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Campbell is the world's #1 maker of soups although its operations are now mainly confined to the Americas and Asia Pacific. The group is best known for its iconic red-and-white soup brand, still a dominant player in the US market. This is supported by a range of other Campbell's soup lines as well as a small portfolio of non-soup brands including Pepperidge Farm baked goods, Prego and Pace sauces, V8 juice and Australian biscuit-maker Arnott's. More recently, the group has entered the fresh vegetable snack market in North America with a series of acquisitions. Salty snacks joined the portfolio in 2018 with the bolt-on of the Snyder's-Lance pretzel business. However the group has for years been troubled by uneven performance. Campbell's accelerated the expansion of its European business in early 2001 with the acquisition of Oxo, Batchelors and other leading culinary brands from Unilever. That deal was largely unpicked five years later when the UK portfolio was sold on to Premier Foods, leaving Campbell's with no local presence in Britain. Another non-core subsidiary, Godiva chocolates, was sold in 2008. Another attempt to diversify, this time into fresh vegetable snacks in the US in the 2010s, also proved disastrous. In 2018, the group said it would dispose of not only the fresh vegetable unit but also all its remaining operations outside North America.
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Campbell's appears to have halted the steady decline of its US condensed soup business, and has made a strong recovery in ready-to-serve products, despite intense competition. Its cracker business is also doing well. However the group's international strategy remains unclear as a result of the sale of its European businesses, and the portfolio as a whole looks increasingly unbalanced, with non-soup operations outside the US comprising a small collection of largely regional businesses sharing little intra-group synergy.
Campbell's is one of North America's leading grocery businesses with a wide range of products. The most significant of these is a collection of what the group describes as "simple meals", comprising soups and sauces. The company is the world's leading soup manufacturer, outselling its nearest branded rival sixfold. The portfolio is led by the range of Campbell's Condensed Soups, known by the company as the Red & White brand, a traditional household staple in the US. Campbell's claims that almost 85% of American households purchase Campbell's soups. Unlike most other countries, soups are also commonly used in the US as a pour-over sauce for casseroles and other meals. Of the 90 or so flavours sold, the top-seller is Chicken Noodle, followed by Tomato and Cream of Mushroom.
Although Campbell's condensed soups range has expanded dramatically since its introduction in the late 19th century, sales have been in decline since 1970, when the company introduced its first non-condensed varieties. Ready-to-serve soups overtook condensed in sales in 2000 and the gap continues to widen. However, Campbell's has repositioned its core line as more than just soup, with the introduction of portable, microwaveable Campbell's Soup At Hand, packaged like a Starbucks takeaway coffee. At the same time, the soups themselves have been reformulated, with smoother consistency, better quality, reduced sodium content and more numerous vegetables or chicken chunks where appropriate. The trick worked for a while, with sales rebounding between 2004 and 2008.
Since then though there have been further declines, including a 4% overall slide in 2010, with ready-to-serve rather than condensed the worst hit segment. Campbell's more specialist or ready-to-serve soup brands include Healthy Request, Campbell's Select, Campbell's Chunky, Simply Home Soups as well as premium-priced Campbell's Slow Kettle "artisan" soups and Campbell's Gourmet Bisques, Canada's Habitant and Gardennay brands. New for 2013 was a range of Campbell's Go microwave soups. The main brand portfolio is supported in North America by Swanson Broth, local leader in the broth segment.
Campbell's virtually owns the condensed soup sector with sales of $1.3bn and almost 83% share (IRI, 52 weeks to Jan 2016, all channels, grocery HQ). It has only minimal branded competition in this segment, with private label products the main rival. Campbell's once dominated the US ready-to-serve "wet" soup market as well, but is now in danger of losing its lead to Progresso, owned by General Mills. Campbell's share in 2015 was 42.1%, equivalent to $745m, just marginally ahead of Progresso's 41.9%. It has no presence in "dry" or powdered soups.
Combined global sales for Campbell's soup products were $2.69bn in 2016, accounting for more than a third of group revenues. The Campbell's Soup brand alone accounts for more than $2bn of that total. In summer 2017, Campbell's expanded its soup division further with the purchase of organic and natural soup and broth specialist Pacific Foods for $700m.
