During one of the most economically grueling years in Douglas Conant’s 30-year business tenure, Campbell Soup Co. moved full steam ahead.
Faced with steep competition from simple meal solutions, the soup maker began reconfiguring its 24,000 iQ-Shelf Maximizer systems to incite trial of new types of soup.
Rather than organize condensed soups by attributes such as chicken or beef vegetable, the new set-up breaks varieties into four color-coded and benefit-based categories, including Classic Favorites, or trusted varieties with high penetration; Taste Sensations, soups with adventurous flavor profiles; Healthy & Delicious, items touting overt health claims; and Healthy Kids, for nutritious soups geared toward children. The effort will be completed in September.
“It will make it easier for people to shop the soup aisle and is designed to spur sales,” said Conant, president and chief executive officer of Campbell.
Also helping consumers cut through the clutter are products touting healthy ingredients or reduced sodium.
Last month, Campbell began shipping 21 varieties of soup that have between 25% and 45% less sodium than previous levels, bringing the total varieties with reduced salt to 130. More reformulations are under way.
“By the fall we will offer more than 200 reduced-sodium products, eight times what we offered five years ago,” said Conant.
Recipes for Campbell’s V8 juices, Pepperidge Farm Breads, Prego sauces and SpaghettiOs pasta are being revised.
Also resonating with shoppers are good-for-you ingredients like the roasted natural white meat chicken, pasta with whole grain and natural sea salt used in Campbell’s Select Harvest soup line.
Despite drops in ready-to-serve soup sales, Select Harvest generated $202 million in sales in 2009, besting all other new products across grocery categories for the year. It was the second time in three years that a Campbell’s soup was the most successful new item, noted Conant.
Select Harvest also helped spur a 4% gain in Campbell’s RTS soup sales during the third quarter. Sales of condensed soups were down slightly during the period, but its broth sales were up 9%. The category is one of several on which Conant is concentrating.
“Meal makers — which include condensed cooking soups, broth and sauces — are crucial to how we will compete and win in the simple meals category,” said Conant.
Campbell hopes that its Campbell’s Kitchen website, accessed at www.campbellskitchen.com, will inspire at-home chefs to make meals that incorporate the ingredients. Newly redesigned with more contemporary photography, recipes and enhanced capabilities, it features nearly 3,000 recipes like those for “budget friendly” meals that will feed a family of four for less than $10.
Also critical to the way Campbell does business is the talent it fosters. Drawing potential employees and building the morale of existing ones is the brand new 80,000-square-foot Campbell Employee Center, opened last month in the company’s hometown of Camden, N.J.
The vast majority of space is dedicated to employee resources like a cafe, fitness center, company store, credit union, courtyard and a state-of-the-art training and development center.
“Our new facility and campus will help us attract, retain and develop the best talent in the food industry, which will drive our marketplace performance,” said Conant.