Updated to include additional details from Campbell Soup.
That soup king -- attempting to drum up new business in a world where consumers are demanding healthier food -- announced Wednesday at the annual Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference that it would form a $125 million venture fund to take stakes in upstart food companies that focus on more nutritious food.
Called Acre Venture Partners, the fund will be managed by its general partner, Acre Ventures GP, LLC, which is independent of Campbell Soup. Jeff Dunn, president of the company's Campbell Fresh division, will be the Campbell representative on the investment committee of Acre.
Campbell Soup will be the sole contributor to the fund.
Campbell said it has moved slowly to invest in upstart food companies that are often situated in Silicon Valley, only confirming that it recently took an undisclosed stake in up-and-coming juice company Juicero. According to a Campbell Soup spokesman via email, Campbell invested $10 million in Juicero.
"The food industry is in a time of revolution," said Campbell Soup President and CEO Denise Morrison during a speech at the event. Morrison, who is known for not holding back when describing the challenges facing established packaged food companies, such as intense competition from new organic food makers and bloated costs, also divulged several new products the soup maker will launch soon.
In the spring, Campbell Soup will launch 14 new products (beverages and dressings) from its Bolthouse Farms better-for-you brand. The company also is expanding its new 1915 organic fresh pressed juice brand, unveiling six new items later this year including its first plant-based protein drink.
Campbell Soup could use the top-line boost from any of its new product introductions.
On Tuesday, the company reiterated its full-year sales guidance, calling for sales to be down 1% to unchanged year over year. Sales for the second fiscal quarter ended Jan. 31 declined 1%, and were unchanged excluding the impact of the strong U.S. dollar. The company did lift its full-year profit outlook, however, due to a continued focus on cost cuts and likely commodities deflation. Campbell said it now expects adjusted earnings before interest and taxes to increase by 10% to 13% compared to a previous outlook for growth of 4% to 7%. Earnings per share excluding one-time items are seen rising 9% to 12% this fiscal year, improved from a prior outlook of 4% to 7%.
Shares of Campbell's Soup rose 2.5% in trading on Wednesday.
Campbell agreed to make a $125 million capital commitment to Acre Venture Partners, L.P., a Delaware limited partnership formed to make venture capital investments in innovative new companies in food and food-related industries. Campbell Finance 2 Corp., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Campbell, is the sole limited partner of Acre.