Campbell Soup seeks bite-sized deals

February 18, 2009

soupCampbell Soup Co is hungry for acquisitions to add to its soup, snacks or beverage businesses in the next year or two, instead of pursuing a mega-merger to create a large food conglomerate.

As far as scooping up smaller brands, Campbell CEO Douglas Conant said “We  have a balance sheet and we’re not afraid to use it.”

“There’s evidence that there will be some good values coming free within the next year or two,” Conant told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida. He did not name specific targets.

Campbell, which makes its namesake soup, Pepperidge Farm cookies and crackers and V8 vegetable juice, is content with being a “focused” food company, rather than joining with another foodmaker to become a larger player, he said.

Last year, H.J. Heinz Co CEO William Johnson said Campbell would be a “good fit” with Heinz, when asked about the company by an investor at the Heinz annual meeting. But in an interview yesterday, Johnson called the comment “ancient history” and said he was only answering a question honestly.

Conant, asked about merging with Heinz to become a much larger company, said Campbell has “no interest” in such a move.  

“All the large food companies right now are struggling under the weight of their huge portfolios,” Conant said. 

(Additional reporting by Brad Dorfman)

(Photo, of Contant when he was named to the job in 2001, by Reuters)

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