“The industry is not creating big ideas like it used to,” said Gary Stibel, founder and chief executive of New England Consulting Group. “There are line extensions du jour, but there are no major new innovations. In terms of advertising messaging, the industry has walked away from the big ideas that built brands over decades to short messages that mean very little to anybody.”
Instead, the big, historical packaged-food companies, not just Campbell, but also General Mills Inc., Kellogg Co., Conagra Brands Inc., and others, try to buy their way to prosperity. They move into faster-growing categories, try to capture the growth of hot, new brands, or simply merge to cut costs. Too often, as was the case with Campbell’s purchase of Bolthouse Farms in 2012, it doesn’t work.
“Too many of the acquisitions are of brands that have already reached their plateau and have little growth potential left in them,” said Stibel, who started his career in 1970 as a marketing manager at Procter & Gamble.