Campbell Soup Co.
said a surge in sales brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is receding, a sign that the acute changes in consumer behavior early in the pandemic may be moderating even as many people stay home while Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations reach all-time highs.
Campbell’s U.S. soup sales jumped 21% in the quarter ended Nov. 1 compared with a year ago as pandemic-related restrictions continued to keep people home. However, that was less than half the gains Campbell reported for the prior three months. Supermarket operator Kroger Co. last week also reported slower sales growth than during the first months of the pandemic.
The pandemic has provided food makers with an unprecedented opportunity for thousands of people to try their products for the first time in several years. Like other food makers, Campbell has invested in more advertising to try to maintain the momentum. Campbell has also added manufacturing capacity for high-demand items such as its Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, working to rebuild inventories that were depleted in the early months of the pandemic.
Campbell said it expects total sales to moderate in coming months, forecasting 5% to 7% growth for the continuing quarter. The soup giant, which also owns snacks such as Pepperidge Farm cookies and Kettle potato chips, has said in recent months that its sales growth would decelerate as people return to their offices and schools and pre-pandemic eating habits.
Campbell’s stock fell nearly 1% to $47.83 in premarket trading on Wednesday as its forecast for sales and profit for the current quarter came in below analyst expectations. The company’s shares are down 2.4% so far this year, while the S&P 500 is up more than 14%.
Campbell reported a profit of $309 million, up from $166 million a year ago. Sales rose to $2.34 billion from $2.18 billion a year ago, beating analyst expectations of $2.32 billion. Its earnings of $1.02 per share topped the 91 cents analysts forecast.
The company also raised its quarterly dividend 6% to 37 cents per share.
Write to Annie Gasparro at [email protected]
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