Campbell's targets younger US shoppers

11 September 2012

NEW YORK: The Campbell Soup Company, the food group, is seeking to engage a new generation of younger shoppers, a process relying on in-depth consumer insights and a renewed focus on innovation.

The firm is soon set to launch 50 new soups, boasting flavours ranging from Moroccan Style Chicken and Spicy Chorizo, made with diverse ingredients from coconut milk to shitake mushrooms.

It is also abandoning cans for this slate of untested offerings, and will instead utilise plastic pouches, promising greater convenience and a more contemporary feel than its traditional packaging.

Chuck Vila, the company's vice president, consumer and customer insights, suggested that the changing tastes of Millennials – individuals broadly aged between 18 and 30 years old – were inspiring such a shift.

"I grew up with salt, pepper and ketchup," he told the Associated Press. "These guys are playing around with really interesting spices from around the world.”

"We haven't captured them in terms of food, but we've hung onto them," he added. "They have memories of Campbell. They're outdated, but they're there."

The impetus behind these moves is further shown by the fact that canned soup consumption in the US has fallen by 13% in the last decade, figures from Euromonitor, the insights provider, suggest.

Moreover, the rising availability of fresh and premium soups has reshaped the market, meaning Campbell's share had declined from 67% to 53% during the same period.

To enhance its understanding of younger shoppers, the firm conducted "live-along" sessions in what were termed "hipster hubs" like London, Nashville and Portland.

This involved eating meals with participants in restaurants and at home, accompanying them on visits to grocery stores, and discussing their broader food preferences.

Campbell similarly sent chefs to cities like New York and Boston to visit specialist stores selling food, spices and breads, as well as other retailers of interest to Millennials, such as Urban Outfitters, the fashion chain.

Among the main conclusions of this fieldwork was that customers were becoming increasingly adventurous in their tastes, but that it was also harder to make these kinds of dishes when cooking at home.

"They can't replicate the foods they enjoy when they go out," Darren Serrao, Campbell's vice president of innovation, said. As a result, it is offering flavours like Golden Lentil, Coconut Curry and Creamy Red Pepper.

Costing $3 per pack, the new pouches are set to be a major test case for Campbell's future R&D efforts. "The consumer will let us know if we can be more exuberant," said Denise Morrison, its CEO.

Data sourced from Associated Press; additional content by Warc staff