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Campbell's Soup Leaves an Aftertaste

By Motley Fool Staff - Updated May 25, 2018 at 2:31PM

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A quarterly loss and reduced full-year guidance sent the stock plunging.

There just wasn't much to like about the fiscal third-quarter report from packaged food giant Campbell's Soup (CPB 0.92%), and with shares hitting a five-year low, CEO Denise Morrison announced she was leaving the company after seven years.

In this segment of the Motley Fool Money podcast, host Chris Hill and Fool analysts Jason Moser, Matt Argersinger, and Ron Gross consider all the negatives, headwinds, and strategic blunders of her tenure. They also cover tthe unique issue that her successor will face in turning the company around.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on May 18, 2018.

Chris Hill: Campbell Soup's third quarter loss was bad enough, but the company also cut guidance for the full fiscal year. Shares of Campbell Soup falling on Friday to their lowest point in more than five years. Ron, CEO Denise Morrison said, "I'm out of here."

Ron Gross: As our producer Mac would say, woof. This is a bad, bad report. Denise Morrison did not have a successful seven years at this company, and this quarter kind of puts an exclamation point on it. Organic sales were basically flat on weak performance of soup -- which, I'm no analyst, but if you're a soup company, you should probably have some stronger sales of soup --

Jason Moser: Wait a minute, aren't you an analyst?

Gross: Oh, yeah, I am an analyst. Gross margins weak, higher food costs, higher steel and aluminum prices, actually, hurting them, thanks to the tariff situation that we see ourselves in right now. Their fresh foods segment has been pretty much a disaster. They've had to write down around $600 million from that business, which was largely an acquired business. As you said, new CEO search under way. I think, by necessity, they'll undertake a strategic review, perhaps look to sell some brands. But, what's interesting is, the Dorrance family owns about 40% of this company, the Dorrance family and their affiliates. So, any major change is going to have to get through that family.

Matt Argersinger: Stepping back a little bit from Campbell's, I'm starting to get fascinated by looking at the consumer staples, consumer household goods businesses. You mentioned Campbell's, but Kellogg's, P&G, Clorox, all these companies have been butchered. They're down near the 52-week lows, and the valuations look really compelling. I guess it's the idea that these distinctive brands don't really matter so much anymore to the consumer. But, I have to say, you're getting some of these businesses, when you look at the dividend yields, at very low valuations.

Hill: And within that group, you look at packaged foods and you see Campbell's down 40% over the last year, Kraft Heinz down just about the same amount, General Mills down more than 25%. It's almost like it's teen apparel. I mean, how bad is the packaged food industry right now?

Gross: It's not about the brands. If you look at the Campbell's, their soup sales were down about 2%. But private label soups were up 11% across the board. Soup is still selling, it's just not Campbell's Soup that's selling.

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