Back in January, grocery stalwart Campbell’s delighted 500 people and disappointed scores of others when it held a contest to award lucky recipients with a flashy mailer full of Campbell’s Chunky Ghost Pepper Chicken Noodle Soup. The brand knew it wanted to make a splash with the ultra-limited promotional product, but the public response has been so overwhelming that the extra-spicy soup is now a permanent Campbell’s offering—a testament to the power of the pepper.
“We wouldn’t have done anything like this in years past,” Bryan Cozzi, Campbell’s executive chef, told The Takeout at the time of the new soup’s debut. “It’s going to be one of those things that really is a new chapter for us.”
The contest went live on January 27, and the 500 boxes were claimed in under a minute. According to representatives for Campbell’s, 36,000 people signed up to get a can of the soup (which the brand claims is “thirteen times spicier” than Chunky Spicy Chicken Noodle) as well as the other swag in the box—since the new product was so spicy, the kit also contained a fan, a sweatband, and a towel, tools one might need to combat all that heat.
Some people who didn’t manage to claim a box expressed frustration on social media. Meanwhile, several lucky recipients are either posting about their success or selling their boxes on eBay, with most priced around $50 but some listed for over $100.
The stunt apparently worked better than anyone could have predicted, as Campbell’s announced last week that the soup will become a permanent part of its Chunky line. Ghost Pepper Chicken Noodle will be available nationwide starting this summer, for $2.99 a can. Sounds like some eBay listings are about to lose some value.
It’s unclear how many people love the soup versus how many were simply trying to score a free swag kit. After all, 36,000 people expressing interest in something they haven’t tasted yet isn’t the same as 36,000 people coming back for seconds. But all the tasters seem to agree on one thing: It doesn’t skimp on spice.
A search for “Campbell’s Ghost Pepper” garners a number of review videos, most of which are people remarking on the intense heat from the ghost peppers. In fact, food writer Steven John suggests a serving modification for anyone who adds this spicy chicken noodle soup to their cart.
“If you are daring enough to try it,” John writes, “I’d recommend this approach: blend one can of classic, non-spicy chicken noodle soup with one can of this stuff and eat that. That way, you’ll actually be able to taste more than fire, and you may not need to change shirts, suck down milk (or chow down on antacid tablets), and recover for a solid 15 minutes after your meal.”
Such remarks on the spiciness were clearly what Campbell’s was going for with the campaign, and the brand wants to make sure consumers know what they’re getting into—“EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK” is printed right on the can. If it’s truly as hot as taste testers would have us believe, we’d better hope that the can’s design and placement on the grocery store shelf prevents someone who doesn’t love spice from accidentally buying it.
Even if they did, however, the punishing hue and the stinging odor of the peppers would probably give it away before anyone tasted an unwelcome burn.
“It looks crazy red,” notes Remi4all in a TikTok review, “and it smells spicy. I can almost feel the smell.”