CAMPBELL’S FUTURE IS VEGGIE-FRIENDLY
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.”