Chilled, ready-to-drink Tío Gazpacho soups are stylishly wrapped in on-the-go PET bottles and made using no-heat, nutrient-preserving High-Pressure Processing.
There are products that are category busters and then there are products that create an entirely new category. Tío Foods, Miami Beach, FL, has introduced one of the latter.
During a four year stint living Spain in the early 2000s, company founder Austin Allan fell in love with gazpacho, a specialty soup made fresh using raw ingredients and served cold. After working in banking for a number of years he founded his company in 2013 to make and market gazpacho in the US. A few challenges and some months later, the company launched Tío Gazpacho chilled soups in shrink-sleeved PET bottles in late 2014.
A lot has happened along the way.
“Gazpacho was the starting point,” says Allan, whose official title is totally important officer. “I wanted to redefine soup and make it more accessible, and that means drinkable and chilled. Putting soup in a bottle to make it conveniently drinkable is a game changer.”
On the formulation side, he adapted a classic gazpacho recipe for an American audience and developed two others that he says “are not classic gazpachos, but are tailor-made for consumers looking for healthy products that still taste good.” All three products are vegetable soups naturally colored red, green or yellow by the key ingredients found on the front label.
The soups push the hot buttons of on-the-go, convenience, health, organic and vegan. “People are looking to eat less meat, eat more vegetables and want a clean label—and this is right up their alley,” says Allan.
The bottle shape and the processing method took their cues from those used for cold-pressed juices, which are made using High Pressure Processing (HPP).
“I thought it was an interesting concept and tried HPP juices,” he recalls. “The taste was amazing, especially compared with heat-pasteurized products. I wanted the best tasting, freshest product possible, and HPP was really the only option for me.”
In order to make it ready to drink, Allan assessed various package options including aseptic carton, glass bottle and even a bowl. The use of HPP eliminated certain package formats and narrowed the field to a package that he says people responded to best: A clear plastic bottle. Allan preferred the “tall, elegant” PET bottle common for cold-pressed juices.
“We found early on that it’s not necessarily more expensive to have HPP-compliant packaging, you just have to find it,” he points out.
Allan considered different sizes, opacities and shapes before settling on a stock clear PET bottle sourced as of September 2014 through Zuckerman Honickman.
Starting in November 2014, the bottled soups were processed using HPP equipment from Hiperbaric installed at contract packager FreshBev in Connecticut. Done in batches in a water-filled hyperbaric tank, the bottled soups are subjected to approximately 80,000 lb per square inch of pressure. That destroys any organisms while retaining the product’s consistency, flavor, nutrients and quality.
“I met with Hiperbaric when I was still like making samples in my kitchen,” says Allan. “They were so supportive and provided a lot of guidance. They truly believed in what I was doing, which was also instrumental in my decision to select them.”
The bottles are sleeve-labeled post-processing using 50-micron PETG labels converted by DWS Printing Associates, Inc., which represented a change in suppliers. Offering a 76% shrinkage, the labels are flexo-printed in four colors on a 10-color Omet Srl Model X6 press that DWS installed this year. They are currently supplied precut rather than in standard rollstock to FreshBev per the copacker's request.
"They’ve been really phenomenal,” says Allan. “DWS helped us make a few changes to the label [noted on the next page] and it looks beautiful.”
The packaging design, particularly of the shrink-sleeve labels, was handled by Element18 Design. “I told them my vision and they responded with the great idea of the spoon—something simple that emulates what the cold-pressed juices are doing, but indicates that this is something different,” Allan explains. “They responded with about a dozen different designs, each better than the one before.”
The change in an HPP copacker had signaled not only a change in geography for processing, but also for distribution. The product was tested in Miami starting in late 2013 and throughout 2014 until November 2014 when the soups officially launched in Florida. That was followed by New York City in February 2015, a move that positions the company for expansion into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
The soups are found in natural and organic grocery stores including Whole Foods and high-end grocery stores like Kings Markets in New Jersey and Balducci’s Markets along the East Coast, according to Allan. For customers in the New York and Philadelphia areas, the soups are available through online grocer, FreshDirect.com, which Allan calls one of its best customers.
The products sell for $7.99-$8.99 and are coded for a 90-day chilled “best by” shelf life from the date of manufacture.
Changes, challenges, lessons learned and the future…