In a desperate bid to boost fledgling soup purchases after years of declining sales, Campbell Soup Company, the world’s biggest soup maker, plans to introduce special-edition cans of its condensed tomato soup bearing labels reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s soup paintings.
The 1.2 million cans will cost 75 cents each, and will be offered for sale at Target stores. The cans to be sold at Target will come in four color schemes, with famed Warhol quote such as “In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.”
Food Industry writer Candice Choi notes Campbell has sold Warhol-inspired cans on two other occasions.
“In 2004, the company sold 75,000 four-packs of Warhol-inspired cans at Giant Eagle, a Pittsburgh-based supermarket operator. During the holiday season in 2006, the company sold 12,000 units at Barney’s in New York.”
Market Watch claims starting Sept. 6, the food maker is unveiling a major advertising campaign aimed at drawing more shoppers to soup.
Campbell said U.S. soup sales fell 5% for the period ended Aug. 1, even though the company offered more promotions. Summer is usually a weak sales period. For its fiscal year 2010, U.S. soup sales dropped 4%, compared with a 5% gain in fiscal 2009.
“The primary initiative in our soup business this year is to fire up condensed soup,” Campbell Chief Executive Doug Conant said. “This initiative will benefit both cooking soups, which are part of our broader meal-makers portfolio, and our eating soups.”
Campbell plans to grow sales from shipping more soups to retailers, rather than from raising prices. He said consumers remain stingy, spending fewer dollars on grocery-store trips and buying fewer items.
The overall U.S. soup category is suffering.
Campbell said for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 1, soup sales dropped 4.7%, citing SymphonyIRI panel data and its own internal estimates. Campbell soup sales were down 5.2%, and all other branded soup sales declined 7.3%, according to Market Watch.
Despite weak soup sales, Campbell has benefited from increased sales with its “V8″ beverage line, for which sales rose 12% in the recent quarter.
“A year ago, Campbell began to expand the V8 line to include Cranberry-Blackberry and Acai Mixed Berry Light drinks, among others.”
The irony in Campbell’s marketing venture of exploiting Andy Warhol’s pop art to sell their soup is that years ago, the company considered taking legal action against Warhol before his paintings were released to the public.
By 1964 the company realized the paintings were wildly successful and Campbell’s marketing manager even sent Warhol a letter expressing admiration for his work.
“I have since learned that you like Tomato Soup,” William MacFarland wrote in the letter. “I am taking the liberty of having a couple cases of our Tomato Soup delivered to you.”
Later that same year, Campbell commissioned Warhol to do a painting of a can of Campbell’s tomato soup as a gift for its retiring board chairman, Oliver G. Willits; Warhol was paid $2,000 for the work.
And in 1993, the company bought a Warhol painting of one of its tomato soup cans to hang in its boardroom of its headquarters.