Food Brands

History of Campbells Soup

Campbells Soup imageCampbell Soup Company is the number one maker of soups in the world, holds the top position in that category in Europe, and dominates its home market of the United States with a commanding 69 percent share. The company divides its operations into four areas. North American soup and "away from home" products includes the flagship condensed and ready-to-serve soup lines, Swanson broths, and the firm's entire Canadian business, as well as the distribution of soups, specialty entrees, beverages, other prepared foods, and bakery products through various foodservice channels. North American sauces and beverages comprises Pace Mexican sauces, Franco-American canned pastas and gravies, V8 vegetable juices and other beverages, Campbell's tomato juice, and all of the company's operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean region, including Mexico.

The biscuit and confectionery segment is made up of three subsidiaries: Pepperidge Farm, Incorporated, which specializes in cookies, crackers, breads, and frozen bakery products under the Pepperidge Farm, Goldfish, and Milano brands; Australia-based Arnotts Ltd., maker of salty snack foods, biscuits, and crackers; and Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. Campbell's manufacturing facilities include 20 plants in the United States and another 27 overseas located in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The company generates about 64 percent of its sales in the United States, 15 percent in Europe, 13 percent in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, and 8 percent in other countries.

The roots of the Campbell Soup Company can be traced back to 1860, when Abraham Anderson opened a small canning factory in Camden, New Jersey. In 1869 Philadelphia produce merchant Joseph Campbell became Anderson's partner, forming Anderson and Campbell. The company canned tomatoes, vegetables, jellies, condiments, and mincemeat. In 1876 Anderson and Campbell dissolved their partnership and Campbell bought Anderson's share of the business, changing its name to Joseph Campbell & Company. In 1882 a partnership was formed between Campbell's son-in-law, Walter S. Spackman; Campbell's nephew, Joseph S. Campbell; and Arthur Dorrance, Spackman's personal friend who brought a cash infusion to the partnership. At this time the company was renamed Joseph Campbell Preserving Company. The name was changed again in 1891, to Joseph Campbell Preserve Company. The senior Campbell maintained daily involvement in the company until his death in 1900.

In 1896 the company built a large factory in Camden and expanded its product line to include prepared meats, sauces, canned fruits, ketchup, and plum pudding. The next year Arthur Dorrance hired his nephew John Thompson Dorrance, a chemical engineer and organic chemist. By 1899 John Dorrance had successfully developed a method of canning condensed soup. This innovation helped Campbell outstrip its two soup-canning competitors. While others were still shipping heavy, uncondensed soup, Campbell was able to ship and sell its product at one-third the cost. There were five original varieties: Tomato, Consommé, Vegetable, Chicken, and Oxtail. Around this same time, Campbell introduced its famous red-and-white label for its soups. As the company began increasing the variety of soups it offered, it began canning less produce, eventually leading, in 1905, to a change in company name to Joseph Campbell Company. John Dorrance became director of the company in 1900.

Campbell's soup began finding its way into American kitchens at a time when the prepared-food industry was growing rapidly yet was still small. By 1904 the company sold 16 million cans of soup a year. That same year, in order to provide workers with something to do in the middle of the day when the soup stock was in the midst of its long simmering time, the company began making and selling Pork and Beans. Also that year, the Campbell Kids were introduced as advertising characters. Boasting 21 varieties of soup by this time, Campbell began to eye a bigger market; in 1911 Campbell began selling its products in California, thus becoming one of the first companies to serve the entire nation.

In 1910 Dorrance was made general manager of the company, and in 1914 he became president. Dorrance focused on soup and discontinued the marginal line of ketchups, preserves, and jams. In 1915 Dorrance became sole owner of Campbell when he bought out his uncle, Arthur Dorrance. A marketing genius, Dorrance boosted sales of soup by pushing the idea of using condensed soup as an ingredient in easy-to-make recipes. The first of many Campbell cookbooks, Helps for the Hostess, was published in 1916.

In 1912 Campbell began growing its own produce in an effort to standardize quality. This program was the first of an ongoing series of efforts Campbell made to grow what it processed. At that time, during the eight summer weeks in which tomatoes were harvested, the Campbell plant devoted its entire effort to the production of tomato soup and tomato juice. During World War I almost half of Campbell's sales were from these two products. Meantime, in 1915, Campbell acquired the Franco-American Food Company. In addition to being the first American soupmaker, Franco-American was also a producer of other foods. Although the use of the Franco-American brand for soups was halted, the brand continued for spaghetti and other pasta products.

In 1922 the company was incorporated as the Campbell Soup Company, centering the company on its most famous and profitable product. One year later, Arthur C. Dorrance, John Dorrance's brother, became Campbell's general manager. In 1929 Arthur C. Dorrance was made a director and vice-president of the board of directors. When John Dorrance died in 1930, Arthur C. Dorrance was elected president.

Throughout this period Campbell continued to grow. In 1929 the company opened a second major facility in Chicago. In the early 1930s Campbell opened Campbell Soup Company Ltd., in Canada, as well as Campbell's Soups Ltd., in Great Britain. In 1936 Campbell began making its own cans and in 1939 its agricultural research department was formed. On the product front, both Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Noodle soups were introduced in 1934, Campbell's Tomato Juice debuted in 1938, and Cream of Chicken hit store shelves in 1947. Campbell began backing these introductions with radio advertising in 1931, using the famous "M'm! M'm! Good!" slogan. Meantime, the company published its first full-length cookbook in 1941, titling it Easy Ways to Good Meals. In 1942 sales topped $100 million for the first time. Arthur C. Dorrance died in 1946, and James McGowen, Jr., became president. The following year Campbell began growing its own mushrooms in Prince Crossing, Illinois, and it opened its third soup plant, in Sacramento, California. In 1950 the first Campbell television commercials were broadcast.

Despite this growth, Campbell was slow to diversify. In 1948 the company acquired V-8 juice, but its first major purchase was not made until 1955, when it bought the Omaha, Nebraska-based C.A. Swanson & Sons, producers of the first complete-meal frozen entrees called TV dinners.

In the midst of this growth, W.B. Murphy was elected president, following McGowan's retirement in 1953. In 1954 Campbell took its stock public on the New York Stock Exchange and, in 1957, the company formed an international division to oversee its foreign concerns. In 1958 sales exceeded $500 million for the first time and Campbell established Campbell's Soups, S.p.A. in Italy. This venture was followed, in 1959, by the opening of subsidiaries in Mexico and Australia.

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