Taking Campbell’s on a fresh food buying spree
With major acquisitions of organic baby food and fresh carrot companies, the iconic processed, canned soup company is trying to become a strong advocate for fresh food and ingredient transparency.
For decades, Campbell’s has been an icon of traditional American processed food. Andy Warhol celebrated the company’s soup cans as a symbol of manufactured pop culture in the early 1960s.
So the last thing you would expect is for the brand to be associated with real food. But that’s exactly the transformation that the company has brought about under the leadership of Denise Morrison (above).
For decades, Campbell Soup Company talked primarily about “shipping cases” as a business goal, and treated their products as a commodity.
When Morrison took over as CEO six years ago, her goal was to change the conversation to focus on food served at family tables.
“Now as a company we’re talking more about what’s in our food and how it’s made,” Morrison says. “And we have a philosophy that our brand should be something we’re proud to serve at our own tables.”
When Morrison took the helm, Campbell’s stock was trading at $33. Six years later it has nearly doubled.
You can’t attribute that success to any one thing, but for Morrison, it has been about the company defining and living its purpose.
“I have to say that we are not all the way there yet. I clearly see this as a transition journey driven by our purpose that has changed my company.”
Two years into her tenure as CEO, Morrison assembled a team from across the organisation, not just comprised of executives, to understand the role of their products in people’s lives.
They discovered an “emotional connection with the brand” that customers were telling them about, into which the company had not fully tapped.
“They broke out into stories about a cold night and a warm bowl of soup, or a moment between a mother and child, or having soup after a stressful day.”
It was an eye-opening exercise for the company. And Morrison says it helped them discover that they were in the business of creating, “Real food that matters for life’s moments,” as they worked with a team of chefs to make sure that their products were both safe and delicious.
The statement became their purpose as a company. It is at the core how Morrison makes decisions and runs the company.
What’s in my food?
Morrison’s lifelong quest for knowledge now expresses itself in her push for greater transparency about the ingredients used to make Campbell’s products.
Under her leadership, the company has removed artificial ingredients and colours from their products. And last year, it went further, becoming the first major food company to announce that it would label its products to disclose the presence of controversial GMOs like corn, soy, and sugar beets.
And to make it easier for consumers to actually track what’s in the Campbell’s products they buy, the company launched a new website called “What’s In My Food”.
The bold move involved breaking with peers in the food industry, while supporting standards for higher transparency that only a few states in America have been pushing for.
“I’ve always believed consumers have a right to know what’s in their food. The single most important ingredient in the recipe for success is transparency because transparency builds trust,” she says.
From Morrison’s perspective, this requirement directly flows from the company’s purpose-driven by its commitment to real food.
Even as Campbell’s enhances the quality of their ingredients, the company focuses on working at scale so they can keep their costs down.
“It really is all about bringing delicious and nutritious food to people that’s also affordable. That’s been our history as a company and it continues to drive what we do every day.”…..
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