Boosting its vegan bona fides, Campbell Soup joins Plant Based Foods Association

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Bolthouse Farms plant protein milk is among the products the Campbell Soup Co. is looking to for faster growth than it gets from its canned-soup staples.

After making waves last summer by quitting the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group for Big Food, Campbell Soup Co. said Monday that it is the first major food company to join the Plant Based Foods Association.

The moves are part of the Camden company’s bid to shift its market position to reflect newer trends and away from the old canned-soup staples that propelled the company to huge profits for generations but have failed to generate consistent growth for many years.

“We are committed to providing our consumers with food choices that meet their nutrition, well-being and lifestyle needs,” Ed Carolan, president of Campbell Fresh, a division that includes Bolthouse Farms, a cornerstone of the new Campbell, said in a news release. “Working together with the Plant Based Foods Association, we can advance our shared goal of bringing more plant-based foods to consumers.”

Among Campbell’s new products is Bolthouse Farms plant protein milk, which is made from pea protein.

Plant Based Foods Association, a new organization in San Francisco that is advocating for companies with products designed to replace meat, dairy, and eggs.

When Campbell chief executive Denise Morrison announced in June that the company would leave the Grocery Manufacturers Association, she attributed the decision to the fact that Campbell was more and more often coming down on the side of small companies on industry issues, such as whether consumers should be told whether a product contains genetically modified ingredients.

Politico reported last week that Nestle, the world’s largest food company, also had decided to leave the Grocery Manufacturers group. The move came after the Swiss company broke with the trade group over added-sugars labeling, Politico said.

Despite Campbell’s enthusiasm for Bolthouse and other new initiatives, the company’s shares traded Monday afternoon for $46.61 on the New York Stock Exchange, more than 30 percent below their all-time high of $67.89 in July 2016. The stock closed still lower, at $46.36, down 1.77 or 3.68 percent on the day.

The latest hit to the shares came at the end of August, when Campbell predicted that revenue in the fiscal year that ends next summer would be down as much at 2 percent, and flat at best, compared to fiscal 2017.