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A stirring change for Campbell

It's Canada's soup leader, but as overall soup sales dip, Campbell is making bold moves to stand out

With research suggesting that Canadian soup sales are slightly off the boil, the Campbell Company of Canada is trying to add some pizzazz to its market-leading brands.

Campbell’s is the undisputed heavyweight of soup in Canada, controlling 61% of the estimated $706-million market, according to a recent report from research firm Euromonitor International. However, the report also notes that Canadian soup sales declined 1% by volume in 2013. And with current consumption patterns, the report says that trend could continue, and possibly even accelerate.

To stand out, Campbell’s has significantly overhauled its soup line over last year, condensing its number of sub-brands to three from eight (including a new brand called Everyday Gourmet); reformulated heritage flavours such as Classic Chicken Noodle; and introduced new packaging for its ready-to-serve line of products.

In total, nearly 50 SKUs have been impacted by the brand overhaul, says Moya Brown, the company’s new vice-president of marketing.

READ: Campbell launches online contest to support Movember

The redesigned ready-to-serve labels use bright colours and informal all- caps lettering, with the name of each soup paired with a cartoon-style rendering of its key ingredient, such as a tomato for the new Creamy Tomato Soup.

For some of its best-known condensed soups, such as Chicken Noodle and Homestyle Vegetable, the company has also added label call-outs promoting key ingredients, such as “Delicious egg noodles made fresh each batch!”

Eye-tracking research on the new labels discovered that consumers’ eyes travelled first to the iconic “Campbell’s” nameplate, then to the food visual and the name of the soup, before travelling back to the food visual. “The No. 1 objective is breaking through at shelf level, and then having the consumer be able to find the variety they’re looking for very quickly or to find a new variety,” Brown says.

But Albert Strano, a principal with Toronto design agency Strano and Pettigrew Design Associates, says that just standing out is unlikely the key driver for such a comprehensive overhaul, as consumers–and millennials in particular–have developed a much more sophisticated understanding of the foods they purchase.

“Standing out in-store is generally top of mind anyway when reviewing the competitive landscape,” he says. “I see a significant part of this design direction being an attempt to bring clarity to the various SKUs.” The overall design choices of typeface, illustration and colour, he adds, could also be an effort to speak to younger audiences.

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This is especially important today. While soup consumption remains strong among adults 45 or older, the Euromonitor report states millennials have “strayed away” from soup. “The inability to reach out to this particular generation has created... potentially a strongly limiting factor in volume sales growth in soup,” says Euromonitor.

As a result, some manufacturers have adjusted their packaging to appeal to younger consumers. Campbell’s is one of them. It introduced the Campbell’s Go line of soups, in pouches, in the U.S. in 2012. The irreverent packaging prominently features gen-Yers’ faces on the front.

The Euromonitor report also points to opportunities for soup manufacturers in developing new flavours, particularly ethnic flavours, to tap into the country’s changing demographics.

READ: Moya Brown’s big-picture plans for Campbell’s

That appears to be a key area of focus for Campbell’s, which introduced a new line called Everyday Gourmet in August that includes such flavours as Korean Beef Noodle with Vegetable and Moroccan Spiced Eight Vegetables & Chickpea. The core audience for the new Everyday Gourmet product line is adults 40 or older, while the company’s iconic “red label” soups are mostly aimed at “bustling families.”

Euromonitor also states competition in the soup category makes it harder for manufacturers to reap the rewards of their innovation. “New products appear frequently and often do not have time to resonate with the target consumer segment,” it says.

The question for Campbell’s, then, is whether “M’m! M’m! Good!” can continue to resonate in an increasingly “Zoom! Zoom!” world.

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