Campbell elevates innovation exec amid chaos
With product innovation being the lifeblood of any consumer packaged goods company, Campbell Soup Company has made a major executive move that is key to its future.
The company announced the appointment of Craig Slavtcheff, 51, as Vice President and Head of Research and Development (R&D). Slavtcheff will lead Campbell’s entire R&D organization, including strategy, innovation and product development for the company’s divisions, as well as its science and technology, regulatory, nutrition, and culinary teams. He will report to Campbell’s Chief Operating Officer, Luca Mignini.
“Effective Research and Development is a critical component of Campbell’s focused strategy to leverage our leading brands and market positions in North America. Craig is a disciplined and seasoned leader with a strong record of building effective teams that deliver compelling product innovation and drive business results,” said Mignini. “His more than 30 years of R&D experience in the consumer-packaged goods industry will be instrumental in aligning our innovation efforts against the differentiated portfolio roles of our brands.”
The promotion of Slavtcheff comes amid considerable turmoil at Campbell and the consumer packaged goods world at large.
In August, the company announced that they had plans to sell its Fresh and International divisions to focus on its North American snacks and meals and beverage businesses. The Fresh and International divisions generated sales of $2.1 billion of Campbell's total sales of $8.7 billion during the fiscal year ended July 29. The decision to sell the Campbell Fresh division is noteworthy because the company paid $1.55 billion to acquire Bolthouse Farms in 2012. At the time, the acquisition was seen as a way for Campbell to expand its presence in the market for packaged fresh food and complementing Campbell's beverage business which includes the V8 brand.
The major strategic moves follow what Chief Executive Officer Keith McLoughlin characterized as a challenging financial performance. Although the company reported better-than-expected quarterly profit, sales fell short of expectations. The company’s revenue was 2.22 billion, versus Wall Streets predicted $2.24 billion. However, this was a 33 percent increase from last years $1.66 billion, reflecting a 36-point benefit from the recent acquisitions of Snyder’s-Lance and Pacific Foods.
"These results and our outlook for fiscal 2019 reinforce the need for the significant actions we announced this morning as part of our comprehensive, Board-led strategy and portfolio review,” said McLoughlin. “We believe these actions will put us on a path to create sustainable shareholder value."
The company's weak financial position has drawn attention from activist investors who are pressuring the 149-year-old soup maker to sell. Dan Loeb's Third Point, which recently disclosed a 5.65 percent stake in the company and called a sale of the business the "only justifiable outcome" of its review. The activist is teaming up with shareholder George Strawbridge Jr., a member of Campbell's founding family, to call for the sale.