Campbell Soup Aims to Turn Millennials into Core Shoppers
By Dale Buss

The Millennial generation carries an appreciation of the Campbell Soup brand around with them like a smartphone.  But with all of this incredible affection, brand executives don’t think they have done a good enough job of offering products to Millennials in the way they like to experience food.

What’s more, they worry that a nostalgic appreciation of the brand will not translate into steady sales of Campbell’s products as Millennials age and mature into autonomous consumers. Developing a targeted line of products is one of the ways the company is addressing the problem.  

“We have incredible brand equity with them – based on the history of the foods that they once ate under the Campbell brand. That’s carried forward in a very positive way, but the way they’re eating today is different than before,” Chuck Vila, Campbell’s vice president of consumer and customer insights, told CPGmatters.

Such concern provides a glimpse into how a world-class brand grapples with the challenge of maintaining sales while its core shoppers age and are replaced by a new generation.  

Campbell’s fresh view of Millennials has been dictated in part by the sheer size of the cohort – consumers born between 1982 and 1995 that now are larger than a baby boomer generation that is just beginning to die off. American Millennials also are the most educated generation in the nation’s history, the most brand-experimental, and the most skeptical.

“For them, life is all about experiencing and sampling, and then you commit,” Vila explained. “Once they commit” to jobs or brands, for example, “they’re a force to be reckoned with. But their orientation is to sample.”

Campbell recently confirmed some of these tendencies of Millennial consumers with its own intense research. First, Campbell research teams spent time with members of Gen Y in “hipster hub” cities of London, San Francisco, New York and Austin, Texas; cities in Flyover Country such as Des Moines and St. Louis also got on the docket.

They went into Millennials’ homes and out to restaurants and entertainment sites with them, on “immersion journeys,” as Vila termed them. “They don’t like to be labeled in terms of religion, politics or sexual orientation,” Campbell found.

So what does this all have to do with soup?

Well, Millennials’ attitudes greatly affect how and what they eat as well. “They’re different,” Vila said. “They like familiar things about eating – when it’s quick, convenient and good for you. But they also question the way in which those [characteristics of food] have been defined. They like convenience foods and they’ll eat frozen foods, and they recognize food has a nutritional aspect.

“But while they have a broad awareness of health and well-being, they have very little depth of practice with that, unlike boomers – who have much more depth, usually in a particular area that might be driven by a health event.” In fact, Vila said, Millennials “are just as likely to be obese and overweight as the general population.”

Vila said that such findings have begun to influence Campbell’s overall “packaging, communications, and how we connect with them. We have a very different approach to connecting with this consumer than we do with boomers.”

Campbell has harnessed a batch of new insights about Generation Y and come up with a new product line called Go! Soups.  The brand stewards believe that this generation will be open to Go! Soups – and other product lines built on a Go! “platform” – because “we’re looking at it as a lifestyle platform that is being designed to meet them in the connected, on-the-go mobile lives that they lead.”

At a recent conference hosted by the Consumer Analyst Group of New York, CEO Denise Morrison said that Go! Soups would be packaged in pouches in a broad palate of six distinctive flavors, including Coconut Curry, Moroccan Chicken, and Gouda Cheese and Red Pepper. The packaging is lively with images of the food, of a Millennial consumer and of graphic elements – dramatically different than Campbell’s traditional red-and-white soup can.

“The flavors reflect [Millennials’] restless spirit and adventurous palate,” Vila said. “They enjoy flavor combinations mashed together more than boomers do, so we’re mashing together flavor combinations. They don’t hold themselves to conventional rules when it comes to food.”

Go! Soups are rolling out over the next six weeks. Vila declined to share specifics about how they will be distributed, merchandised and marketed. Morrison has said that Campbell next will extend the Go! Platform to “simple meal solutions” such as Go! Rice! Products followed by Go! Noodles! In the meantime, Vila said, Campbell intends to hit its Millennial target squarely with Go! Soups.

“This was the missing piece” of the Campbell brand’s relationship with the generation, he said. “When we sat with them all over the country, it was like they were saying, ‘We’ve been waiting for you.’  They have incredible affinity for the Campbell brand already. There is no baggage with them with our brand. And now we’ve chosen to carry that forward in a very relevant way for them.”

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                                                                               May 2012