With the news of the impending liquidation of Hostess Brands, the venerable maker of Twinkies and other snack treats, we are flooded with memories of our childhood, and the delight of finding a Hostess snack in the lunchbox or on the table after lunch. It is sad to see old friends in danger of disappearing.
However, the fact is that Hostess products are a distant memory, rather than a current staple. Neither of us can remember the last time we ate a Twinkie or Hostess Cupcake, nor are we inclined to buy them for our family. From what we read, and in conversations with others, we are probably a typical example of how changing tastes and health concerns have eroded Hostess Brands product sales over the years.
Some may say that this decline is inevitable as the company ages, but the Campbell’s Soup Company, another food icon from our childhood, provides proof that this does not have to be the case. In stark contrast to Hostess Brands relatively fossilized roster of products, Campbell’s Soup, especially over the past couple of years, has definitely been paying attention to changing tastes, evolving demographics, and trends in health consciousness, and led by CEO Denise Morrison, has started to introduce a series of new products and packaging forms in response.
Readers in the New York metropolitan area who are interested in hearing more about Campbell’s innovation journey can hear Denise Morrison herself talk about the company’s reinvention at the Third Annual “Reinventing Your Business Through Innovation” Conference on January 30, 2013. The conference, hosted by the Association For Corporate Growth-New Jersey and FDU’s Rothman Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, will be held at the Palace at Somerset Park, Somerset NJ, from 7:00 a.m. to noon.
Campbell’s Soup has been around for over 140 years, but is still spry enough to respond to new innovation leadership. Although Morrison clearly has been an instrumental catalyst in this change, it is only with a company-wide willingness to acknowledge the need for change, shake off old habits and “stir things up” (pun intended) that this transformation has been possible.
So here are two venerable heroes of our childhood lunchtime – Campbell’s Soup and Hostess – in dramatically different positions. Although the decline of Hostess Brands is surely related to a wide variety of factors, including problems with its unionized labor force, it’s clear that it’s relatively slow rate of product and business model innovation has not done it very much good – see As Labor Talks Collapse, Hostess Turns Out Lights.
In contrast, the reinvention of the Campbell’s Soup Company goes far beyond the simple introduction of new flavors and packaging, and includes wide ranging changes including modified business models and manufacturing practices. Driven by leadership not only from the top, but at all levels of the company, this innovation is likely to take Campbell’s far into the future in good health.
We only wonder what Andy Warhol would have made of pouches instead of cans.