Campbell Soup is such an iconic brand that it needs no introduction. Sooni Shroff-Gander speaks to Heidi Nam, General Manager of Campbell Soup Asia Limited ahead of the Campbell's pop-up charity café from 6-10 March at Taikoo Place. Working in collaboration with Food Angel, Campbell will offer a bowl of premium flavour hot soup to anyone donating over $30 to the charity, who will also be given an exclusive surprise.
Campbell Soup is an iconic brand in so many ways, especially after the famous Andy Warhol painting. Please tell us about how the brand was started.
There are many milestones in the history of Campbell Soup over its 148-year history. In 1869, Joseph Campbell, a fruit merchant, and Abraham Anderson, an icebox manufacturer, formed the business that would one day become the Campbell Soup Company, and opened their first plant in New Jersey. In 1895, the first Ready-to-Serve Campbell Soup Can was introduced and it was Campbell’s iconic Tomato Soup. Two years later, Dr. John T. Dorrance invented a formula for commercially condensed soups -- an amazing leap forward. The following year, in 1898, a company executive attended the annual Cornell-Penn football game and was so taken with Cornell’s brilliant new red-and-white uniform that he convinced Campbell to use the colours on soup labels.
It wasn’t until 1911, however, that Campbell Soup received national distribution and acclaim.
Of course, in 1962 Pop artist Andy Warhol painted his first eponymous Campbell soup cans of 32 silk-screen paintings (because he lived poor and used to drink canned soup for lunch for 20 years!).
In 1984, the Campbell Soup Company entered the Hong Kong market and started launching localised flavours like Borsch, and the Chinese Soup range.
What is the secret to the success of Campbell Soup in Hong Kong?
There are a few reasons. One is the variety of flavours: up to 2017, Campbell Soup offered over 50 different flavours in the market and some were tailor-made specifically for local tastes.
Second is product innovation: in a fast-paced city like Hong Kong, we have continuously launched new flavours and product format to cater for the ever-changing market needs. Today, we have the Condensed Pasta Sauce Range; a new Japanese Soup range; and the recent microwavable soup series, which is a brand-new product format.
Thirdly is the Meal Maker Platform: we developed hundreds of recipes and educate people to prepare convenient, creative and tasty meals with Campbell Soup separately from consuming it directly as soup. For busy Hong Kongers it’s an ideal product, allowing them to prepare fast, tasty meals. This is also in line with our brand vision: to encourage people to pause and savour life’s moments. Whether shared or enjoyed alone, every single product we make connects people.
Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup is a very classic and popular product in Hong Kong, what’s the secret behind?
Cream of Chicken Soup is actually one of the three top-selling flavours in Hong Kong and it is also one of the iconic and classic Campbell Soup products for years, especially amongst Hong Kong families. Apart from high in-home usage, there’s another secret to this soup. Because of its authentic chicken flavour and aroma, many consumers may not have noticed but over 70% of the Cha Chaan Teng in Hong Kong actually use Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup as the soup base for the highly popular macaroni in their breakfast set.
What are the food trends of the future in Hong Kong?
There are two key food trends in Hong Kong: convenience (Hong Kong is ranked first in a survey of the “World’s Top 10 Busiest Cities) – which is why we have launched the Ready-to-Serve Soup range and microwavable soup range to tackle the consumer needs; and health (organic, no preservatives, no MSG, low sodium, fat-free/sugar-free, no trans-fat…these are the top searching keywords on Google recently in the food category). We believe that apart from taste, health claims will be the next top criteria to win consumers’ preference.
What is your favourite Campbell Soup flavour?
It has always been Cream of Mushroom ever since I was young. The soup is so versatile, I consume it as soup but more often I use it for cooking different recipes like pasta, meatballs or stewed salmon. The creamy soup base mixed with bits of mushroom garnish serves well for many delicious recipes. I cook these for my kids on weekends and they just totally love them.
Freshly-made soup is big in Hong Kong especially in Chinese families; can you tell us why people still embrace Campbell’s products?
Yes, you are right, families in Hong Kong used to freshly prepare Chinese soup at home and serve it right after dinner. However, for Campbell Soup, we educated them to prepare simple and convenient meals with our Condensed soup with the “Meal Maker Platform”. At first, we developed recipes that were Chinese fusion dishes, for example, you can use Tomato Bisque Soup to prepare Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce and Fried Garment Fish in Tomato Sauce, or, using Cream of Chicken Soup, to prepare Creamy Vegetable Stew.
Recently, however, we launched Campbell Worldwide Cuisine campaign, including, for example, the iconic Japanese Corn Oyakodon, prepared in a few steps, with our Japanese Sweet Corn Soup. This was a successful campaign, which helped extend our target audience to the younger generation, and rejuvenated the brand. And we just launched “10 Minutes Quick Good Meal” for busy people or those who are inexperienced in cooking.
Apart from sustaining the “Meal Maker Platform”, we also leverage on another winning strategy: we launch new products every year to bring novelty and excitement to the consumers. For example, the New Sauce range with unique flavours such as Carbonara Mushroom and Sweet Tomato sauces, the new Sauce Range provided consumers with a very innovative and convenient cooking solution. And we also launched a new Japanese Condensed Soup range with four new flavours: Cream of Pumpkin, Sweet Corn Portage, Japanese Minestrone, and Onion Bisque.
Photo Captions (From left to right)
1 & 2. Heidi Nam, General Manger of Campbell Soup Asia Limited
3. The most iconic and classic Campbell Soup flavours
4. A new Japanese condensed soup range
Photography by Michaela Giles