packaged in 16-ounce containers, in grab-and-go cases. Pints of soup retail for $4.99.
Shoppers are buying a lot of soup in both areas of the store. Bennett was hard-pressed to say which generated the most sales.
"We do a big business in both," he said. Customers "don't want to put hot soup in the fridge. We're lucky because we've had some chilly weather here and there. It's been great."
Over the last 20 years, the retailer has gone back and forth with soup, outsourcing it from a vendor and making it in-house. The advantage to outsourcing is consistency day-in and day-out, from store to store, Bennett said.
"We're so excited about the consistency of the quality," he said. "It gives us a high-quality, unique product that's manufactured to our specifications."
The upscale San Francisco Bay-area chain is promoting the soups on hanging banners displayed in the stores and on its Web site. "The soups are made with real stock, quality ingredients and authentic spices for a made-from-scratch taste," according to the company's Web site.