Campbell details 'ambitious plans' for U.S. soup

by Eric Schroeder
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BOCA RATON, FLA. — Even as initiatives such as lowering sodium in children’s soup and re-staging Campbell’s Select with lower sodium natural sea salt as Campbell’s Select Harvest continue to gather momentum, the Campbell Soup Co. has more in store.

Speaking Feb. 18 at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference in Boca Raton, Douglas Conant, president and chief executive officer at Campbell, said the company has "ambitious plans" for U.S. soup in fiscal 2010. He said the company will remain focused on sodium reduction, but also on nutrition with the elimination of negatives and the addition of positives.

In regards to wellness and sodium reduction, he said the company has three significant initiatives in the pipeline for the coming season. First, the company will make some changes to its icon Campbell’s tomato soup.

"Next year, in a major development, we’re planning to replace our current variety with a new 32% lower sodium version at the heart-healthy level of 480 mg a serving," Mr. Conant said. "Our consumer testing has fully validated this move and our development of new break-through technologies that improve the taste derived from natural, lower sodium sea salt without troublesome off flavors has made all of this possible. We filed for patent protection to improve competitive insulation around this important development.

"Second, to take advantage of the intense consumer interest in heart health, we’ll re-stage all 25 varieties of Campbell’s Healthy Request, Condensed, Chunky and Select Harvest. And we’ll replace our current reduced-sodium line with even lower sodium varieties well, well below the heart-healthy sodium level. We’ll also convert some varieties to whole grain pasta, improving their nutritional profile yet another notch. The American Heart Association will certify all these products as hearth healthy foods.

"And third, to round out our sodium reduction plans for the next soup season, we’ll replace our Campbell’s V8 soups with new, lower sodium varieties at the 480 mg per serving heart-healthy level as well."

Turning to nutrition and the inclusion of positives, Mr. Conant said during fiscal 2010 the company will conduct a complete re-stage of its full range of Campbell’s Chunky soups to make them heartier and healthier with enhanced vegetable and protein content.

"Our research has shown that our planned upgrades are likely to drive significant incremental purchases," he said. "Over half of current Chunky consumers, for example, would be inclined to increase their purchases significantly. Encouragingly lapsed users show renewed purchase interest as well. As a result, we have very high expectations for this strengthened proposition. We’ll also strengthen the consumer proposition of Campbell’s Select Harvest soups by upgrading the top five varieties.

"Further, we’ll broaden the line with the launch of new all-natural varieties inspired by the naturally healthful appeal of Mediterranean food. Some of these will also be light versions and 80 calories a serving. Then too, we’re planning to expand our Wolfgang Puck organic soups. As you know, we recently acquired the Wolfgang Puck Soup business with a long-term license for the trademark. We see considerable moving forward.

"We’re also planning to take out preservatives and artificial flavors from our top selling items in our Swanson broth range, accounting for 70% of our broth volume. These upgrades will allow us to make some all-natural claims, especially for our best seller, Swanson chicken broth."

By the end of the next fiscal year, Mr. Conant said Campbell expects 30% of its soups to have a full serving of vegetables, 36% to be at 80 calories per serving or lower, and approximately 50% will have no MSG.

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