Souped-up recipes for new generation: Campbell's CEO begins stirring things up (2024)

Souped-up recipes for new generation: Campbell's CEO begins stirring things up (1)View full sizeCie Stroud/For The Star-LedgerCampbell's President and CEO Denise Morrison poses outside the company's headquarters in Camden.

CAMDEN — The new varieties of Campbell's soups, Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas and Creamy Red Pepper with Smoked Gouda, are nothing like the ones your mother kept stacked in her kitchen cabinet. They don't even come in cans.

And that’s exactly what Denise Morrison, the chief executive officer at Campbell Soup, is counting on.

When Morrison became CEO last year, she took on the daunting task of reinvigorating the 140-year-old Camden company. The mandate required making soup more convenient, more ethnic, more hip.

For all its nostalgia as a comfort food, sales of Campbell’s soups, with their iconic red-and-white labeling, were slipping, especially among younger food shoppers.

A year into her new job, it’s as if Morrison is adding a splash of hot sauce to spice up a cherished family recipe that everyone had started to consider bland.

She is leading the launch of nearly 50 new products, ranging from new varieties of Chunky soup to a new line of Campbell’s Go Soups in pouches. The products, which include a line of skillet sauces for making easy, tasty dinners, are meant to entice new customers and, over time, heat up the company’s lukewarm soup profits.

Morrison’s mandate includes more than cooking up new recipes though. Campbell is investing millions in new marketing and merchandising strategies — where the products are placed in grocery stores — in an effort to reach the nation’s 80 million millennials — discerning, tech-saavy consumers between the ages of 25 and 35.

Morrison is also showing some old-fashioned moxie as she takes Campbell Soup, a company with $8 billion in annual revenues, into such fast-growing — and unlikely markets as organic juices. Initial Wall Street reaction has been positive.

"We believe management’s strategic and tactical plans have changed for the better,’’ Goldman Sachs analyst Jason English said in a Aug. 13 research note. "Campbell appears to have its most robust slate of innovation in a decade.’’

Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said the venerable company had to do something to improve its lackluster sales. "They knew they needed a turnaround," he said.

At Campbell, soup represents the largest part of the company’s business, roughly 35 percent. During the past few years, it has experienced a steady year-over-year decline and while more robust sales of Goldfish crackers, Prego sauces and Milano cookies have helped, analysts said the soup sales figures represent a major headwind.

Morrison doesn’t disagree. "Our soup and simple meal business is a powerful engine, but by itself, it cannot take us where we want to go," she said last month during a meeting with analysts. "We know it needs repair. We know how to fix it, and we know how to grow it."

Souped-up recipes for new generation: Campbell's CEO begins stirring things up (2)View full sizeCie Stroud/For The Star-LedgerCampbell's new line of Go Soups.

To get a sense of what’s possible, consider Old Spice, marketed by Procter & Gamble.

The manufacturer made a bet on a sexy, horseback-riding man and a viral video campaign to rekindle interest in a passé brand.

"For at least 20 years, Old Spice was a joke. It was a tired, terrible brand," Gordon said. "They turned it into this wild, with-it stuff that my kid in college uses."

Like Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s problem centered on changing demographics.

"The canned soups, particularly the condensed soups, skew to a much older customer," said Alexia Howard, a food industry analyst with Bernstein Research.

When Morrison moved into the corner office last August, she gave the company’s consumer insights group a clear directive to get an understanding of the millennial consumer.

"She wanted us to make it a priority," said Chuck Vila, the vice president of consumer insights.

Vila and his colleagues went to such "hipster hubs’’ as Austin, Portland and San Francisco to study the rituals and preferences of people in their mid-20s and 30s. They shopped with them. They ate at their favorite food trucks, neighborhood restaurants and, sometimes, they ate home-cooked meals in their homes.

"We learned a lot,’’ Vila said. "They are restless spirits with adventurous tastes."

From those insights came the exotic-sounding soup varieties, edgy graphics on packaging and new skillet sauces that promise easy-to-prepare, gourmet-sounding dinners.

Packaged in pouches, the sauces take minutes to prepare, come in six varieties, including fire roasted tomato with red bell peppers and cilantro and creamy chipotle with roasted corn and black beans.

The 58-year-old Morrison, who grew up in the Elberon section of Long Branch, has a reputation among employees for being smart and tough. Her experience in the sales and marketing with some of the food industry’s giants is extensive.

Souped-up recipes for new generation: Campbell's CEO begins stirring things up (3)

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She spent time at Pepsi-Cola and Nestle and then at Nabisco before following a mentor, former CEO Douglas Conant, to Campbell Soup in 2003.

Gordon, the University of Michigan business professor, said the breadth of experience inside and, especially, outside Campbell Soup makes her better suited to guide the company through a period of change.

The company’s growth strategy was carefully crafted to be respectful of the company’s founders — members of the Dorrance family remain major shareholders — while trying to reach outward in order to shape the company’s future.

Once the investment began to produce real products, Morrison said it galvanized employees throughout the company.

"As the leader, you’re empowering talent,’’ she said during a conversation in her office last month. "Once you’ve given the direction, it’s a joy to see it put into action, to see people on every level of the company carrying out the strategy.’’

The company’s turnaround strategy means new flavors of V8 Splash, new packaging for V8 V-Fusion juices and new advertisem*nts for the Milano Slices sold by Campbell’s Pepperidge Farm division. It is also trying to gain traction in Russia and China.

In July, Campbell’s spent $1.5 billion to purchase Bolthouse Farms, which built a line of healthy fruit juices and salad dressings around a robust carrot business.

Bolthouse, based in California, represents the company’s largest acquisition and gives it entry into the $12 billion — and growing — packaged fresh foods market.

For Campbell Soup, Gordon said, the acquisition was uncharacteristically bold.

