Campbell Soup Company announced a revised recipe for their chicken noodle soup.
They say they’re giving the people what they want by leaving out ingredients that sound straight out of a chemistry lab.
But the recipe won’t debut in Campbell’s classic red and white can.
They’re rolling it out with limited-edition “Star Wars”-themed soup. They appear to be testing the recipe in the children’s variety of the product while hedging their risk with the galactic merchandising bonanza surrounding “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (in theaters in December 2015).
According to The New York Times, Campbell’s soup sales have been falling since 2012. Between those financial pressures and the reputation of an 81-year-old product at stake, it makes sense that Campbell wants the force on their side.
But this isn’t the only brand shake-up Campbell has had this year.
The company produced a collection of videos for an ad campaign aimed at delighting the country’s diverse soup consumers. One video starred a little boy eating Campbell’s “Star Wars”-themed soup — with his two dads.
Homophobes were not delighted. But the company stood by the video (and the law), staking its position as an ally of the gay community. But with the majority of Americans supportive of gay marriage, that’s also just good business.
So here’s the scoop — or the ladle, rather — on Campbell’s new soup recipe.
The new recipe eliminates most of the ingredients you wouldn’t normally find a household kitchen.
“We’re closing the gap between the kitchen and our plants,” Campbell Soup Company CEO Denise Morrison told The New York Times.
The once 30-ingredient list is now 20. Among the departed are flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate, as well as texture additives like maltodextrin and preservatives like lactic acid.
Marketers call what’s happening in the food industry a “clean label” revolution.
In an interview with NPR, Jeff George, who works in research and development for Campbell Soup Company, said that’s precisely what’s driving the company’s decision:
“The change we’re seeing from moms and dads and kids, is they want foods with simpler, easy, understandable ingredients, cleaner ingredients. So we’re changing our formulas.”
Campbell and other processed-food conglomerates are a few decades late to the party. The “clean label” trend isn’t exactly new. A report published in 1997 cited the health concerns of an aging population as a key motivator of the trend.
But today, companies like Campbell are listening to the youngsters. Morrison points to the 75 million millennials, the largest age demographic in the United States. “They’re shopping and thinking differently about food and in a way that is influential,” she said.
It’s great that Campbell is finally heeding consumer demand.
But if food companies really want to serve this increasingly powerful young consumer group, they’ll either need to speed things along or surrender market share to newcomers who will. The millennial economy is an on-demand economy, and they’re not waiting 20 years for the soup they want now.
Thumbnail image by frankieleon/Flickr.