The soup business is complemented by a strong portfolio of sauces, or sauce-based meal kits. Prego is the US #2 in spaghetti sauces, with sales of $415m and almost 19% value share (IRI, 52 weeks to Jan 2014, all retail channels, Grocery HQ) behind Ragu and ahead of Heinz' Classico and ConAgra's Hunt's. It is supported by Pace Mexican sauces, and Franco-American tinned pasta including SpaghettiOs. Campbell's Supper Bakes is a range of all-in-one meal kits. In 2013, the group introduced a new line of Campbell's-branded Skillet Sauces and Oven Sauces for easy meals, and also acquired baby food business Plum Organics for an undisclosed sum. The group also owns V8 Vegetable Juice, positioned as the core of a group of Healthy Beverages. V8 has global distribution, and has been supported in the US with the launch of new energy juice brand Invigor8 Boost, as well as Campbell's brand packaged tomato juice. These products are distributed in the US in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company. The V8 brand has also been extended into protein shakes and bars. Total beverage sales were almost $1.1bn worldwide in fiscal 2016.
The group also has a sizeable Away From Home food service operation under the Campbell's Foodservice banner, and is a major supplier of sauces to McDonald's worldwide.
A separate division, Global Biscuits & Snacks, currently houses two businesses located in the US and Australia respectively. Pepperidge Farm is a leading US manufacturer of baked goods. It is best-known for its Goldfish crackers, but also has a presence in the cookie sector with Pepperidge Farm Distinctive Milano, as well as in branded fresh bread. According to SymphonyIRI figures (excluding Walmart) for ye Jan 2013, Goldfish was the #3 cracker brand in the US in 2012 with sales of $423m. Pepperidge Farm cookies were the #4 brand with sales of around $340m.
A significant addition to this snacking division came at the end of 2017 with a deal to acquire pretzel giant Snyder's Lance for $4.9bn in cash. It is the biggest deal ever in Campbell's 148-year history, adding an extensive portfolio of brands. Though best-known for its Snyder's of Hanover pretzels and Lance crackers, the target company has been on an acquisition streak of its own in recent years, acquiring Diamond Foods (Emerald Nuts, Pop Secret popcorn and UK-based Kettle Crisps) in 2016. All these brands will now sit alongside Campbell's existing Pepperidge Farm crackers and cookies unit under the banner of Campbell Snacks.
In 2012, Campbell's agreed to acquire Bolthouse Farms, best-known for its Baby Carrots packaged vegetable snacks, for $1.55bn. Other Bolthouse products include fresh packaged vegetables, super-premium juices and salad dressings sold under the Bolthouse Farms and Earthbound Farms brands. Another addition to the fresh packaged portfolio was Garden Fresh Gourmet salsa and other dips, acquired for $231m in June 2015. Both businesses are now grouped under the Campbell Fresh banner. However performance in the Campbell Fresh division has been very poor, almost since acquisition. Several attempts to repair the business failed and it was finally marked for sale in summer 2018.
For the year to 2016, the group adjusted its reporting units. Americas simple meals and beverages are now consolidated as a single reporting unit. For the year to 2017, combined sales were $4.33bn, down marginally on the year before. That included foodservice. US soups & sauces accounted for around two-thirds of that total, and beverages for around 15%. The new Campbell Fresh unit reported $967m, down 5% year-on-year.
Arnott's is Australia's #1 biscuit company, with products comprising a wide variety of sweet and savoury biscuits, and a local market share of 61%. Its most widely known brand is Tim Tam, named after a horse that won the Kentucky Derby in 1958. Its is Australia's best-selling biscuit, also exported to more than 40 other countries. Other brands include Shapes, Tiny Teddy and Vita-Wheat crackers. In 2002, Arnott paid around $145m to acquire Snack Foods, a leading Australian salty snack manufacturer, but sold that business again in 2008. In 2013, the group acquired Danish biscuit maker Kelsen Group for an undisclosed sum. Brands include Kjeldsens and Royal Dansk. One of the main attractions of the new purchase was its strong presence in China, where it derives more than 40% of revenues.
