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 looks more promising, but its addition prompted a decision to prune the rest of the portfolio. Campbell's quit not just the ill-fated vegetable snacks unit but also all its remaining operations outside the North America, which were put up for sale in early 2018, at the same time that Denise Morrison stepped down as CEO. She was eventually replaced at the end of that year by Mark Clouse. The general upheaval prompted speculation of a takeover bid. 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. Their confidence was rewarded by better performance in the year to July 2020, with continuing revenues up 7% to $8.7bn, while asset sales caused net income to soar eightfold to over $1.6bn. Snacks overtook the group's original portfolio of meals & beverages in the final quarter to become the group's biggest business at just over half of sales.
Capsule checked 26th October 2018
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Adbrands Daily Update 25th Jul 2019: Campbell's has found a buyer for the last significant part of its international portfolio. It agreed to sell iconic Australian biscuit brand Arnott's to private equity firm KKR. The price tag was $2.2bn, a little over three times Arnott's annual sales. Talks with Mondelez - originally considered the likely buyer - ended last month after a disagreement over price. Interestingly, KKR has, as part of the deal, also acquired a license for use of the group's other simple meals brands - including Campbell's, Swanson, V8 and others - in the rest of Asia but also Europe, the Middle East and Africa. That could signal the return of the Campbell's Soup brand to Europe after a long abnsence.
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Jul 2019: Ferrero's shopping spree continued with the acquisition through an affiliated company of Danish company Kelsen, makers of Kjeldsens and Royal Dansk biscuits. The price tag was $300m, or just under twice Kelsen's annual revenues. The business has been part of Campbell Soup Company's international division for several years. Campbell's other subsidiaries outside North America are also up for sale.
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.
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