For a company best known throughout its nearly 150-year-old history for its iconic red and white soup cans, Campbell Soup's future looks decidedly different after the purchase of snacking giant Snyder's-Lance.
Campbell Soup spent roughly $5 billion to acquire the manufacturer of popular snack brands such as Pop Secret, Kettle, Cape Cod and Emerald in a deal that officially closed Monday. It is the company's largest-ever acquisition, and its boldest bet to claim a bigger stake in the fast-growing $89 billion snacking category.
"We want to continue to rewrite the story of Campbell and now are going to know that we can do that with a real center-of-the store expertise in snacking."
Head of Campbell Soup's new snacking division
With Snyder's-Lance's array of brands now part of the Camden, New Jersey company, soup will go from making up 35% of the Campbell Soup's sales to 27%, while the all-important snacks segment will jump from just below a third to nearly 50%.
"We want to continue to rewrite the story of Campbell and now are going to know that we can do that with a real center-of-the store expertise in snacking," Carlos Abrams-Rivera, a Campbell Soup executive, told Food Dive. "It's a huge transformation when you think about Campbell's being almost a 150-year-old company, then all of a sudden it's going to pivot to where the center of this company is going."
New snacks division
As Campbell Soup integrates Snyder's-Lance into its existing operations, it has created a new snacks division that will be overseen by Abrams-Rivera, who previously was president of its U.S. biscuits and snacks segment. The purpose, he said, is to have all the snacking brands under one umbrella where Campbell can pool knowledge and more quickly respond to changes and trends in the fast-moving space.
While the food giant has a large presence in the center of the store where sales are lagging throughout the industry, Snyder's-Lance allows Campbell — which already owned brands such as Goldfish crackers and Pepperidge Farm cookies — to better tap into millennials, snackers and on-the-go consumers. It also gives the CPG giant — known for its iconic soup, Prego, Swanson and V8 lines — a larger presence in other parts of the retail spectrum, such as convenience stores.
Campbell Soup, which is on track to remove artificial colors and flavors from nearly all of its North American products by the end of its fiscal 2018, now commands a roster of brands such as Emerald nuts, that are inherently healthy, and Kettle chips, that center around clean labels. Still, Abrams-Rivera said Campbell Soup could use its experience from improving its own products to make some of Snyder's-Lance's items more relevant to consumer trends shaping the food and grocery space.
"We bought Snyder's-Lance because we believe they have strong brands that we can continue to drive forward," Abrams-Rivera said. "We think we can also take some of the know-how we have in our brands to actually make some of our overall brands even stronger and better for today's consumers."
During an interview with Food Dive at the annual Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida last month, Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison said she has worked to increase the company's presence beyond soup by branching into snacking and health and well-being during her seven years at the helm.
"When I got here we were pretty much a one-trick pony and all people wanted to talk to me about was soup and canned soup," Morrison said. "That's still a really important topic for us, but I can now proudly say we are soup and other things, and other things that are meaningful to the consumer."
A skeptical eye from Wall Street
Despite bulking up its offerings of fresh and organic in recent years, some on Wall Street are unsure of Campbell Soup's ability to capitalize on them.
Bolthouse Farms, a maker of carrots, smoothies, juices and dressings purchased by Campbell Soup in 2012, has faced weather challenges and a recall. At the same time, refrigerated salsa, hummus and dips producer Garden Fresh, acquired by the company in 2015, has struggled to generate consumer interest beyond its core audience in the Midwest.
Some analysts have questioned the price that Campbell Soup paid for Snyder's-Lance. Edward Jones analyst Brittany Weissman, said while she praised the purchase as a way to put the company into faster-growing areas, there are some lingering concerns.
"It just seems to be one challenge or hiccup after another, and so that's led people to view it as, can they execute?" Weissman said in an interview last month. "There is a general frustration. People will very much believe it when they see it."