In Asia, Campbell operates a number of joint ventures with different partners. However the company has a controlling interests in Petaling Jaya, which markets the Kimball and Cheong Chan sauce brands in the region. Swanson is a major soup brand in Hong Kong. Campbell Nakano is a Japanese joint venture with Nakano Vinegar Company. In 1994, Arnotts acquired the Kohi brand in New Zealand, and in 1995 entered into a joint venture with Helios Foods, an Indonesian biscuit and snack manufacturer. The group also markets ready-to-serve soups in Australia under the Campbell's Country Ladle banner. Combined sales for biscuits & snacks were $2.60bn in fiscal 2017, up slightly.
However, the international operations are too widely spread and diverse to offer a genuine benefit to the group. In summer 2018, the group announced plans to dispose of its remaining interests outside North America.
Historically, the group's operations in Europe had been limited mainly to Campbell's-branded soups; however the purchase of the Unilever portfolio in 2001 added a number of important local brands, including Batchelors instant dry soups and canned vegetables, Homepride wet sauces, and Oxo, a household name in stocks and gravy. However performance was lacklustre and the entire business was sold on again, along with the Campbell-branded soup range, in 2006 to Premier Foods for around £460m. Premier continued to use the Campbell's name under license for two years, before dropping it altogether in 2008. As a result, from that point onwards Campbell's had no presence whatsoever in the UK market. A new licensing deal was agreed at the beginning of 2011 with niche soupmaker Symington, which relaunched the Campbell's brand in the UK for a line of dry soups, followed by the reintroduction of Campbell's Condensed in 2013. Godiva Chocolatier, a leading luxury chocolate brand in North America, Japan, and Belgium, was sold in 2008 for $850m to Ulker, a diversified food and beverages group from Turkey. French mayonnaise brand Lesieur was sold the same year.
The group had continued to control a small but significant collection of its own brands in continental Europe. Liebig is the leading wet soup brand in France, supported by Royco dry soups in France and Belgium. The equivalent products in Germany are Erasco and Lacroix. Other products included DeVos Lemmens mayonnaise and sauces in France and Belgium; and Bla Band and Touch of Taste soups and sauces in Scandinavia. Those brands were sold in 2013 to CVC Capital Partners for €400m. They now operate under the banner of Continental Foods.
Campbell's maintains a slightly unusual fiscal year, ending in July. Revenues broke the $8bn level for the first time in ye 2013, reaching a high of $8.27bn a year later. Since then though they have declined steadily, largely as a result of currencies.
For the year to 2016, topline fell back below $8bn, slipping 1% to $7.96bn. Earnings have also continued to decline, down 15% to $563m. That was the lowest figure since 2012, and far below the levels recorded in 2007 ($854m) and 2008 (almost $1.2bn).
There was another decline in revenues for ye 2017, slipping back to $7.89bn. However, net earnings recovered to $887m. The group's largest single customer is Walmart, which accounted for 20% of sales in fiscal 2016 (almost $1.6bn). The group derived 81% of its revenues ($6.4bn) in the US in 2015 and another 7% (or $590m) in Australia.
Combined proforma revenues including Snyder's-Lance, acquired in 2018, will be around $10bn. Final revenues for the year to July 2018, including a small contribution form Snyder's, were $8.69bn, up 10% on a reported basis. However, organic revenues excluding acquisitions and currency changes were down 2%. A substantial impairment charge against Campbell Fresh and Plum baby foods caused net earnings to plunge by over 70% to $261m.
John Dorrance III, the grandson of the inventor of condensed soup, resigned as chairman in 1994, and was the last family member to hold an executive role at the company. Three other family members remain directors: Bennett Dorrance and his sister Mary Alice Dorrance Malone, and their cousin Archbold Dorrance van Beuren. Around 11 Dorrance family members collectively own at least 45% of equity. That makes a takeover bid by a rival company - Kraft Heinz has often been seen as a potential acquiror - unlikely unless it has the support of the Dorrance family.
