Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Campbell Soup stays close to home

March 16, 2009

Don’t expect Campbell Soup Co to take advantage of its relative strength — and the weakness of some competitors

Speaking at the Food & Agriculture Summit in Chicago, Campbell Chief Executive Douglas Conant said “we only want to compete in some narrow areas. We only want to compete in geographies that we exist. Staying close to home will take you a long way.”

Conant said there are very few good properties available since assets bought by private equity are still tied up by those firms, and carving out a brand from a larger company is difficult.

“We’re not interested in buying a troubled asset,” Conant said.

Campbell previously sold off some assets in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It sees Russia and China as a leading growth opportunity to expand on its own. Conant said there are no assets to buy in those markets since most food consumption comes from homemade soup.

The company plans to spend about 10 cents a share to expand into those new markets, where it expects to be profitable in the next five years.

“We still know how to make soup and we can add a lot to that,” Conant said.

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