Airtight packaging and a quick-chill process that extends refrigerated shelf life to 45 days are helping San Francisco-based Heartland Soups gain a Bay-area foothold in the emerging health-conscious food market.

Heartland Soups is carving out a niche in the $10 billion soup category for its all-natural, fresh-packaged soups.

According to H. Joseph Ehrman, Heartland appeals to both weight-conscious and preservatives-averse consumers who want nutritious, fresh-tasting soup in a ready-to-eat format. “We formulate our recipes with garlic, citrus and other natural preservatives,” he says. “In the end, we get a fresh-tasting product that is heart-healthy and effective for people on a weight management diet.”

Packaging carries the Five-a-Day seal, but the cost of including Weight Watchers’ point information and American Heart Association’s heart-check mark was beyond Heartland Soups’ financial reach, Ehrmann says. Incorporating the heart-check mark, for example, costs $7,500 per SKU per year.

Two months after the initial launch, the company redesigned package graphics for a more contemporary look. Unchanged was the package itself—a 16 oz. polypropylene tub with a foil overlay—and the process designed by Pat Mansfield of Del Monaco Specialty Foods, San Jose. The copacker adapted a European cook-chill system to include an ice-water tumbler that helps reduce product temperatures to 400 within 20 minutes. Finished goods are held at 300, critical for inactivation of spoilage organisms.