Campbell Soup CEO Gets Canned

Campbell Soup CEO ousted as company fails to maintain sales amid consumer shift to healthy, natural, and organic foods.

Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup CEO since 2011, has retired, effective immediately, following four straight years of sales declines. Board member Keith McLoughlin will serve as interim CEO.

Campbell Soup continues to face particularly strong competitive pressure from premium niche brands and brands with a naturally healthy positioning, according to Raphael Moreau, senior analyst at Euromonitor. “Private label also remains a major threat, especially in soup in the US,” he says, “and may also be used as a negotiating tool by retailers to obtain more favorable conditions.”

Morrison faced an uphill struggle to heat up tepid soup sales as consumers shun processed and canned foods. Moreau says the acquisitions made under Morrison have made strong contributions toward reducing the group’s reliance on shelf-stable soup. “The acquisition of Snyder’s-Lance marked the most important step toward diversifying the business into snacks,” he explains, “although its successful integration brings challenges, with few opportunities for brand synergies.”

Expanding its offerings of “clean label” foods, as it did by buying up organic brands such as Pacific Foods (acquired in 2017), also bring the company potential for growth, but maybe not enough. “Although the Campbell Fresh division accounts for a sizeable share of the group’s sales, its contribution to the group’s overall growth remains too modest to turn around the group’s performance,” states Moreau. “Containing the erosion of soup sales also needs to be addressed.”

Within soup, Moreau suggests there is potential to continue a shift toward premium products—particularly focusing on organic soup and fresh soup in the US and growth opportunities in emerging markets, notably Latin America. Sweet biscuits in Asia might also help reverse the sales dive.

Having been with Campbell for 15 years, Morrison outlasted the “15 minutes of fame” prophesized by Andy Warhol, whose pop-art Campbell’s Soup Cans provided priceless publicity for the iconic brand. Maybe Campbell should call on the art world to make its packaged foods popular again.