An entrepreneur bets on the return of the instant soup cup

Of all the products gathering dust on supermarket shelves, soup cups have an especially grimy place.

First introduced to the US in the 1970s, the ubiquitous foam cups haven’t evolved much in the years since. Now, food entrepreneur and former Barclays analyst Robert Jakobi has introduced a line geared toward millennials, who have embraced similar products such as keto diet-friendly bone broth. His two-year-old company Bou—an abbreviation of bouillon—makes a range of products, from soup cups to cubes for broth gravy and miso made with non-GMO ingredients.

“There were big goliath brands,” Jakobi says, but none were focused on the health-conscious consumer. In February 2017, he secured $800,000 from private investors. By July, he had a product that Whole Foods had agreed to distribute nationwide. In October 2018, Jakobi closed a Series B with just under $5 million. Bou’s sales were $2 million in 2018, and Jakobi projects triple-digit growth for 2019.

Bou products are now available in 6,500 stores across the country including Whole Foods, Sprouts and Wegmans. In August, they’ll land at Wal-mart. The miso cubes are even stocked in the pantry at Facebook Inc.’s New York headquarters.

Jakobi’s ultimate goal is to make Bou as ubiquitous in household pantries across the country as its artificially flavored predecessors were. To spread the word, the company has signed such social-media influencers as @brunchboys’s
Jeremy Jacobowitz and Food Network star Palak Patel.

The flavors range from classic to unconventional. The chicken-and-noodle cup of soup boasts tagliatelle pasta and vegetables that taste like the carrots and corn they are. The vegetable bouillon has a gentle hit of chile. Best of all are the cinnamon and coconut miso cubes, which create a satisfying, almost creamy broth. The soup cups are recyclable, and the bouillon contains 30 percent less sodium than other brands.

Preparation is simple, and the packaging includes illustrated directions. The brown gravy cubes, for example, require just three steps: Add water, stir and pour from a gravy boat onto a plate of food.

Still, the bouillon category is not a large one. Just because bone broth kiosks have popped up in places such as Manhattan doesn’t mean you’ll find a Bou soup cup in offices, universities, and 7-11’s across the country. Jakobi plans to change all that.


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