Iconic soup brand Campbell's is making a UK comeback, but Andy Warhol fans will not see the return of the famous condensed soup tins.

The world's biggest soup maker is launching 25 new products in the UK this month through a licensing partnership with high-flying Symington's, the Leeds-based dried food specialist.

Campbell's soup has been absent from British supermarkets since March 2008 after previous UK licensee, Premier Foods, decided not to renew the licence. Its tinned soup flavours were subsumed into its Batchelors brand.

However, the new partners expect Campbell's to find more success in 2011 by putting its name to dried foods a first for Campbell's in the UK.

The new line-up comprises 12 cup soups, five simmer soups designed to be cooked in a pot of water four savoury rice lines and four savoury pasta & sauce packets. The move marks a direct assault on Batchelors' market leadership of the dried soup and packet snack category. It already has similar dried products on shelf, but suffered an 8.6% sales slump on Cup a Soup last year and a 3.3% decline on its packet rice [The Grocer Top Products Survey 2010]. "Campbell's and the dry food category is a marriage made in heaven and also a share-steal exercise," said Henrik Pade, Symington's marketing director. "We believe there is a market leader in cup soups that doesn't deserve to be there."

Symington's "business success and entrepreneurialism" in dried food had encouraged Campbell's to re-enter the UK, said Mike Hollis, Campbell's director of developing markets. Sales of Symington's Mug Shot Pasta Snack brand have risen 35.6% over the past year, and The Nation's Noodle has shot up 318.4%. Overall company sales rose 15% to £93m last year.

Although the range will be positioned as mainstream and priced in line with Batchelors, it would benefit from better ingredients, said Pade. "The key thing is to get this quality message across," he said.

Premier reacted by highlighting Batchelors' 40-year heritage. "Many renowned brands have tried to launch into this market. We are well placed to meet this challenge with a fantastic range of products and exciting activity," said a spokeswoman.

Marketing for the new range will consist of sampling and an above-the-line campaign later this year. However, Kate Waddell of Dragon Rouge questioned whether Campbell's pop art fame would engage younger consumers and queried its health credentials.

"Campbell's US provenance does not necessarily sit well with convenience and natural ingredients so the biggest challenge will be for the brand to convince of its superiority in naturalness and flavour," he said.

Read more
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Focus On Soup (23 October 2010)