In 1869, fruit merchant Joseph Campbell and icebox manufacturer Abraham Anderson teamed up to form Anderson & Campbell, selling a range of foods including canned tomatoes, vegetables, jellies and minced meats. The business chugged along with modest success for several years, but Campbell was hungry to expand. This didn't suit Anderson, who bailed out in 1876, leaving his partner sole proprietor of what now became The Joseph Campbell Preserve Company. The company's best-seller was Campbell's Beefsteak Tomato Ketchup. But a few years later, in 1894, Campbell also retired from the business, selling the company to general manager Arthur Dorrance.
The biggest development in the company's history came in 1897. That year, Dr John Dorrance, the chemist nephew of the new company president, adapted the condensing process, already widely used to preserve milk, for the company's soup. Removing the water from soup reduced shipping and storage costs dramatically. As a result the company was able to slash the price of its soup from 30 cents to a dime. One year later Campbell's changed its pack design to the familiar bold red and white still in use today. (According to legend, the executive in charge of the packaging had been inspired by the red and white uniforms worn by Cornell University's football team). Business boomed, supported by what was for the time a substantial advertising campaign on New York streetcars, featuring (from 1904), the Campbell Kids. In 1900, another centrepiece of the company's pack design was contributed when Campbell's soup won the Gold Medallion for excellence at the Paris Exposition; the Medallion has been featured on labels ever since.
The company gradually increased its number of soups to 21 varieties, and in 1904, changed its name, dropping the reference to Preserves. That year it began phasing out production of other products to concentrate solely on soup. In 1914, John Dorrance succeeded his uncle as president, and later sole proprietor. The same year he acquired rival soup business the Franco-American Food Company, maintaining the brand for a range of pasta and gourmet foods. In 1921, the company reinforced its commitment to soup, changing its name again to The Campbell Soup Company. During the 1920s and 1930s, the company became one of the leading advertisers in the US, and opened subsidiaries in Canada and Britain. In 1930, Dorrance died, succeeded by his brother Arthur.
In 1948, the company added to its portfolio, acquiring V8 Vegetable Juice. Six years later Campbell's went public, acquiring frozen foods company Swanson & Sons, developers of the "TV Dinner" a year later. In 1960, bakery company Pepperidge Farm joined the pantry. Two years later, Andy Warhol immortalised the Campbell's Soup brand in a series of paintings. (He later claimed it was because as a struggling artist he had had a tin of tomato soup of his lunch every day for 20 years). In 1966, the group added chocolate to its portfolio with the purchase of Godiva Chocolatier in the US. In the 1970s, the company bought out the chocolate maker's European parent, as well as Vlasic Pickles. More importantly the group introduced its first non-condensed soups, Campbell's Chunky, in 1970, leading to the beginning of a decline in the sales of the core red and white brand.
The next major acquisition drive came in the 1990s, with the purchase of a string of international food businesses. In 1992, the group bought Australian biscuit giant Arnott's, followed a year later by Fray Bentos, the United Kingdom's leading brand in premium canned meats. Other purchases included leading British sauces company Homepride and Mexican sauces company Pace (both 1995), leading German soupmaker Erasco (1996) and French soup company Liebig (1997). In 1998, Campbell's spun off several of its lower-margin brands, including Vlasic, Swanson frozen foods and Swift meats and pates in Argentina, as Vlasic Foods International. However the new company struggled under a mound of debt, and filed for bankruptcy in early 2001, subsequently selling off its Vlasic and Open Pit barbecue sauce brands to Hicks Muse Tate & Furst.
Campbell's purchase of part of the Unilever food portfolio in January 2001 added considerable strength to its European operation. Unilever was obliged to dispose of selected culinary brands to comply with regulators over its Bestfoods merger. Campbell's paid €1bn for the portfolio which includes leading British grocery brands Oxo and Batchelor's, Lesieur mayonnaise in France, and a selection of other dehydrated soups in Europe. [See Unilever profile for more]. However the entire British arm of the business was sold on again five years later.
Last full revision 4th November 2016
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