Carst and Walker
Campbell Soup new CEO

Campbell Soup woos younger consumers and brings the salt back

The Campbell Soup Co has a new CEO, Denise Morrison, who has outlined her plans for the year ahead – among them rolling out 27 new soups and changing the recipes for 46, and bringing back some higher-sodium soups after several years of working to reduce sodium, sometimes at the expense of taste as many critics have bemoaned.

Morrison, who takes over as CEO on August 1 when incumbent Douglas Conant steps down after more than a decade, outlined her new approach during a meeting with analysts this week, and plans to focus on bolstering Campbell’s soups and other products to reinvigorate the brand and attract a new generation of buyers — a move that could mean higher prices for consumers.

She said the company, which is known for its red and white cans, wants to build up US sales to Hispanic consumers and millennials, the generation born after 1979. She said Campbell’s main competition isn’t other soup makers, but rather a growing range of other simple make-at-home meals is.

“These consumers have no intrinsic barrier to soup as a food,” Morrison said in a talk in which she acknowledged some company missteps in recent years. “They love soup. But many of them don’t connect with our soup products.”

Morrison said Campbell will focus less on pushing the volume of sales of its condensed soups — something that’s been a struggle in the past two years. In the first nine months of the company’s current fiscal year, US soup sales are down five per cent.

Instead the company plans to launch high-end soups, among other changes that include broadening its range of food choices. The company is rolling out 27 new soups in the coming year and changing the recipes for 46. The company concedes that it could sell a lower volume of soup in the coming year because of the strategy.

Among the changes, Campbell plans to bring back some higher-sodium soups after several years of working to reduce sodium, sometimes at the expense of taste — at least in the view of some of most frequent buyers. Additionally, Campbell, which already has expanded its V8 juice line, launching energy drinks and smoothies in some markets, plans to broaden those offerings. It will also roll out Pepperidge Farm Goldfish-shaped crustless bread next week in an effort to capitalize on its high-performing crackers.

In another shift, Campbell plans to grow internationally by buying and partnering with existing companies, particularly in Asia and Latin America. That means not trying to start up in a new country from scratch, as it did four years ago in China and Russia. The company announced two weeks ago that it was leaving the Russian market, but staying in China — plans it reaffirmed Tuesday.

“We’re under no illusions about the challenges we face,” she said. “We’re aware of the likelihood of considerable inflation affecting our input costs and we know that international expansion can be a risky proposition.”….. Read more

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