(4342)#foodcooking | Campbell Soup names head of its $4B snacking division

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Dive Brief:

  • Campbell Soup named Valerie Oswalt as president of its snacks division starting March 9. The snacks segment, which includes brands such as Goldfish, Pepperidge Farm, Kettle, Cape Cod and Late July, had $3.8 billion in sales in the company's fiscal 2019.
  • Oswalt has more than two decades of experience in the snack food industry, leading both large and established brands in senior positions at Kraft Foods and Mondelez, as well as at fast-growing startups.
  • She will take over for Carlos Abrams-Rivera, who left Campbell last month for Kraft Heinz. 

Dive Insight:

Campbell Soup has long been known for its namesake soups, Pace salsa, Prego pasta and V8 vegetable juices, but the company made a move into the fast-growing snacking space in a big way when it spent nearly $5 billion to purchase Snyder's-Lance in 2018, the company's largest-ever acquisition. The purchase quickly vaulted snacks to roughly 50% of the company's sales — last year alone snacks were responsible for $3.8 billion of the New Jersey company's $8.1 billion in sales during its fiscal 2019 year. Campbell Soup said it is the third-largest snack food company in the U.S.

Losing Abrams-Rivera was a tough loss for Campbell Soup, but Oswalt's CPG experience could be a valuable addition for the soup and snacks company that finally appears to have stabilized its operations. After an ill-fated push into fresh foods, Campbell Soup sold brands in the segment that included Garden Fresh Gourmet and Bolthouse Farms. And as part of a broader effort to streamline its operations, Campbell Soup sold Arnott’s and other parts of its international operations to KKR for $2.2 billion. The divestitures allowed the 152-year old company to invest in soups and snacks that make up the lion's share of the company's sales and a major part of its future.

Campbell Soup showed furthers signs Wednesday that its bet on snacks was paying off and that the company was gaining traction improving other parts of its business. Organic sales in snacks during the company's second quarter were up 2% behind gains in Goldfish, Pepperidge Farm cookies, Kettle Brand and Cape Cod. The company said eight of its nine "power snack brands" grew or maintained market share. In soup, sales during the period rose 1%, and the company's market share in the segment grew for the second-consecutive quarter.

Oswalt, 47, is no stranger to the food space, with more than two decades of experience in the snack food industry. She most recently served as CEO of Century Snacks, a privately held trail mix and nut products company, where she led the turnaround of the business with a portfolio of more than 400 branded, private label and commercial products, Campbell Soup said. Oswalt also held executive roles at Kraft Foods and Mondelez International, the latter where she was president of its North American Confections business, a $1.5 billion portfolio that included well-known brands such as Oreo, Cadbury and Trident. 

Oswalt is well acquainted with the snack space given her previous experience, and no doubt is fully aware of consumer demand for foods they can consume on the go that satisfy both their urge to indulge and to eat healthier depending on the occasion. The appointment marks the latest executive change to come under former Pinnacle Brands chief Mark Clouse who took over as CEO of Campbell Soup in early 2019. Last August, Campbell Soup named former Chobani CFO Mick Beekhuizen to the same position at its company.

The snack space is increasingly competitive, with companies such as Kellogg, General Mills, Conagra Brands, Hershey and Mondelez among those that have deepened their presence in the segment through acquisitions in recent years. According to a study Mondelez conducted with the Harris Poll​ last year, snacking is preferred to eating meals for 59% of adults worldwide. For millennials, that figure jumps to 70%. It's no wonder why Campbell Soup doubled-down on snacks with its Snyder's-Lance purchase and a big reason why the company hired a seasoned-vet like Oswalt to oversee what amounts to a big part of the storied company's future. 

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