Campbell’s Go Soup Targets Millennials, Still “Mmm Mmm Good”

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Campbell Soup’s new line of Go Soup ready-to-eat meals targets the ethnically diverse, sophisticated tastes of the millennial generation, for whom the staid red and white chicken noodle soup of their parents holds no charm.

The new product line hits stores next month. Choices come in stylish fuchsia-and-white pouches retailing for $2.99 each, featuring fare that ranges from chorizo and pulled chicken with black beans to golden lentils with madras curry.

Positioned as gourmet, with fresh ingredients and ready to eat in minutes, this upscale move for the brand, the first in twenty years, is largely defensive. Campbell’s share of the domestic soup market dropped from 52.6 percent in 2006 to 49 percent in 2010.

CEO Denise Morrison’s challenge is to preserve the best qualities of the 140-year-old brand while reaching a new audience. “Campbell’s research shows that young consumers ages 18 to 29 are 15 percent less likely than the average consumer, and far less likely than middle-aged boomers, to buy soup. They eat out twice as often as their grandparents, and when they cook, they value easy preparation and fresher, more exotic ingredients over canned staples.” [more]

Having grown up with the Food Network and frequented greenmarkets with their Boomer parents, “Millennials grew up with many different options. They’re foodies,” Darren Serrao, vice president of innovation for Campbell’s North American business, told BusinessWeek.

Go Soup is accompanied by new line of Skillet Sauces, such as Creamy Chipotle and smoked Gouda with red pepper and coconut curry, which can be simmered with fresh meat and vegetables.

Campbell’s market research confirmed that the Ramen-noodle generation has modest monies to spend but high-end expectations, and is less inclined to cook than previous generations.

In addition to gustatory appeal and ease of preparation, Go Soup must cross the price divide. “They will pay for the product if it is positioned right,” said Scott Mushkin, senior food and drug retailing analyst with Jefferies, told BusinessWeek. “The problem with soup is that it’s thought of as an accompaniment.”

In a separate move, Campbell Soup is resurrecting the iconic Andy Warhol “15 minutes of fame” with 1.2 million special-edition cans of tomato soup sporting labels evocative of the pop artist’s paintings, to be sold at Target starting this weekend, priced at 75 cents each.

When Warhol’s 1962 tour de force, “Big Campbell’s Soup Can With Can Opener (Vegetable)” first appeared, the company was concerned enough to consider legal action. “There’s some evidence to show there was a little bit of concern,” said Jonathon Thorn, an archivist for Campbell Soup. “But they decided to take a wait-and-see approach.” 

But by 1964, they knew it was a boon to their brand and Campbell’s marketing manager, William MacFarland sent Warhol a fan letter. “I have since learned that you like Tomato Soup. I am taking the liberty of having a couple cases of our Tomato Soup delivered to you.”

Here’s a look at three seminal video moments in the brand’s history:

Classic Campbell’s  Soup Kids Tomatoland TV Commercial:

Campbell’s Soup 1970s:

Campbell’s Soup commercial with Gideon Jacobs, Michael Strahan, Mandy Moore: (early 2000’s)

“Soup lovers across America consume more than 10 billion bowls of soup each year—and, by a wide margin, their favorite soups are Campbell’s condensed soups in the familiar red and white can,” states their website. “Each year, nearly 100 million U.S. households, or more than 80 percent of all U.S. households, purchase our soups. On average, American consumers stock six cans of our soups in their pantries at all times.”

The venerable soup-maker is betting that Go Soup will successfully introduce pouches as a staple in the next generation’s pantries.

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