New, health­ier fo­cus doesn’t mean meat and dairy foods will get canned, com­pany says


Soup com­pany joins lobby group for plant-based foods,

Amer­i­can shop­pers have made their pref­er­ences clear over the past decade when it comes to too much sugar and too much salt, and the food in­dus­try has been do­ing its best to keep up.

Camp­bell Soup Co. has gone fur­ther than most.

In 2012, it ac­quired Bolt­house Farms, which sells bagged car­rots and salad dress­ings, and in 2015 bought salsa and hum­mus mak­erGar­den Fresh Gourmet. This sum­mer, in per­haps its bold­est move yet, the maker of Prego sauces, Pep­peridge Farms cook­ies and those iconic red and white soup cans left the in­dus­try’s top trade and lob­by­ing group, the Gro­cery Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (GMA). Camp­bell cited the lob­by­ing group’s op­po­si­tion to la­belling whether food con­tained ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied in­gre­di­ents.

On Mon­day, another shoe dropped. Camp­bell Soup an­nounced it was join­ing the Plant Based Foods As­so­ci­a­tion (PBFA) — a ma­jor ges­ture by an in­dus­try gi­ant ac­knowl­edg­ing re­treat­ing con­sumer de­mand for meat and dairy heavy food.

“We are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing our con­sumers with food choices that meet their nu­tri­tion, well-be­ing and life­style needs,” said Ed Carolan, pres­i­dent of Camp­bell Fresh, the di­vi­sion that in­cludes both the Gar­den Fresh Gourmet and Bolt­house Farms lines. “Work­ing to­gether with the Plant Based Foods As­so­ci­a­tion, we can ad­vance our shared goal of bring­ing more plant-based foods to con­sumers.”

Though Camp­bell’s de­par­ture from the GMA means leav­ing the com­pany of Kraft Foods, Cargill and Co­caCola, its new friends in­clude such com­pa­nies as the To­furky Com­pany, Daiya Foods and Bean­fields Snacks. The soup­maker stressed that its de­ci­sion to part ways with the GMA wasn’t linked to its de­ci­sion to join the PBFA, and there’s no in­di­ca­tion that its soups and other prod­ucts in­clud­ing meat and dairy will change. Rather, the com­pany hopes the part­ner­ship will help it ex­pand ac­cess to its plant-based of­fer­ings.

For the PBFA, Camp­bell’s mem­ber­ship is a coup. While it counts more than 80 com­pa­nies as mem­bers, Camp­bell Soup is by far its largest.

“We’re thrilled that they’re the first ma­jor (con­sumer pack­aged goods) com­pany,” says Michael Lynch, a PBFA board mem­ber and vi­cepres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing at Daiya, a dairy-free cheese maker.

Camp­bell Soup is by far the largest mem­ber of the Plant Based Food As­so­ci­a­tion

Ul­ti­mately, both Camp­bell’s and PBFA have the same goal: sell more prod­ucts. The mar­ket ap­pears to be ready. Some 22 per cent of meateat­ing con­sumers said they’re try­ing to eat less meat, says Is­abel Mo­rales, con­sumer in­sights man­ager at Nielsen.

“Plant-based foods and pro­teins are not exclusive to veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan house­holds any longer,” Mo­rales said.

De­spite the well-worn stereo­type of the pros­e­ly­tiz­ing veg­e­tar­ian, though, Lynch says the PBFA isn’t try­ing to to take the chicken out of chicken soup. “We’re not try­ing to make the whole world ve­gan,” he says. “All we’re do­ing is try­ing to make plant-based prod­ucts avail­able to more peo­ple.”

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