Campbell's is the world's most famous soup brand, already a household staple in the US in the 1960s when it was elevated to iconic status by Andy Warhol. Campbell Soup Company remains the #1 soup maker in the US, with a well-established core portfolio of other brands including Swanson Broth, V8 vegetable juice, Prego and Pace sauces, and Pepperidge Farm's cookies and crackers. However the group has for years been troubled by uneven performance, exacerbated by a slow decline in the popularity of its core red-and-white soup brand. 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. However 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. Several other international businesses were also divested, including Godiva chocolates, sold in 2008. Another attempt to diversify, this time into fresh vegetable snacks in the US in the 2010s, also proved disastrous. The addition of the mainly US-oriented Snyder's-Lance pretzel business in 2018 looks more promising, but its addition prompted a decision to prune the rest of the portfolio. Campbell's is exiting not just the ill-fated vegetable snacks unit but also all its remaining operations outside the North America. Denise Morrison stepped down as CEO in May 2018 and was eventually replaced at the end of that year by Mark Clouse. The general upheaval has prompted speculation of a takeover bid, most likely from Kraft Heinz Company. However any such deal would require the support of the Dorrance family, descendants of the man who in 1897 revolutionised what was then a small packaged foods business by introducing a process for condensing its canned soups for easier storage and shipping. The Dorrances retain a controlling stake in the business and so far seem reluctant to cash in their shares. Revenues for the year to 2018 were $8.7bn, including a part-year contribution from Snyder's-Lance.
Capsule checked 26th October 2018
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Adbrands Daily Update 15th Apr 2019: Campbell Soup's remaining Fresh unit, Bolthouse Farms, is being sold to investment fund Butterfly Equity, a specialist in food-based businesses. One of Butterfly's operating partners is former Bolthouse CEO Jeff Dunn, who led the business from 2008 through its acquisition by Campbell's in 2012 until 2016. He returns as CEO. The sale price was $510m. A deal for Campbell International is also imminent. Mondelez has been rumoured as a favourite to buy the business.
Adbrands Daily Update 27th Feb 2019: Campbell Soup Company secured a buyer for its troubled Garden Fresh Gourmet unit. It is being acquired by Fountain of Health USA, a maker of hummus, dips and prepared salads. No terms were disclosed for the sale. Campbell's paid $230m for Garden Fresh back in 2015. Buyers are still sought for Campbell's other fresh foods business Bolthouse Farms, as well as its remaining international operations.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Dec 2018: Campbell Soup Company named Mark Clouse, formerly head of Pinnacle Foods (acquired earlier this year by Conagra), as its new CEO. He will join the company towards the end of Jan 2019. Board director Keith McLoughlin, who has been leading the group since the departure of Denise Morrison in May, will at that point return to a non-executive role.
Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Sep 2018: Campbell Soup Company announced disappointing results for the year to July, and said it will refocus operations on its core North American soups and snacks business. Revenues rose by 10% to $8.7bn on the back of recent acquisitions, but a huge impairment charge against the ill-starred Campbell Fresh vegetable snacks division and Plum baby foods, as well as costs associated with the acquisition of Snyder's-Lance snacks, caused net earnings to plunge by over 70% to $261m. As a result, following a strategic review of its activities, the group put the Campbell Fresh business up for sale, as well as its chilled US soups and its remaining international operations, which mainly comprise the biscuit companies Arnott's in Australia and Kelsen Group in Denmark and Asia. Those disposals are likely to make Campbell Soup an even more attractive proposition for a larger acquirer, such as Kraft Heinz. However, any bid would be unlikely to succeed without the support of Campbell's controlling shareholders, the founding Dorrance family.
Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Jul 2018: Campbell Soup Company announced the appointment of Diego Palmieri as chief marketing officer, US meals & beverages, with oversight of all soups, sauces and the V8 juice portfolio. He joins the group from SC Johnson, where he spent 20 years, most recently as general manager for China.
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