CAMDEN, N.J. — “Taste is king” is a phrase often used throughout the food and beverage industry, and it is the reason the Campbell Soup Co. is eliminating its 100% Natural line of soups and replacing it with its new Homestyle line of 29 ready-to-serve soup varieties. Simply put, ingredient technologies not perceived as natural were required for the company to achieve the taste profiles it desired.
Mark Alexander, president of Campbell’s North America business unit, said the 100% Natural line did not live up to the company’s expectations. He cited two reasons why: First, not all consumers are seeking natural products, and, second, the standards that are in place for a product to be called natural limited the 100% Natural product’s taste performance.
“We’re really working outside with all of kinds of vendors and partners in terms of bringing new technologies and new solutions in,” he said. “And with Homestyle, we’re able to bring all that together. And the taste of those products, of those 29 items, is substantially better than what we were able to deliver in 100% Natural.”
Mr. Alexander made his comments on July 24 during Campbell’s annual meeting with financial analysts.
In her opening remarks during the analyst day, Denise Morrison, chief executive officer and president of Campbell’s, said the company’s U.S. soup business has been “reinvigorated” and delivered 5% sales growth and double-digit profit growth through the first nine months of fiscal 2013.
“U.S. soup has now delivered four consecutive quarters of sales growth,” she said. “That’s four in a row. We expect that this will be the first year in almost a decade that Campbell’s has held our share in the soup business.”
She added that the company continues to focus on taste, “listening to consumers every step of the way,” and will continue to drive innovation.
During fiscal 2014 Campbell will introduce 38 varieties of soup. Among the new varieties will be the 29 Homestyle soups, plus three new soups under the Chunky line that are pub-inspired and feature flavors such as cheeseburger, spicy chicken quesadilla and cheesesteak. Campbell said it also will extend its Go soups line with the launch of a Thai style chicken and rice variety.
Mr. Alexander said the company is in the process of making some changes to the Go soup line.
“We’ve had some good success in the first year with Go in bringing younger consumers into the soup category and have discovered a pleasant surprise that these products also appeal to others who are attracted to their authentic flavors and innovating packaging,” he said. “The product ranges realized strong repeat rates but needs a booster trial, and we’ll deliver that next year.
“One interesting thing we’ve learned is that the distinctive variety names which were designed to communicate the adventurous flavor combinations of these products, had the unintended effect of discouraging some consumers who weren’t prepared for quite as much taste adventure that they feared these soups might offer. So we’re shortening the names to broaden the appeal, adding a new variety and we’ll build out in the use of innovative marketing techniques to attract new consumers to this line.”
Campbell also has plans to grow its condensed soup business in fiscal 2014. It will add new varieties to its Healthy Request line and add additional soups designed to appeal to children.“Soup is a growth business,” Mr. Alexander said. “Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. When soup is done properly, it delivers fantastic taste, great variety, good nutrition and superior value.”