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February 22, 2012

CAGNY: Campbell CEO Morrison sees new “culture of food”

Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison has claimed the food industry has been slow to respond to a seismic shift in consumer attitudes and consumption patterns.

Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison has claimed the food industry has been slow to respond to a seismic shift in consumer attitudes and consumption patterns.

Speaking at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York investor conference, Morrison today (22 February) suggested that a number of factors have sparked “enduring changes” that the food industry must grapple with in order to win over consumers.

Morrison suggested that changing consumer attitudes resulting from the economic downturn are about more that a “drive to value”. Consumers, she suggested, have a “new determination to gain control over their lives”.

According to Morrison, technology – particularly the Internet – has proven itself a significant tool in this quest for control, making consumers feel “empowered, discriminating and savvy”.

Consumers are also looking to gain control of their health through food purchases, she suggested. However, Morrison continued, the definition of health has also shifted. “The barometer is not simply what is the doctor telling me, but rather how do I feel? They are asking themselves am I enjoying life?”

As a consequence, spending patterns see consumers cutting back on brands that are less significant in their “personal hierarchy of values”, but spending more on those things that are assigned greater significance, she said.

The food industry, Morrison asserted, has also been slow to react to changes in US demographics and a move towards non-traditional families that are increasingly multi-generational, single-parent and multi-cultural.

“Putting all these pieces together I have no doubt that the culture of food is changing,” Morrison said.

Campbell insisted that its new focus on consumer-led innovation mean that it is well positioned to capitalise on these new trends.

“Today Campbell’s is working to be ahead of the curve,” Morrison said. “With new, differentiated products, new pathways to growth and powered by a relentless focus on consumers we are taking the Campbell brand to a decidedly different place.”

Morrison unveiled a swathe of NPD that the US soup maker is preparing to roll out, including Campbell’s Go soup pouches and simple meals, Campbell’s skillet sauces and extensions to the Campbell’s Slow Kettle brand. The flavour profile of these new products draws inspiration from world cuisine and allows Campbell to respond to “consumers quest for adventure, fun and excitement,” Morrison insisted.

“We will reinvent soup and reinvent the Camplbell name, the Campbell brand, for consumers,” she said.

On Friday, Campbell, which saw earnings fall in its last full financial year, reported a 9% drop in profits for the first half of its current fiscal year. Net sales decreased 1%.

Announcing the results, Morrison said Campbell was making “progress” and was “executing a strategic turnaround in an environment of weak volume and high inflation across the food industry”.

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