Another chief executive fell victim to the slump in the U.S. packaged-food industry.
Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison, 64, abruptly stepped down Friday after a lackluster seven-year tenure at the helm of the company. She tried — and never managed — to move beyond canned soup to ignite sales growth as Americans change how they eat and shop. The shares plunged the most in almost two decades.
“They’ve had a rough go of it,” said Michael Halen, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “The move into the fresh business has been problematic — they’ve had a lot of things that didn’t work.”
Morrison will be replaced on an interim basis by Keith McLoughlin, a 61-year-old former CEO at Electrolux who has been a board member since 2016, Campbell said. The Camden, New Jersey-based company didn’t say who will permanently succeed her, but last month it promoted industry veteran Luca Mignini to chief operations officer, putting him in line to take over the top job.
Whoever replaces Morrison will face the same challenges that have claimed the leaders of other Big Food companies like Kellogg Co. and Mondelez International Inc. Campbell’s shares, down 38 percent in the past two years, dropped an additional 12 percent to $34.60 on Friday, the biggest intraday loss since January 1999, after the company provided a full-year forecast that fell short of Wall Street estimates.
Morrison, who has been with Campbell for 15 years, took over in 2011 and less than a year later Campbell agreed to buy Bolthouse Farms, a maker of fresh juice and salad dressing that also operated a carrot-farming business. The deal was seen as a way to push the canned soup company into fresher and more natural products, which are on trend with modern consumers. But the merger has been hampered by operational issues and a recall that battered results. Campbell has since been mired in a three-year sales slump.
In a statement Friday, the company said it will start a strategic review of its businesses, which will “take several months to complete.” It plans to update investors on the outcome when it reports fourth-quarter results in late August.
Campbell has been seeking other sources of growth as it grapples with the soup slowdown. In December, the company agreed to buy Snyder’s-Lance in a bid to push deeper into salty snacks — a bright spot in the struggling packaged-food industry. That deal gives Campbell, which makes Goldfish crackers, brands such as Cape Cod potato chips and Snyder’s pretzels.
The recently promoted COO, Mignini, 55, joined Campbell in 2013. He had been running the company’s snacks unit, and is now overseeing Campbell’s soup business in addition to managing the expanded portfolio of snacks.