There's more riding on the shoulders of New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz this year than hopes for the team's repeat of a Super Bowl championship: He also must bear part of the burden of turning around Campbell's woeful soup franchise.
Campbell will feature Cruz in a reprise of its "Mama's Boys" campaign of old for Chunky Soup, an iconic effort that harks back to when Americans still ate more Campbell's soup each year than the year before. That isn't the case anymore for Campbell even after the Great Recession, increased advertising spending, and the latest move — a spate of new products aimed at Millennials — have failed to turn around the fortunes of this venerable soup business.
That's why Campbell's CEO Denise Morrison this week was finally telling investors that, "by itself," the soup business "cannot take us where we want to go." Her vision of a Campbell of the very near future is based on its Pepperidge Farms brand, growing V8 beverage franchise and its recent acquisition of Bolthouse Farms and its packaged fresh foods and juices.
Morrison said this week that Campbell's 2012 sales would end up closer to flat than to 2 percent growth and that projected 2013 sales would fall below the company's long-term target of 3 to 4 percent growth. Campbell also said that it's going to trim its marketing budget over the next 12 months, reversing new brand-building investments that Campbell made in the soup business last year after the increases "did not generate anticipated consumption lift," as Morrison put it.
All of these moves may indicate that the Campbell brain trust doesn't believe that it can ever quite capture the ears, eyes and stomach of Generation Y even though twenty-somethings have become their greatest focus these days. Campbell still plans next month to unveil Go Soup, a line of ready-to-eat meals in varieties such as chorizo and pulled chicken with black beans, in fuchsia-and-white pouches. They'll be priced at about three times the price of a can of chicken-noodle soup.
Ken Harris, a CPG consultant, told Bloomberg that it might be difficult to attract Millennials with these pricey offerings because so many of them remain under- and unemployed these days. "If they sold it for 99 cents, they would have a runaway success," the Cannondale Associates consultant said.
Maybe. But it's also possible that, for everything Campbell has done and may still do to revive its sagging soup franchise, the kids of baby boomers just aren't as interested as their parents in the food that raised the previous generation, or two, or three.