The Campbell Soup Co.'s new family portrait

by Keith Nunes
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Denise Morrison, CEO, Campbell Soup Co.
Denise Morrison, president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Co. said cultural dynamics are posing a challenge for consumer packaged goods.

AUSTIN, Texas – Many of the challenges facing consumer packaged goods companies may be traced to the cultural dynamics that are redefining what constitutes a family, said Denise Morrison, president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Co. This new family dynamic is one aspect of what she called the “seismic shifts” shaking the food and beverage space.

“It’s clear consumers are changing,” Morrison said April 22 during a presentation at the IRI Summit in Austin. “Their wants are changing, the family structure is different, and an interest in fresh foods is rising.”

She said millennials are challenging how the American family is defined.

“A baby boomer like myself thinks of a family as mom, dad and a couple of kids,” she said. “That is wrong. Today, only one-fifth of households have married parents with children. More than half of households don't have kids.”

She added US households are getting smaller, and in many households the numbers of pets or televisions outnumber the number of children.

“In America we have moved on from the idea there is a growth model on how to define a family,” Morrison said. “The institution of marriage is changing with the number of married couples dropping. At the same time society is widening the definition of the family. In some cases, it looks as if husbands are optional today. In 2011, the number of mothers who have never married has run up to 45 percent. It's all part of the cultural conversation about women's roles.”

Adding to the dynamic is the rise of multicultural households, Morrison said. She noted that 36 percent of today's US population is multicultural, and multiculturals account for more than half of US births.

“The newer, truer picture of the US household is no longer singular,” she said. “It is more likely to be a mosaic in different configurations.”

Within the mosaic, Morrison said Campbell is focused on six modern households, which include:

• Multicultural homes that are predominantly Latino, African American and Asian consumers.

• Single parent households.

“In 2011, 62 percent of the mothers between 20 and 24 were unmarried, and many are struggling,” Morrison said.

• Modern male households that consist of 70 million men trying to carve out a new definition for themselves.

“One in five fathers is the primary caregivers for children today,” Morrison said.

• Adult-only households that are populated with consumers enjoying life on their own terms.

“This group represents 55 percent of all households and is expected to grow double digits,” Morrison said.

• Multigenerational households that represent approximately 50 million people.

• And LGBT, same-sex households that represent approximately 17 million people.

“This is a new world of consumers, a world of increasing diversity,” Morrison said. “On any given street across the country you will find a modern mix of family composition, and they are shopping and eating differently. They demand different product sizes and price points. They want innovative features. To succeed, our industry must drive innovation and marketing to fit in their lives and in their pantries.”

Examples of new products and marketing efforts Campbell has brought to market to meet the needs of the different demographic groups include Latin-inspired cooking sauces and Swanson flavor infused broths that appeal to multicultural households; social media efforts via its Plum Organics brand to reach single mothers; new varieties of Chunky soups for modern males; more varieties of V8 beverages for adult-only households; and soup, which Ms. Morrison defined as clearly multigenerational.

“It is plainly an immense challenge for food companies to respond to the changes taking place,” she said. “There will be no going back for consumers or us. The packaged food industry must adapt and adapt quickly. We must open our minds to an entirely new form of business.”

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