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Campbell Declines After Walmart Woes Take a Toll on Soup Sales

Updated on
  • The company’s foray into fresh food also has struggled
  • CEO says soup may begin to improve by second half of year

Campbell Soup Co. shares fell after the company posted another decline in soup demand, hurt by a dispute with Walmart Inc.

U.S. soup sales dropped 7 percent last quarter, the company said on Friday. It blamed an ongoing issue with a “key customer” -- previously identified as Walmart. The world’s largest retailer, which sells more groceries in the U.S. than anyone else, has been paring its inventory of packaged foods.

Campbell also is struggling to expand its fresh-food business. Sales in that division were hurt by sluggishness in premium juice, Chief Executive Officer Denise Morrison said.

“This was a disappointing quarter,” she said in a statement. As Campbell works with Walmart, the company expects “sales declines in soup to moderate in the second half.”

Concerns about the underlying business sent Campbell shares down as much as 4.7 percent to $45.47 on Friday. The stock was already down almost 1 percent this year through Thursday’s close.

While it copes with the soup slowdown, Campbell is seeking other sources of growth. In December, the company agreed to buy Snyder’s-Lance in a bid to push deeper into salty snacks -- a bright spot in a broader packaged-food slump. Campbell, which already makes Goldfish crackers, will get brands such as Cape Cod potato chips and Snyder’s pretzels as part of the deal.

Earnings in the second quarter that ended Jan. 28 topped analysts’ estimates, but that was mostly due to a lower tax rate. Profit amounted to $1 a share, excluding some items. Analysts had estimated 84 cents.

(Updates with share price in fifth paragraph.)
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