Campbell’s to keep marketing investment ‘stable’

With its brands performing well, the CPG scaled back its spending in Q4 after doubling down last year.

Campbell’s net sales may not be at the same levels as when consumers were stocking up their pantries, but the company still beat analyst estimates on revenue and reported strong performance on brand metrics.

The CGP reports net sales were down 11% for Q4 to $1.87 billion from $2.11 billion a year earlier, when a high watermark was driven by consumer stockpiling. Organic net sales decreased  by 4%, even as it reported earnings of 55 cents per share and revenue numbers beat consensus estimates.

In the Meals & Beverages space, net sales decreased by 16%, with sales of soup down by 21% due to year-over-year comparisons to a quarter that had a 52% increase.

The company did, however, tout its ability to retain brand strength: 75% of its brand portfolio actually grew or held share, “demonstrating strong underlying brand health and momentum.” And compared to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, at least, its Meals & Beverages organic net sales increased 10%.

In this morning’s conference call, Mark Clouse, Campbell’s president and CEO, says it is encouraged by sustained repeat levels that’s broad based across the portfolio, and that it’s growing more relevant brands as it readies for the future.

Campbell’s, Clouse says, is making “material advances in attracting and retaining a critical millennial cohort.”

It’s doing this by simplifying ingredient lines and improving quality, and also, for example, refreshing its Campbell’s condensed soup to attract that demo. With previous campaigns, Campbell’s has tried to counter perceptions its condensed soup is merely functional, and to make a better emotional connection with consumers.

Prego sauce, the company says, has retained its number one share position with 5% growth over the prior year.

With its Snacks portfolio, there were margin improvements versus Q3, despite supply chain challenges, Clouse says.

For Goldfish crackers household penetration “remains elevated” compared with pre-COVID levels, while there was “sustained share growth in Goldfish.”

The brand delivered double digit consumption growth, higher repeat rates and increased household penetration, thanks to limited edition Frank’s RedHot Crackers, and “effective marketing” for the product.

Clouse says it’s going to continue to launch on-trend flavour innovations, like its new jalapeño popper Goldfish.

Marketing and selling expenses decreased 34% to $175 million, the company reports, driven by lower advertising and consumer promotion expense (A&C), lower selling expenses, lower marketing overhead costs, and lower incentive compensation.

Despite the drop, Clouse points out that advertising and marketing is about at the same level of Q4 of 2019. In Q4 of 2020, Clouse says the company “had a significant opportunity to double down and invest in marketing in a more significant way,” which he’s glad it did to give it momentum with new millennial consumers. The ad spend, he says, was a great learning opportunity to see what it and isn’t working.

For the upcoming year, he says there may be incremental marketing investment, but it will be a “stable year” in that regard.

“I feel great about investment levels overall that we have,” Clouse says.