Campbell's Soup has a new plan: More salt

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

In a time when Americans should be eating less salt, Campbell's decides to increase sodium content in its Select Harvest soup line in an attempt to up the company's bottom line.

At a recent investor meeting, Campbell Soup Co.’s incoming president and chief executive officer, Denise Morrison, announced that salt will be added back into its line of 31 Select Harvest soups. The line had previously been lauded for its healthy direction in lowering sodium, but Campbell’s is now going to attempt to boost the taste of the soups by adding more salt and, if all goes according to plan, boost sales, as well.

The Select Harvest soups contained approximately 700 to 800 milligrams of sodium per serving initially, reported Reuters. Salt levels were then lowered to 480 mg. in 2006. The decrease of sodium in the soups was also a move led by Morrison, who was then the president of Campbell’s USA. At the time, Morrison told the Associated Press, “We look at it as the enabler to talk about the other health benefits of soup.”

Now, Campbell’s, again led by Morrison, plans to increase the sodium level of Select Harvest soups to approximately 650 mg. per serving. The company’s line of Healthy Request soups, however, will not see an increase in salt.

Advocates of a healthy lifestyle were not pleased with the decision by Campbell’s.

“If Campbell has reason to believe consumers don’t like the taste of their products, why resort to salt?” Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, asked. “Why not improve their soups with more and better-quality vegetables and chicken, or with herbs and spices? I suppose that’s a question that answers itself, and the answer is money. Campbell enjoys a huge profit margin selling what are often basically overpriced disease-promoting cans of salt and water.”

The move comes at a time when it couldn’t be more clear that Americans are eating too much salt, which has been widely linked to an increase of high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. The United States Department of Agriculture clearly states in its Jan. 2011 release of "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" that people should “compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals—and choose the foods with the lower numbers.” And, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that people consume no more than 2,300 mg. of sodium per day—an amount many will be surprised to learn is approximately one teaspoon of table salt per day.

However, after the company’s announcement, its stock price rose 1.3 percent, the LA Times reported. Campbell’s soup sales have not only been weak, but the company has faces a lawsuit regarding the lower-sodium labeling of its soups, which some have said is misleading for consumers. But, the company believes its new direction will pay off in the long run.

"Implementing our new strategic direction will require substantial investment to fund our new innovation process, accelerate innovation across our portfolio and reinvigorate consumer-focused marketing to expand the equities of important brands," said Morrison. "Thus, fiscal 2012 will be a year of transition and investment, in which we will build the foundation for a sustainable, profitable growth trajectory in fiscal 2013 and beyond."

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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