New Campbell CEO: Chicken Soup for the Soul of the Brand


When it comes to product strategy, Campbell Soup has gone through more twists and turns over the last several years than one of the noodles in its classic Chicken Noodle Soup.

The world’s leading maker of soup has come up with heartier flavors and lighter flavors, chunkier textures, new ingredients, heart-healthy blends — you name it. The company also has infamously tacked back and forth about sodium reduction in its soups, firset embracing the idea as a major new platform and then, recently, trimming back its salt-cutting ambitions in the interests of taste.

Once again, Campbell is stirring the pot, this time under new CEO Denise Morrison, who presented her strategy to analysts in New York this week that the Campbell Soup Company has a few things cooking to jump-start growth.

Her new approach “requires moving from a high dependence on line extensions to more disruptive innovation, new and differentiated products, packaging and category segments that create new pathways for growth.”[more]

“Consumers today crave novelty, bolder flavors and foods that help them feel alive, engaged and connected,” she added. “No company is connected to consumers’ lives quite like Campbell, and we are well positioned to respond to the opportunities that the changing consumer landscape will present over the next decade.”

What exactly does that mean? In part, it means more than 50 new soup and simple-meal products this year, up from 27 last year. The new entries will range from a microwaveable pouch of Coconut Curry with Chicken and Shiitake Mushrooms soup to Gourmet Bisques, boxes of soup in meal-starter sizes in flavors such as Thai Tomato Coconut.

All of that may help, but the problem for Campbell may actually be … soup. Just as younger consumers increasingly have moved away from, say, sugared soft drinks over the years, there seems to be a generational lack of appreciation of soup, especially pre-packaged soup, among Millennials. That is one reason Campbell’s soup sales have gone cold in recent years even though the Great Recession had raised hopes of higher soup purchases by American households, as a value proposition.

While the company operates other CPG brands — including Pepperidge Farm, Prego, Royco, Swanson, V8, Arnott’s, Erasco, Touch of Taste, Liebig, Lacroix, and Pace — Morrison reiterated that Campbell remains committed to soup, particularly in a can.

“When we talk about our U.S. soup strategy,” she told the conference,” we talk about, first, celebrate the can, then expand soup beyond the can.”