Campbell Rethinking Sodium, and Other Things

"Reducing sodium was absolutely the right thing for our company to do," Denise Morrison said at the outset. But all the business media focused on what she said later in a July 12 presentation to investors: that Campbell Soup will put back some of the salt in 31 of its Select Harvest soups.

A novel statement, yes, but a small one, and there was plenty of other news from the COO days before she became CEO of Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., on Aug. 1. Other news included a $30 million, 34,000-sq.-ft. innovation center for Pepperidge Farm’s home base in Norwalk, Conn., but also the elimination of 770 jobs throughout the company and the closing of its business in Russia.

In the analysts presentation, Morrison and other Campbell executives outlined a strategy for turning around the company, which some analysts think has lost a step. "It's vital we provide people with a choice, so we will continue to offer an appealing variety of products for consumers who seek reduced-sodium options as well as compelling options for those who do not," she said.

Campbell's self-described “industry-leading efforts have resulted in over a billion dollars in global sales of reduced-sodium products in fiscal 2010.” Its Healthy Request line of heart-healthy soups has had compound annual sales growth of 21 percent over the past five years. Campbell began reducing sodium in 2003. But, “We have invested significant R&D resources in this effort,” the incoming CEO said.

So Morrison and other Campbell officers said “R&D resources [are being] reallocated from sodium reduction to a broader range of compelling consumer benefits.” And there will be an “investment of more than $100 million in brand building and accelerated innovation.”

Sean Connolly, president of Campbell North America, said the company will “focus less on sodium innovation and price promotion to drive stock-up” and more on “taste innovation and brand-building to drive use-up.” The company also said it will reduce efforts in Russia while increasing efforts in Asia and Latin America.

“2012 will be a transition year, establishing the foundation for meaningful, long-term growth,” said B. Craig Owens, senior vice president of finance, CFO and chief administrative officer.

Some additional details about its reduced sodium soups:

  • The company is launching eight new varieties of Healthy Request soups, increasing the line to 33 soups from 25. Campbell's Healthy Request soups offer heart-healthy versions of some of Campbell's most popular Condensed, Select Harvest and Chunky soups. All Healthy Request soups contain 410mg of sodium per serving, meet U.S. government criteria for healthy foods and display the American Heart Association's heart-check mark.
  • Campbell will continue to provide more than 50 other soups in its Condensed, Chunky, Select Harvest and V8 product lines whose sodium content has been reduced between 10 and 50 percent in the last few years.
  • In response to consumer feedback, Campbell will improve the taste of 31 of its Campbell's Select Harvest soups. Enhanced recipes will include a variety of flavors and seasonings, including increased salt. For consumers who desire reduced-sodium options, Select Harvest Healthy Request soups will continue to be an attractive choice.

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