CAMDEN, N.J. — Generations of Americans have moved on from Campbell's condensed chicken noodle and tomato soups in search of heartier varieties with more sophisticated flavors. Now, the world's largest soup company is racing to do the same.
In the year ahead, the 143-year-old Campbell Soup Co. plans to roll out 50 products such as Moroccan Style Chicken and Spicy Chorizo.
The new soups also won't look like the big, gelatinous chunks that came in the steel cans that built Campbell into an iconic brand. These soups come in plastic pouches that are easy to open and heat up in a microwave in less than three minutes.
The remake could be a do-or-die task for Campbell. Overall canned soup consumption is down 13 percent over the past decade, according to the research firm Euromonitor International, as fresh soups have become more widely available at supermarkets and restaurants. And Campbell now has about 53 percent of the market, down from 67 percent a decade earlier.
Campbell's changes also illustrate how difficult it is for brands that appeal to older customers to become relevant to Millennials. This group, ages 18 through early 30s, is heavily sought after by companies and marketers.
"I grew up with salt, pepper and ketchup," said Chuck Vila, who heads Campbell's customer insights division. "These guys are playing around with really interesting spices from around the world."
Research inspired Campbell's Go plastic soup pouches, which come in flavors such as Coconut Curry, Creamy Red Pepper and Golden Lentil. Consumers open the pouch, stick the bag in the microwave for about two-and-a-half minutes then pour the soup into a bowl.
For older Millennials who may just be starting families or advancing in their careers, the company has created Skillet sauces in flavors such as Green Thai Curry and Creamy Chipotle. The directions are simple: Heat up some protein and vegetables. Mix in the sauce. Serve with rice or pasta.
The idea is to give consumers the sense that they're creating their own dishes, without them having to shop for hard-to-find ingredients or do too much tedious prep work.
The new offerings come with a price. A can of Chunky soup costs about $2.30 and has a shelf life of about two years; the pouches will cost about $3 and are good for half that time.
Campbell is counting on its new soups to keep its brand relevant. While the company makes other products like Pepperidge Farm baked goods and V8 vegetable juices, soups account for half its revenue.
Executives remain cautiously optimistic about the fate of the new lineup. CEO Denise Morrison said they should have a better read on how they'll fare after its fiscal first quarter.