Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB) has been altering its course over the last couple of years. In 2011, the company exited Russian operations just four years after expanding into the market. In 2012, the company bought Bolthouse Farms from private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners in a $1.5 billion deal, Campbell's biggest purchase to date. But it was in 2013 that the Camden, N.J. food distributor made several acquisitions that propelled it beyond the soup business and into other growing segments of the food industry .
The company-known for brands such as Campbell's Soups and Pepperidge Farm cookies in the U.S. and Arnott's biscuits in Australia-has also been trying to gain a better foothold overseas.
In August, Campbell agreed to buy Danish snack company Kelsen Group A/S from private-equity firm Maj Invest and several other investors for an undisclosed sum. The deal, meant to bolster Campbell's global snacks business, brings Danish butter cookies Kjeldsens and Royal Dansk under the Campbell umbrella. The target, which distributes Royal Dansk in 85 countries around the world, is one of top sellers of sweet biscuits in China as well.
Deal activity didn't stop there, as Campbell found itself on the other side of the deal table. Campbell's sale of the Paris-based European business, also in August, included operations in Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Finland. The group owns the brands Devos Lemmens, Royco, Liebig, Deli Soup, Erasco, Bla Band, Touch of Taste and Lacroix. (he deal excludes Denmark-based Kelsen Group, which owns the Royal Dansk brand. Campbell's Pepperidge Farm products are also excluded.) Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Campbell said the businesses generated annual net sales of about $530 million in fiscal 2012.
While rivals General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) and Unilever NV (NYSE: UN) also utilize M&A as a way to expand their global footprint, Campbell is managing to do that and more, spending about $125 million on research and development in its 2012 fiscal year.
The company also brought in emerging markets specialist Carlos Barroso, who previously headed up research and development at PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP), including Frito-Lay North America and Quaker Foods and Snacks, a $27 billion business with more than 800 R&D employees.
Under Morrison, who took over as CEO in 2001, the company has shifted some spending from advertising to M&A growth, distribution and innovation, including development of new products.
After remaining acquisitive for the most of 2013, Campbell may soon find itself on the sell side again, as it expects to exit its European simple meals business in 2014.