Campbell Keeps Plum Founder On Board in Organic Baby-Food Derby


Campbell has joined the organic-foods derby with its acquisition of Plum Organics, but the CPG titan plans to take best advantage of its new purchase by letting Plum continue to be Plum.

Co-founder Neil Grimmer will stay on for Campbell to run the brand, a Silicon Valley-based company that has become one of America’s biggest players in the fast-growing natural and organic market with its purees, savory items and other foods and snacks for babies and toddlers, adding up to about $93 million in annual sales.

If Campbell’s move to snap up this burgeoning better-for-you player seems familiar, that’s because it should. Campbell’s deal, announced last week, follows in quick order the acquisition of most of Happy Family Brands, a major Plum competitor in the baby-and-toddler space, by Groupe Danone (parent of Dannon USA) of Paris; the recent acquisition of BluePrint and Ella’s Kitchen by Hain Celestial; and Post Holdings’ acquisitions of Attune Foods and Hearthside Food Solutions.[more]

And, of course, it was just last year that, under increasingly sure-footed CEO Denise Morrison, Campbell made the major acquisition of Bolthouse Farms, a big player in smoothies, juices and vegetables.

“Plum is well aligned with our company’s dual mandate to strengthen the core business while expanding into faster-growing spaces and adjacencies,” Campbell Soup spokeswoman Carla Burigatto told brandchannel. “Plum will give us access to a new generation of consumers and a fast-growing category, consistent with the second part of our dual mandate. Given the growth in organic baby food and Plum’s exposure to younger consumers, it makes a great fit—especially since Plum is a brand with deep loyalty among its consumers.”

Organic, premium baby foods are the fastest-growing segment in the category, Burigatto noted, and Plum is the No. 2 brand in that segment—and the No. 4 brand in baby food overall. Danone was attracted to Happy Family by similar dynamics.

As Morrison put it in a press release, the move “represents another step toward our long-term goal of shifting Campbell’s center of gravity.”

As it happens, just recently Morrison has begun showing some significant results in improving the performance of Campbell’s existing “center of gravity”—its soups business. But she wants to continue to push Campbell into categories of healthful fare that resonate with Millennials, and healthy food for their babies is often where parents in Generation Y—or any generation—first decide to take the plunge into organic fare.

Grimmer said in the release that joining Campbell “will allow us to amplify our mission to reach even more little ones on a global scale.” The Campbell spokeswoman said that Grimmer is staying on to run Plum because “we want the Plum team to keep doing the good work they have been doing” and to “preserve their brand values, their relentless focus on the consumer and continue to delight them.”