The Curious Case of the Confusing Campbell's Kettle Container

Campbell's new Kettle of chicken chili. Hearty, tasty, and it looks so... microwavable... doesn't it? In fact, it looks like it's packaged just like Campbell's equally delicious and microwavable Chicken and Dumplings, and the beef veg soup with the little hamburger patties in it, and our tried and true friend, the traditional Noodle Soup.

I am a soup-a-holic, you see. I am all about new soupy, stewy goodness. I eat soup for lunch most days, and sometimes for dinner, too. I even got second degree burns once from an unfortunate soup spillage accident, and it didn't put me off my favorite flavors.

So when I saw this nifty new chicken chili, and a new beef and mushroom combo, I had them in my hot little hands as fast as a panicky spring bride grabs the discount dress of her dreams at a $100 gown blowout.

But when I got the chicken chili back to work, to see how long I needed to microwave it, I was surprised to see that the metaphorical gown did not fit the bride's most simple assumptions...

"Do not microwave in container."


I read it twice, because it was so contrary to all my previous product experiences for this type of packaging. 

"Do not microwave in container."

Now, bowls at work are not exactly a-plenty. I mean, while it's a homey sort of office we enjoy, it's still a friggin' office. We have the 400 examples of tradeshow mug swag that most executives covet, and the biodegradable plates we are grateful for when food is primarily eaten desk-ward, so we only lose a third of it or so down our keyboards. We also are not working in the wonderful world of Plastic-Wrap Land.

Think of it like a Frat House, only it smells a lot better and the decor is tasteful.

Sure, I could nuke the soup in a promo Initech mug or something. Which I did. But the whole thing left me befuddled. 

Why package the soup in a non-microwavable container that looks exactly like every other microwavable lunch option? Hormel, Chef Boyardee, Campbell's Chunky-- all these folks have come to some quiet agreement that when a microwavable lunch choice is in one of these same plastic-lidded tubbies, it can be heated straight in the container.

It's like some unspoken rule between manufacturer and consumers, the way cereal comes in a box, and eggs come in a carton.

Instead, it's a little like buying a carton of milk to find what you have in there is actually powdered. Or grabbing a carton of eggs only to see there are pre-fried eggs in there.

And I know, in the great scheme of things, this momentary befuddlement rates about a negative 200 on the Inconvenience-o-meter. It's minutia of Seinfeldian proportions, I realize that-- and if I weren't such a lazy bugger, I would be at home making my own soup, and prepackaging it for myself in my own microwave tubs where I would be assured of its total nukability.

For those wondering, I even do have bigger things to worry about. Like whether my 401K will end up with enough to buy myself a nice pack of gum in retirement. If I still have my teeth. I know I'm not alone.

So with that in perspective, to our friends at Campbell's, I would just like to say, the chili was extremely yum. My only suggestion to you is to take a tip from a political campaign slogan that's rather fallen out of favor these days... When it comes to your Kettle, instead say: "Yes, we'll CAN."


Junk Drawer Kathy said...

I'm with you, Jenn. You're not allowed to use the same container that consumers everywhere expect to be microwavable.

It forever boggles my mind that no focus group ever said "You know, this will likely be annoying to people if they see it's in a container they think they can microwave. And you just know people are going to do it without even reading the label. And then they'll have a mess in their microwave and no edible lunch to show for it and then they'll never buy this again because they're so pissed off."

Because if I was in a focus group, that's what I would have said and you would be enjoying your chili microwaved in the container it came in because I care about stuff like this.


Unknown said...

Kathy- Sing it, Sister!! :)

Janene said...

I'm with you, too. What absolute crap! Cambell's is such a tease.

Lili said...

So...what, are you supposed to put the little bowl-shaped container directly on the gas burner instead? Because I don't think _that_ will go well, either....

Unknown said...

Janene- That's what it felt like-- a tease!

Lili- Apparently we are to supply our own microwavable safe bowl.

Deray said...

Aren't you glad you actually read the label though? :-P

Unknown said...

Deray- Oh yes, yes I am. I can only imagine trying to explain how I damaged the work microwave.

ReformingGeek said...

For shame.

I wonder how many people microwaved it without reading the label?

meleah rebeccah said...

Not being able to microwave the bowl makes NO sense to me. NONE. But, I'm glad it tasted good - even though you had to eat it out of a mug.

Steve Bailey said...

I totally agree with you. I too love soup... and as an avid soup consumer I can confidently say that that packaging is misleading! Mr. Boyardee would never allow this to happen. Shame on you Campbells!

Vanessa said...

Oh soup, how I love thee. I use to pack a vintage thermos of soup for lunch daily, but I'm so busy now I just eat cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit on top for I'll get back to cooking one day...

A funny work-bowl story. We did have nice bowls 'round these parts for our soups and foods. People refused to wash them and the kitchen was icky. I stopped wanting to wash them so I threw them out.


markalanj said...

