By Meredith Moss, Dayton Daily News, Ohio
Sept. 11--CAMDEN, N.J. -- If your lunch still consists of a bowl of Campbell's tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, chances are you grew up using a typewriter.
Generations of Americans have moved on from Campbell's condensed chicken noodle and tomato soups in search of heartier varieties with more exotic flavors. Now, the world's largest soup company is racing to do the same.
Campbell Soup Co. last year began a quest that led executives to a diverse group of cities from Portland, Ore., to London to figure out how to make soups that appeal to younger, finicky customers. In the year ahead, the 143-year-old company plans to roll out 50 products such as Moroccan Style Chicken and Spicy Chorizo. The ingredients may surprise those used to a plain bowl of chicken soup: tomatillos, coconut milk and shitake mushrooms.
The new soups also won't look like the big, gelatinous chunks that came in the steel cans that built Campbell into an iconic brand. These soups come in plastic pouches that are easy to open and heat up in a microwave in less than three minutes.
The remake could be a do-or-die task for Campbell. Overall canned soup consumption is down 13 percent over the past decade, according to the research firm Euromonitor International, as fresh soups have become more widely available at supermarkets and restaurants. And Campbell now has about 53 percent of the market, down from 67 percent a decade earlier.
Reaction to the changes are especially likely to be monitored in our region: the Greater Dayton metro area is regularly one of the top markets per capita in Campbell's soup consumption.
That information comes from from SymphonyIRIGroup (IRI), the shopper insight company utilized by Fortune 500 companies to track consumer behaviors, sales trends and related information. Last year the Dayton area ranked No. 1 in consumption of Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle soup and third in consumption per capita of Campbell's classic Condensed Tomato soup. The IRI research also reveals that Dayton and Cincinnati have historically been in the Top Five of all U.S. markets for many years.
Interestingly, Ohio is well-represented in the list of top markets for per capita consumption of Campbell's soups, with Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo all appearing in IRI's top 10 markets nationwide this past year for per capita sales of Campbell's classic Condensed soups.
"Soups tend to be most popular in the Great Lakes region overall," according to Liesl Henderson, director of communication for Camden N.J.-based Campbell Soup Co. "It is an area of the country where people enjoy soup both as part of a meal and as an ingredient in cooking. And, people living in cooler weather areas usually eat soup more often, particularly in the winter months."
Along with Cream of Mushroom soup, Tomato and Chicken Noodle soups have traditionally been the top three best-sellers nationwide, according to Henderson.
"Because people throughout the Miami Valley and Ohio overall have traditionally enjoyed our soups, we believe they'll be thrilled by the more than 50 new soup and sauce varieties hitting shelves this month," added Henderson. "It's our hope the bold flavors and new packaging innovations will surprise and delight people who currently love Campbell's products while attracting others to try them."
There's another Ohio soup connection as well: Campbell's Napoleon, Ohio, facility, located just outside Toledo, is the company's largest plant in North America. More than 1,200 people work at facility which--in addition to the soups --makes Prego Italian sauces, Pace Mexican salsas, and V8 beverages. The Napoleon facility also made all 1.2 million of the limited-edition Warhol commemorative Campbell's Condensed Tomato soup cans, recently launched in honor of the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol's iconic artwork, (32 Campbell's Soup Cans) and available exclusively at Target.
(c)2012 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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