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Tara Lachapelle

Amazon's Grocery Threat Could Ramp Up Food M&A

Campbell Soup and others may be pressured to seek mergers to protect shelf space and profits.
Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A spoiled marketing deal between Campbell Soup Co. and an unnamed retailer -- likely Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- warns of a looming price war in the grocery industry that may galvanize packaged-food giants to more seriously explore acquisitions, even if it means paying bloated valuations. 

Campbell announced late last month that it was unable to reach an agreement with a large customer over a promotional program for the upcoming "soup season." Said customer is widely speculated to be Wal-Mart, which accounts for 20 percent of Campbell's revenue, and so the news helped send the $14.5 billion company's shares tumbling. It's hard enough for Campbell to captivate food shoppers, given its heavy reliance on canned soup -- a product that, let's face it, is really only enticing when you have a cold, an empty fridge, or the Seamless app is down. Something like this only makes it worse.