Campbell Soup Co.'s product lineup for this fall will have nearly 40 new or reformulated soups, including 14 using sea salt to reduce sodium, five Chunky Fully Loaded varieties with more meat, and - likely - the company's first organic soups, the Camden company said yesterday at a conference in Arizona.
The plan to put sea salt in Campbell's soups sold in microwavable containers and other items comes as sales of the original 32 lower-sodium soups launched last year are projected to reach $300 million to $350 million in the current fiscal year, the company said.
Campbell's president and chief executive officer, Douglas R. Conant, outlined a three-phase journey toward sodium reduction. That is key to the long-term health of the company's soup franchise because sodium content is one of the main reasons Americans do not eat more soup, Conant said.
He said Campbell was still in the initial phase, which would involve sodium reductions of 25 percent to 45 percent in certain items, but would keep many of the higher-sodium versions on the market.
Phase two will be to get within striking distance of the limit of 480 milligrams of sodium per serving required to make a healthy-food claim, according to federal standards. "We will not make a prediction on timing," Conant said.
Phase three - getting sodium content well below 480 milligrams per serving - depends largely on the efforts of Senomyx Inc., a La Jolla, Calif., biotechnology company that is looking for novel flavor ingredients for packaged food and beverage companies. If Senomyx finds something that allows packaged-food manufacturers to reduce salt, Campbell has exclusive rights to it for 17 years in soup.
One concern about the reduced-sodium soups launched last year was that consumers would dump the standard versions in favor of the lower-sodium versions, leading to no net gain in volume.
But Campbell said yesterday that 35 percent to 45 percent of the sales of new lower-sodium items were additional volume, not simply the purchase of one item instead of another.
While Campbell has high hopes for its sodium-reduction efforts, some analysts remain skeptical.
Pablo Zuanic, at JPMorgan Chase & Co., for example, pointed out that while Campbell spent years researching the use of sea salt to reduce sodium, archrival Progresso quickly came out last year with its own versions using sea salt. "According to our data," Zuanic said, "they are doing just as well."
Conant said the overall soup category had a "great wellness halo" that benefits all soup manufacturers. Wellness is the term Campbell uses to refer to healthier products, such as those made with less sodium, with whole grains, or in 100-calorie packs.
Sales of such products reached $970 million in fiscal 2006, amounting to 13 percent of total sales, up from 9 percent in 2004.