I too am the victim of this trap! Right now its lunch and I brought this in today as it looks just like every "crap in a can you can microwave" bowel. I only have one mug and that is for my drink. I wonder what happens if I just go for it and see how the microwave reacts.

Unknown said...

Reforming Geek- I suppose we'll be finding out soon through web searches.

Meleah- It's not even like we have plastic wrap in the office we can use.

Steve- When Campbells as it together over so many things, it's just odd how this worked out.

Van- That's offices for you. Even my own tea mug is of questionable quality these days. :)

Mark- I don't know if I'd want to chance it; you might end up ruining your whole lunch (or the microwave) depending on how much metal is in the thing.

markalanj said...

I tried it and its not a fact of metal. There is only the small rim of metal up top. I punched holes in the lid and it resulted in no arcing inside the microwave, but lets just say the holes in the lid don't work it blew the lid right off. I just decided to dump it in my mug and then I'll drink something after I eat.

Unknown said...

Thanks for reporting back and being our test case, Mark, at risk to your lovely soup. I'm glad nothing (and no one) was harmed in the process, though I'm sorry your MacGyvering didn't work.

Campbells will need to add a "do not punch holes in this lid and try to microwave anyway" disclaimer on their Kettle.

With all the disclaimers, they may need a bigger Kettle. :)

webRat said...

As one of your "frat brothers" I'm going to have to disagree with "only it smells a lot better" unless your nasal passages have experienced recent burn-out with air freshener overdose.

Unknown said...

webRat- Heh, I only got that weird minty toothpaste smell from the air fresheners as I passed through. Girl Floor remained strangely unencumbered by that smell.

Anonymous said...

My wife litterally had this happen today, when she was reading how long to put in the microwave, she was like..WHAT!! I find it so hard to believe that the people at Campbells didn't think about this, and they probably did, and made the concious decision to do it anyway, which I feel was a poor decision.

Kate said...

I am so happy to know that I am not the only one who feels this way. I commented to every coworker who crossed my path in the kitchen today. Campbell's can rest assured that no one from my office will ever be purchasing these imposturous soup bowls.

Painz said...

I tried it. I used the cover off a Healthy Choice soup with no problem. I only microwaved it for 1.5 minutes like the healthy choice variety and all OK. I checked and both soup containers were of the same material but the Campbell's container seems a little thinner, maybe the 3 minutes on the container would melt it.

krista said...

I ran into the same predicament at work today! Ridiculous! After scouring the entire office for a bowl, successfully microwaving the soup, and reading your rant, I came across Campbell's website which now has heating instructions for the Slow Kettle soups. Figures. Not that it would have been any easier to find "microwavable plastic wrap" laying around the office. Argh. I don't understand why this container is different from their other lunchtime-looking soups!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Krista, for the info. FOLKS, here's the Campbell's microwave instructions Krista kindly shared via the link above:

Microwave: Microwave ovens vary. Time is approximate. Uneven microwave heating may cause popping, movement of the container and/or splattering.

Discard plastic cap; carefully remove and discard metal lid. Cover with microwavable plastic wrap.
Microwave on HIGH 2 minutes. Let stand in microwave 1 minute. Carefully remove from microwave, grasping container on both sides with potholders. Stir before serving.

Note: After tasting, if you like warmer soup, heat an additional 15 seconds.

I think it's funny how Campbell's sounds all surprised by: "While Campbell's® Slow Kettle® soup has always been microwave in separate bowls from the container, for best results we recommend heating on the stove. However, many consumers told us that they'd like to microwave the soup in its container, so we developed the instructions below. Packaging with the new heating instructions will appear on shelves soon."

Why WOULDN'T we want to microwave the soup in the container?! If we'd not wanted to use the microwave-style-individual-serving container we would have probably bought a soup in the can. Very strange.

Gary said...

Here's how I microwave it without problems.

Discard the plastic cap (why do they even bother with the cost and waste of plastic?).

Open and discard the metal lid.

Put the container on a paper plate with another plate on top.

Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir. Cover it again and repeat two more times (total 1.5 minutes seems to be enough in my microwave).

There is no arching, but you may hear the contents "burp" a time or two (hence the paper plate on top).

Keeping the time to 30-second intervals with stirring in between seems to avoid getting explosive hot spots.

Anonymous said...

Had an experience with this today. A coworker came up with a piping hot chunky soup in the same-shaped container and said, "I see we're eating something similar". I asked him if his container was microwavable, and his instructions mention nothing different.

His lid was vented on top but also the sides of the lid were slit.

I have to wonder what the deal with these kettle soups is. Interestingly, if you compare the nutritional info of the Kettle soups vs the other Campbell's similarly-shaped soups, the Kettle soups have on average 320-400 calories, 4-6g fat, and ~24g protein per container, compared with ~350-500, 9-15g, and substantially less protein with the Chunky and regular Campbell's soups.

I'd be inclined to believe there was a conspiracy against healthy eating going on, I think they'll change the lid with the next batch that goes out. The hasty microwaveable instructions complete with grammar mistake make me think they're beating a hasty retreat.