Preceding Denise Morrison's Aug. 1 transition to the top spot at the Campbell Soup Co. is her sweeping plan to significantly reduce overhead costs.
Developed in concert with her team and in consultation with the board of directors during her nine-month tenure as executive vice president and chief operating officer, the plan involves exiting the Russian market, consolidating U.S. soup production and outsourcing a larger portion of retail merchandising to sales agency, Acosta Sales & Marketing.
“I'm energized about charting a new course for Campbell and leading the next era of the company's growth,” Morrison told SN.
Approximately 770 positions will be eliminated under the plan, including 130 at Campbell's world headquarters in Camden, N.J. Annual pre-tax savings of about $60 million will result from the measures beginning in fiscal 2012 and increasing to $70 million the following year.
“The actions we are taking are designed to help us fund our plans to drive the growth of Campbell's business,” Morrison said.
The soup maker's expanded relationship with Acosta will add nearly 5,000 stores to its coverage and enhance its speed-to-market on new items while enabling greater promotional efficiency, Morrison explained.
Campbell's Slow Kettle soups, scheduled to hit stores next year, are among items poised to benefit. The premium soup, “made with patience, not preservatives with absolutely exquisite taste,” according to Morrison, will come in adventurous taste profiles.
It's just one of the additions resulting from Campbell's increased investment in brand building across healthy beverages, baked snacks and simple meals.
V8 Energy Shots, made with a blend of nine vegetable and fruit juices, and Milano Melts, a new chocolate creme-filled take on a classic, are two other products for which Morrison has high hopes.
Campbell's focus on innovation came after heavy discounts resulted in lackluster sales of soup during the first half of fiscal 2011. “Over time we anticipate that these efforts will improve price realization and strengthen brand equity,” Morrison said.
One facet of the plan is a revised approach to healthy reformulations. While sodium reductions were the main focus of past tweaks to soup recipes, taste and the inclusion of vegetables and whole grains are climbing the manufacturer's list of priorities. “We will continue to focus on wellness, which is much broader than simply reducing sodium,” Morrison said.
International markets are another area that Campbell will continue to explore. Although the performance of its three-year-old Russian business fell short of expectations, Morrison sees China as a strong prospect for driving profitable growth in a relatively short time frame. She also hopes to grow iconic brands such as Goldfish and Tim Tam biscuits globally.
Campbell's 12th CEO, and the first woman to occupy the position, is also enthusiastic about leveraging the company's high-engagement culture that her predecessor Doug Conant worked so hard to cultivate. She credits her mentor of 15 years with broadening her exposure to general management. “He was one of the first people to point out to me that it's not just about delivering results. It's also about building relationships and networks. This advice changed my perspective about what is important and is something I share with the people I mentor,” Morrison said.