A look at Campbell Soup Company's inclusive culture

October 1, 2010

Margaret Rudkin, who founded Pepperidge Farm in 1937, once said, “Home and children don’t have to be neglected because you have a job. If you are smart enough to hold a good job, you are smart enough to organize your family life.”

She knew what she was talking about. Margaret had three sons, the youngest of whom suffered from severe allergies and asthma. Although she had never baked a loaf of bread in her life, Margaret began studying recipes in an attempt to bake her own bread that would not aggravate her son’s condition — he was unable to eat most commercially processed foods. She developed a recipe for bread without preservatives or artificial ingredients that her family loved. Her son’s doctor recommended it to his other patients, and Pepperidge Farm was born to a busy mom looking for a kid-friendly bread recipe.

Today, Pepperidge Farm is one of many brands under the Campbell Soup Company umbrella that women rely on to nourish themselves and their children. Eighty percent of people who buy Campbell’s iconic products are women. So it’s not surprising that Campbell creates initiatives with females in mind. What is surprising, however, is that Campbell’s focuses many of these efforts on the workplace, rather than the marketplace.

“The key to building the world’s most extraordinary food company is to fully engage all of our employees,” says Campbell CEO Doug Conant. “To do that, we need to be a place where the best people — from all walks of life — can achieve their highest potential and are inspired to do so with extraordinary passion.”

Building an inclusive culture
Campbell’s commitment to diversity and to building an inclusive culture starts at the top — at Campbell’s World Headquarters in Camden, N.J. At Conant’s biweekly staff meetings, the first item on the agenda is always a diversity update. And on Fridays, from Memorial Day through late September, employees take advantage of summer hours, one of Campbell’s flexible work arrangements, which allows them to leave early on Fridays to spend time with their families. You may also see employees drinking V8 “mocktails” at a networking event for Women of Campbell, an affinity network founded in 2005 to provide career development and networking opportunities. Today, the network includes more than 3,000 women who are members of chapters on four continents. 
This year, Catalyst, the nonprofit membership organization working to expand opportunities for women in the workplace, presented Campbell with its 2010 Catalyst Award to recognize the company’s efforts in helping women develop and advance their careers. Here are some reasons why Campbell stood out:
• Its dedication to valuing people and fully embracing and leveraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace, marketplace and community.

• Its commitment to increasing the number of women in leadership roles. Between fiscal years 2005 and 2009, women’s representation increased in senior executive and plant management positions, as well as on the Board of Directors. During this time frame, more than 40 percent of all new members on Campbell’s Global Leadership Team were women.

• Its robust diversity and inclusion strategy, anchored in its Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Knowing who to serve
Campbell has successfully increased sales and consumption of its products by better serving the people who buy them — women. During the past five years, the company has focused on women in its consumer and shopper research, fueling many product innovations, including Campbell’s Select Harvest soup, an all-natural soup created by women for women. Select Harvest soup was Campbell’s fastest-growing soup line in 2009, and Information Resources Inc., a leading market research company, ranked as the year’s top new food or beverage product.

Campbell’s employee initiatives showcase how powerful employee communications can be, and how understanding a target market can lead to effective external communications and, in turn, lead to strong business results. Campbell’s employee initiatives showcase how powerful employee communications can be, and how understanding a target market like women can lead to effective external communications and, in turn, lead to strong business results.

“Women today are no less interested in nutritious and attractive meals for their families than were their mothers or grandmothers,” Margaret Rudkin said. “But time doesn’t permit them to spend long hours over a stove.”

I wonder if Margaret would be glad to hear about my flexible work schedule at Campbell? And what would she think of those Pepperidge Farm 7-Grain Hearth Baked rolls that are ready after just five minutes in the oven? She’d probably be amazed at how the times have changed for women.


Sheri Oppenheimer
Sheri Oppenheimer served as a communications manager for the Campbell Soup Company prior to starting her own nutrition counseling practice, Full Plate Health, LLC. Details: www.fullplatehealth.com.
Email: sheri at fullplatehealth.com


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