Fresh-Foods Era Has Campbell Soup Cooking Up New Products

Fresh-Foods Era Has Campbell Soup Cooking Up New Products

To understand the ideas driving the overhaul of Campbell Soup Co., it helps to consider how the packaged food giant describes the products it makes. Instead of “formulas and processing,” company leaders now talk about “recipes and cooking.”

It is a subtle verbal cue that reflects what the company behind Campbell’s soup, Pepperidge Farm cookies and SpaghettiOs said is an “extreme makeover” to prevent it from becoming irrelevant in a new era of eating.

At an investor meeting last week, the company outlined a slate of new measures that aim to cater to consumers’ desires for fresh foods with simple ingredients. It plans to remove all artificial flavors and ingredients from its products in North America by 2018 and will begin moving some children’s soups to non-BPA cans. The company will also invest heavily in its newly created Campbell Fresh division, which includes items such as carrots, hummus and refrigerated salsas that customers perceive to be healthier snacks than, say, legacy Campbell items, such as Goldfish crackers.

“It’s often difficult to recognize a revolution when you’re in the midst of it. But it’s clear that the food industry is being transformed right before our very eyes,” chief executive Denise Morrison told investors.

Indeed, Campbell is hardly the only company that is scrambling to adapt to this reality: Its rivals H.J. Heinz and Kraft Foods Group announced earlier this year that they planned to merge in an effort to better weather the changes. And fast-food giant McDonald’s has blamed a string of dismal quarterly earnings reports partly on consumers’ beliefs that its food is not fresh or healthy.

Campbell’s plan to reinvigorate its slowing sales growth relies largely on what it calls “packaged fresh” foods.

One experiment is a new brand of cold-pressed, organic juices called 1915. They also hope to expand the reach of Garden Fresh Gourmet, a brand of dips, tortilla chips and salsas that Campbell agreed to acquire for $231 million in June.

And even with existing products, Campbell will be emphasizing freshness. Its line of microwavable soups, which rakes in $122 million a year, will now come in see-through plastic bowls that Mark Alexander, president of the simple meals and beverages division, said “will show off the authentic ingredients we use: the vegetables, the pasta, the chicken and the beef.”

Author: Sarah Halzack The Washington Post

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