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Rich History, Bright Future

by Lindsey Getz;?Photo by Jeff Fusco

As Campbell Soup Company marks the one year anniversary of its new CEO Denise Morrison, some significant changes are on the horizon.

Over the course of its history, Campbell Soup Company has produced foods that have become staples of the American kitchen. Launched as a small canning company in 1869 by fruit merchant Joseph Campbell and icebox manufacturer Abraham Anderson, the company got its start selling French peas, fancy asparagus, and beefsteak tomatoes—eventually expanding into jellies, soups, condiments and mincemeat. In 1897, Dr. John T. Dorrance, a chemist by training, joined the company and invented condensed soup, thus establishing Campbell’s as a household name. And now, CEO Denise Morrison is determined to carry that legacy into the future with a commitment to innovation and South Jersey alike.

Morrison became the 12th (and first female) leader in Campbell’s 140-year history last August, taking over the globally recognized company faced with challenges raised by the economic downturn, as well as the advent of a changing market of consumers. While not immune to the tumultuous marketplace, Morrison has served as a stabilizing force in the face of adversity.

“Since I became CEO last August, Campbell’s has embraced the economic shift, the digital tsunami, the complexities of health and wellness, and adapted to the new American family’s changing culinary tastes,” Morrison says. “Before my team could embrace these changes, however, we first had to understand the consumer.” That meant Morrison’s team spent time walking the aisles of grocery stores, cooking in home kitchens, and breaking bread to gain insight into the modern Campbell’s consumer.

The Ever-Changing Consumer
Campbell has always prided itself on paying marked attention to its consumers in an effort to ensure their needs are being met. As the American family’s palate has shifted through the years, the company has made sure they, too, are changing with the times and not resting on their laurels. With 50,000 items on supermarket shelves, it’s fair to say Campbell’s has a large presence in the grocery store. And many of those products have developed brand-loyal customers. But Americans’ dining trends are always evolving and, in keeping pace, Campbell saw the opportunity to release a new line of products aimed at a whole new generation of consumers.

This fall, those additions will come by way of a new line of Go! Soups in flavors like coconut curry, and chicken and shiitake mushroom. They’ll also introduce a line of easy-to-make skillet sauces in gourmet options like creamy chipotle, and roasted corn and black beans. And in addition to its traditional market, Campbell’s recently began targeting new and diverse consumer segments such as Millennials and Hispanics, said to be a driving force in today’s consumer market. “You’ll see about 50 new products hitting shelves and a lot of the inspiration for these new recipes, package designs, and convenience options came straight from these new core demographics,” Morrison says.

Under Morrison’s guidance, international exposure has become paramount for Campbell’s as they have started to pay closer attention to the global marketplace. “Global expansion will be a big focus of ours, especially as we look to emerging markets like Asia and Latin America,” Morrison says. “Our team of chefs is excited to showcase their culinary skills and consumers will certainly experience new global flavors coming out of Campbell’s kitchen.”

Leading the Way
Morrison’s executive decisions and leadership abilities are well-supported by her extensive background in the food and beverage industry. Prior to becoming CEO of Campbell’s in August 2011, Morrison had spent eight years with the company and more than 30 years in the food business as a whole. Previously, Morrison had been executive vice president and general manager of Kraft Foods’ Snacks and Confections divisions, responsible for leading brands including Planters nuts, Life Savers candies, and Altoids mints.

While she’s always felt a strong sense of pride in Campbell’s rich history, as CEO her focal point has been a calculated approach to pay homage to the past while focusing on the future. “It’s an honor to maintain the legacy of the past 11 leaders and I’m excited to focus forward,” she says.

“This means that Campbell’s will be more innovative, more balanced, and more responsive.” One of the major projects under her direction is a new 34,000-square-foot Innovation Center opening later this year at Pepperidge Farm (Campbell’s cookies/baked goods division) in Norwalk, Conn. “The project demonstrates our commitment to grow our baking and snacking portfolio, where I see huge opportunity in the years ahead,” says Morrison.

The company also recently announced plans to acquire Bolthouse Farms, a food and beverage company known for its juices, salad dressings, and baby carrots. Campbell’s had already been purchasing carrots from Bolthouse for its soups and juices (V8 Splash and V-Fusion drinks). The acquisition is part of Campbell’s larger effort to reach younger, more health-conscious consumers who value healthy on-the-go options. “This is the largest acquisition in Campbell’s history and marks a significant opportunity for the company to expand into the fast-growing fresh foods market,” Morrison says.

Going Forward
Despite Campbell’s success, they are not immune to fiscal responsibility, and so it has been reported that the company recently decided to outsource nearly 70 of its 110 jobs in the Cherry Hill office, where the company’s financial services personnel are housed. Morrison says it was a necessary, albeit difficult, part of moving forward. “We recently made the decision to contract some of our transactional finance activities such as billing, credit and collections to Accenture [a consulting, technology and outsourcing company],” she explains. “Accenture can perform these tasks more efficiently and at a lower cost than we can. Of course any decision that affects employees is always very difficult and one we weighed very carefully. As a management team, we need to evaluate every opportunity to improve our ability to produce delicious, nutritious and convenient products across a growing consumer base and to keep our costs as low as possible.”

Looking ahead, Morrison says that Campbell’s will continue to be committed to its South Jersey roots. “I’m so proud to be continuing Campbell’s commitment to Camden, our home since 1869,” she says. “If you’ve driven down Admiral Wilson Boulevard in the past two years, you can’t help but notice the 80,000-square-foot Campbell Employee Center—the newest, most visible sign of our commitment to the city.”

And Morrison continues to see more exciting changes on the horizon. “When you look at Campbell’s a few years from now, you will see a new company,” she says. “One that is more focused and better able to quickly respond to new consumer needs … One that’s energized with fresh ideas and innovative thinking. You’ll see a company with a better balanced portfolio of products across baked snacks, healthy beverages and simple meals—and a company with a broader international footprint. Our culture is built on a rich history and culinary heritage and, as Campbell continues to focus forward on consumers and innovation first, we can only get better.”

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 5 (August, 2012).
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