A fall in U.S. soup sales didn’t deter Camden-based Campbell Soup Co., which on Monday reported an 11 percent increase in profits, to $187 million, for the quarter ended May 1.
Chief Operating Officer Denise Morrison, who succeeds CEO Douglas R. Conant on July 31, spoke about her plans to reignite soup sales during a conference call, in which she told Wall Street analysts Campbell “has really rallied, and is pretty energized by some of the things that are coming along.”
Total sales in the quarter increased 1 percent, to $1.8 billion, with a 10 percent increase in Pepperidge Farm baked products and snacks, and a strong performance by North American food service helping offset an 8 percent decline in U.S. soup, sauce and beverage sales.
The company told analysts it is raising soup prices to offset cost inflation, but did not give specifics.
“The soup category is being shopped differently than in former years,” Morrison said. “We definitely have evidence that stock-up trips are down” as shoppers struggle with rising gas prices and other economic pressures. “However, soup continues to be one of the most pervasive foods items in the consumer basket.”
Morrison said she doesn’t know if consumers have changed their shopping habits permanently, “but we have to operate our business given the fact that is the reality we are in now.” She said 64 percent of people live paycheck to paycheck, and one in six receives some form of government assistance: “That is a large population, and we need to take that into consideration.”
Still, she said, Campbell, the category leader, is in “over 85 percent of households, with multiple cans in the pantry.” The company will roll out innovative products in the current quarter “that will bring news to the category and increase” soup consumption.