Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB) is leveraging acquisitions and equity investments to ensure the company known for comfort food for nearly 150 years remains relevant to millennials and future generations.
Campbell, which recently completed the $700 million purchase of organic soup maker Pacific Foods, is accelerating its acquisition strategy to meet increased consumer demand for healthy snacks. Pacific, located in Tualatin, Oregon, makes vegetable broths along with soy and almond beverages under its own brand. “The addition of Pacific Foods advances our real-food capabilities,” said CEO Denise Morrison at a February 2018 event.
“The pace of change will continue to increase. We’re no longer just a canned soup company,” Morrison added. Campbell recently closed the $4.8 billion deal for Snyder’s-Lance, maker of popular pretzels, which after completion will be the largest deal in Campbell’s history. Snyder’s is known for making pretzels under the Snyder’s of Hanover brand. The company also makes Cape Cod potato chips and Pop Secret popcorn. On-the-go snacks are popular among busy consumers.
“Both the Pacific and Snyder’s-Lance acquisitions are expected to improve our overall growth profile as we further extend our portfolio across these attractive categories. In both cases, they build upon the strength we have in the soup and broth and snacking categories,” Campbell CFO Anthony DiSilvestro tells Mergers & Acquisitions.
Campbell, founded in 1869, began its diversification beyond soup in 2012 with the $1.5 billion purchase of Bolthouse Farms, a producer of carrots, juices and salad dressings. Bolthouse’s performance has struggled under Campbell’s ownership, being plagued with poor harvest crops and drink recalls. Since then, Morrison has restructured the Bolthouse division.
“Overall, we learned several important lessons and we’re applying them going forward. First, establishing a leadership team with diverse skills and experience early on. Second, fresh food is more perishable and therefore more fragile, creating some volatility in our results. Lastly, the fresh supply chain presents an opportunity for productivity improvement and optimization,” DiSilvestro adds. Aside from its namesake canned soup, Camden, New Jersey-based Campbell owns the Prego sauces and the Pepperidge Farm cookies and snacks brands.
In 2016, Campbell established a $125 million VC fund, which has backed a handful of startups, including: Juicero, Farmers Business Network, Pilotworks, Sample6 and meal-kit company Chef’D. A couple of Campbell’s competitors, such as General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) and Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K), have also raised VC funds to back food startups.
“The millennials have not just arrived, but they are now taking over,” Morrison said. “If we don’t work with them, we will soon be working for them.”
“Our focus right now is integrating Pacific Foods and then Snyder’s-Lance. Looking forward, we are committed to deleveraging following the Snyder’s-Lance deal and longer term, we will continue to look for deals that make strategic and economic sense,” says DiSilvestro.