business news in context, analysis with attitude

Forbes has a story about how “data breaches, fake news proliferation, sexual harassment allegations and gun control rallies have combined to send shockwaves through the global business community, but the United States has been hit particularly hard.”

This year’s RepTrak 100, in which the Reputation Institute studies corporate reputations in America, “reveals an average three-point decline in the reputation of USRT100 companies. It is the most significant downward trend since 2008, made more startling by the fact that each point corresponds to $1 billion in market capitalization … Driving the reputation disruption is a lack of confidence in big business, with just 49% of those surveyed saying they don’t have faith that companies will do the right thing.”
KC's View:
This reflects a broad problem that faces many food companies - a growing consumer distrust of what has been labeled “big food.” This has been exacerbated by the fact that a lot of smaller manufacturers have been able to exploit their positioning as companies with purpose, and be a lot more nimble than their larger brethren, many of which are locked into legacy operations and old-world ways of doing things.

One of the interesting things about the RepTrak 100 is the fact that at the top of the list is Campbell Soup.

The story says that under CEO Denise Morrison, “Campbell has placed corporate social responsibility at the center of its business model, championing projects that fight hunger and launching a line of affordable and natural soups. Even more notably, Campbell has embraced transparency, something many consumer packaged-goods companies still fail to do.”

What the story doesn’t point out is that it has not been a smooth financial road for Campbell - managing a business that continues to rely on the core red-and-white soup can business even as it tries to innovate though product development and acquisition, has had its challenges. The company doesn’t even consider itself a canned soup anymore, and is focusing more on products like snacks and initiatives like delivery.

Campbell has tried to convert itself into a nimble company with purpose, which I completely respect … but it hasn’t been easy, and the markets haven’t always rewarded it.