"People saw it as an emboldened move,’’ Morrison acknowledged. "That creates a halo effect. If your leader is making bold – not risky — moves, it emboldens everyone.’’

Morrison is careful to emphasize that the company is not abandoning its core business in pursuit of growth. "We will not lurch widely,’’ she has said.

But there’s a lot riding on her ability to make the turnaround work. In a recent research note, Howard and other analysts with Bernstein Research said the new soup and sauce products will need to achieve $82 million in sales next year "just to keep the category flat.’’

Gordon said it differently. "She’s in the hot seat,’’ he said. "Her stuff has to start working.’’

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Souped-up recipes for new generation: Campbell's CEO begins stirring things up (2024)

FAQs

What is surprising about Campbell soup? ›

In 1961, Campbell Soup did a very un-soup-y thing: It acquired a baking business called Pepperidge Farm. The company has never been the same since -- and that's a good thing.

Who was the CEO of Campbell Soup Past? ›

Douglas Conant is an American businessman who was President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company until July 31, 2011. Longtime protégé Denise Morrison, who worked for him at Nabisco as well as Campbell's, succeeded him as CEO.

Who is the CEO of Campbell soup? ›

Mark A. Clouse - Campbell Soup Company. Mark A. Clouse is President and Chief Executive Officer.

Why is Campbell's condensed soup unavailable? ›

The iconic Campbell's Condensed Soup brand will disappear from UK shelves for good next March, The Grocer can reveal. The 110-year-old soup brand - made famous by Andy Warhol's 1960s pop art prints - is to be rebranded as Batchelors and will carry a 'Soon to be Batchelors' message from next week.

What is the Campbell's controversy? ›

The big picture: The DOJ accuses Campbell of since 2018 violating pollution restrictions outlined in permits for the Napoleon factory along the Lake Erie tributary Maumee River by discharging contaminants including phosphorous and bacteria.

What is the Campbell soup controversy? ›

The lawsuit against Campbell's is for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants into Maumee River from its facility, which sits about 43 miles upstream of Lake Erie. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also filed a lawsuit, on behalf of the EPA.

Is Campbell's soup manufactured in China? ›

The joint venture will be based in Campbell's current offices in Shanghai and will be responsible for manufacturing, packaging, branding, marketing, selling and distributing soup, broth and stock products in China. Campbell will retain ownership of Campbell brands and recipes and license those to the joint venture.

How much does the CEO of Campbell's soup company make a year? ›

Campbell Soup's CEO is Mark Clouse, appointed in Jan 2019, has a tenure of 5.33 years. total yearly compensation is $11.70M, comprised of 10.3% salary and 89.7% bonuses, including company stock and options. directly owns 0.082% of the company's shares, worth $11.40M.

Is Campbell soup in debt? ›

Total debt on the balance sheet as of January 2024 : $4.52 B

According to Campbell Soup's latest financial reports the company's total debt is $4.52 B. A company's total debt is the sum of all current and non-current debts.

Who owns Campbell's? ›

Campbell Soup is not owned by hedge funds. The company's largest shareholder is Mary Alice Malone, with ownership of 18%. The Vanguard Group, Inc. is the second largest shareholder owning 7.9% of common stock, and BlackRock, Inc. holds about 6.0% of the company stock.

Where does Mark Clouse live? ›

Personal life. Clouse met and married his wife Kathy in the 1990s while he was in the Army. They live in New Jersey and have two sons.

Who owns Campbell's stock? ›

Largest shareholders include Vanguard Group Inc, BlackRock Inc., State Street Corp, Van Eck Associates Corp, MOAT - VanEck Vectors Morningstar Wide Moat ETF, VTSMX - Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Investor Shares, Beutel, Goodman & Co Ltd., Brandywine Trust Co, Geode Capital Management, Llc, and VFINX - ...

Does Campbell's condensed soup go bad? ›

Variety of Soup

Creamy soups like Campbell's Condensed Cream of Tomato Soup will generally last three to four days in the fridge.

What Campbell's soup is no longer made? ›

Campbell's Chicken Verde Soup

One superfan was so disappointed about the disappearance of their favorite Campbell's Chicken Verde Soup that they wrote to the company to ask if it would bring the soup back. To their dismay, the customer received unfortunate news the soup had been discontinued.

Why is Campbell soup so expensive? ›

Campbell Soup Co. is pushing through a fourth round of “very targeted” price increases – the largest in more than a year – to offset core inflation, which continues to rise and reached its highest point in more than year, executives revealed during the company's first quarter earnings call yesterday.

Why is Campbell's soup so famous? ›

Warhol's Campbell's Soup works are not only important for their position in the development of American Pop Art and their place in the timeline of Warhol's career, they were also remarkably prescient of the fascination with brands that still pervades this period of late capitalism, and for that they remain striking not ...

What is an interesting fact about soup? ›

Women are twice as likely to order soup for lunch as men. Americans eat more than 10 billion bowls of soup each year. How about the hippo variety? The earliest archaeological evidence for the consumption of soup dates back to 6000 BC, and it was hippopotamus soup.

What was so special about the soup? ›

“Many soup stocks are made from bones of chicken, beef, or fish which are cooked for a few hours. This gives enough time for minerals like zinc, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium to transfer into the liquid stock,” she said. “Add in veggies and you've got even more nutrients in the soup.”

What are some fun facts about Campbell's chicken noodle soup? ›

The Story Behind the Name
  • In 1934, Campbell set the standard by introducing the famed Noodle. with Chicken soup.
  • In 1938, Campbell changed the name of its Noodle with Chicken soup. During a broadcast of a popular radio program, one of the famous. ...
  • In 1962, renowned artist Andy Warhol painted the wildly popular 32.
Jan 16, 2014

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