COVID-19

What’s next for Campbell’s soup after pandemic sales spike?

Justin Ho Sep 4, 2020
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Soup has buoyed the Campbell's brand this year, but the company expects sales to drop after a spike during the pandemic. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
COVID-19

What’s next for Campbell’s soup after pandemic sales spike?

Justin Ho Sep 4, 2020
Soup has buoyed the Campbell's brand this year, but the company expects sales to drop after a spike during the pandemic. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

We’ve been reporting for months about how the pandemic is changing what we buy. One company at the forefront of that shift is Campbell Soup Co. The food giant reported a 17% jump in sales after the pandemic started. And this week, it reported a 12% jump in sales for the most recent quarter.

This is a company that’s been struggling for years. But just because sales spiked during the lockdown, it’s not clear that the company’s fortunes are reversed forever.

Campbell’s has a slew of familiar brands in its portfolio: Kettle potato chips, Goldfish crackers, V-8 vegetable juice. And the company says one of the biggest sellers over the past year has been that quintessential comfort food — plain old soup.

John Stanton, a professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University, has some Campbell’s tomato soup in his pantry.

“I just can’t make from scratch good tomato soup,” he said, laughing. “So it’s like the only one I buy.”

Stanton used to consult with Campbell’s and said soup is a high-margin product for the company. So the pandemic has spurred a nice revenue bump.

“I think that they should enjoy it, because I don’t think it’s going to last forever,” Stanton said.

Campbell’s said it expects soup sales to decline given how explosive this year’s growth has been. Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst at Supermarket Guru, said canned foods like Campbell’s flew off the shelves because people were hoarding grocery staples and buying whatever was available.

“It was the only thing on the shelf, so people bought it, and people’s cupboards, even to this point, are still stocked,” Lempert said.

But even if soup sales decline, all that hoarding could boost the Campbell’s brand overall. Prasad Vana, assistant professor of business administration at Dartmouth University, said all those soup cans and snacks people crammed into their cupboards “are really big banner ads right inside their homes.”

Soup has buoyed the brand this year, but Campbell’s said it’ll invest more in products we like to eat in good times and bad. That includes cookies, potato chips and packaged broth.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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