About the author: Carol Ortenberg is the editor of BevNET’s sister site Project NOSH, which covers the business of natural, organic, sustainable and healthy food companies.
Campbell’s new C-Fresh division is drawn and determined to grow — even if it takes buying other companies to get there.
That was just one message delivered by Scott LaPorta, the president of Campbell-owned Bolthouse Farms and one of the executives behind the fresh-focused, chilled-transport division, delivered in describing the C-Fresh strategy at this year’s BevNET Live in Santa Monica.
Campbell recently realigned its product lines and teams into three business groups: Global Biscuits and Snacks, C-Fresh (composed of Bolthouse Farms, Garden Fresh Gourmet, Campbell’s Fresh Soups and My Goodness Soup!) and Americas Simple Meals & Beverages. Within C-Fresh,, Bolthouse is the anchor, guiding and shaping the direction of the division.
Currently, C-Fresh accounts for approximately 10-15 percent of Campbell’s revenues, and its mandate is, according to LaPorta, “to drive full force growth in the perimeter of the store.” Just 18 months ago C-Fresh was in three product categories (juice, salad dressing and carrots) and now it has expanded into more produce items, deli products, soups, dips and spreads. Looking forward, Laporta said that in five years the division plans to be in as many as 30 categories.
To achieve these goals, C-Fresh is both producing their own lines as well as acquiring companies.
“We’re actively looking for potential acquisition partners that we could bring into the fold, maintain that culture and what they’re about, while they get to leverage [our] platform,” LaPorta said. Hinting at the next possible expansion, Laporta teased an entry into the dairy category, though said that yogurt likely would not be the focus due to too many other major players and a high barrier to entry.
The only element holding C-Fresh back is retail shelf space, LaPorta noted, saying that there are more good ideas then there is space available — but if the rate of changing consumer interest keeps up, he believes that retailers will have to respond and turn more space over to fresh product lines.
As the prime acquisition behind C-Fresh and the presumable route to market for many of the planned add-on categories, LaPorta also discussed Campbell’s understanding of the Bolthouse culture. He noted that the producer has continued to nurture Bolthouse as an entrepreneurial enterprise, rather than trying to make the company adapt to its larger company culture. This allows C-Fresh to rapidly develop product concepts, he said, adding that the larger company also respects Bolthouse’s commitment to quality. “Of everything we do, taste is the most important thing.” said Laporta. “If it doesn’t pass the taste hurdle, we don’t do it. We go back and start over again.”
LaPorta said he believes this focus on quality and freshness will pay off for Campbell as more and more consumers fall in a category he called “holistic foodies” — looking for products with full transparency, batch processing and a made-to-order aesthetic. Behind C-Fresh, he said, the company will be able to build a two-way level of trust with the consumer.
Watch LaPorta’s full presentation from BevNET Live in the following video: