US food giant Campbell Soup Co. has reportedly stepped up its search for a new chief executive officer.

News agency Reuters reports Campbell is drawing up a short list of candidates and that chief operating officer Luca Mignini is the top internal contender. Mignini joined Campbell five years ago and was promoted in April to be its COO.

Reuters, quoting “people familiar with the matter”, said current interim CEO Keith McLoughlin has indicated he does not want the job on a permanent basis.

It added that nobody external has been contacted yet.

However, Campbell has pointed out to just-food that McLoughlin made comments during Campbell’s recent Q4 Earnings call in regards to its CEO search, stating that the board is conducting a “robust search process, examining both internal and external candidates who possess a track record of proven results and achievement”.

It added that the board has been working with leading candidate assessment and executive search firms to assist in this process.

McLoughlin has been in the caretaker role since May when then CEO Denise Morrison left following the announcement of a huge third-quarter loss.

Campbell is fighting to see off a proxy challenge from activist investor Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund. On Friday (7 September), Third Point unveiled a slate of nominees to replace Campbell’s 12-member board and to convert it from being a family-run business.

Campbell’s board includes three heirs of John T. Dorrance, a chemist who invented condensed soup and who went on to be president of the company. His descendants own a combined stake of about 42% in Campbell.

The soup giant recently announced the results of a strategic view of the business which amounted to the planned sale of its fresh and international divisions. Loeb and his supporters are said to favour more radical action, essentially the sale of the business in its entirety.

Reuters suggested that has added to pressure on Campbell to find a leader who will help it execute its turnaround plan.

The news agency said Campbell and Third Point declined to comment on its story.