History: Campbell Soup Company

by Editor | Jan 3, 2005
History: Campbell Soup Company In 1869, two men — a fruit merchant named Joseph Campbell and an icebox manufacturer named Abraham Anderson — shook hands in Camden, New Jersey, to form a business that would one day become one of the most recognized in the world and serve as a symbol of Americana: Campbell Soup Company. Originally called the Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company, the business produced canned tomatoes, vegetables, jellies, soups, condiments, and minced meats. In 1897, a major milestone occurred when Arthur Dorrance, the general manager of the company, reluctantly hired his 24-year-old nephew to join the company. Dr. John T. Dorrance, a chemist who had trained in Europe, was so determined to join Campbell that he agreed to pay for laboratory equipment out of his own pocket and accept a token salary of just $7.50 per week.

Dr. Dorrance quickly made his mark on history with the invention of condensed soup in 1897. By eliminating the water in canned soup, he lowered the costs for packaging, shipping, and storage. This made it possible to offer a 10-ounce can of Campbell’s condensed soup for a dime, versus more than 30 cents for a typical 32-ounce can of soup. The idea became so hot with Americans that in 1922, the company formally adopted "Soup" as its middle name.

Advertising helped trumpet the benefits of soup to consumers and contributed to the success. In 1904, the cherubic Campbell Kids were introduced in a series of trolley car advertisements, as a way to appeal to working mothers. Around this same time, the first magazine print ad boasted 21 varieties, each selling for a dime. In the 1930’s, Campbell entered into radio sponsorship, using the familiar "M’m! M’m! Good!" jingle to captivate listeners. When television made its way to American homes in the 1950’s, Campbell introduced TV commercials, and some 40 years later, the Campbell Kids were found dancing to rap songs on the small screen. Today, Campbell remains one of the leading advertisers in the US.

The idea to use condensed soup in recipes originated in a cookbook entitled "Helps for the Hostess" that was published in 1916. After the Second World War, Campbell’s home economists cooked up recipes like "Green Bean Casserole" and "Glorified Chicken" that fed scores of baby boomers and became classic dishes that live on today. In fact, cooking with soup remains so popular that Americans use more than 440 million cans each year in a variety of easy-to-prepare recipes. Some of the most popular varieties of Campbell’s Soups have been enjoyed by generations of soup lovers: Tomato was introduced in 1897, while Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Noodle first appeared in 1934. Combined, Americans consume approximately 2.5 billion bowls of these three soups alone each year.

The number of brand names under the Campbell banner has grown, and includes such well-known products as "Pepperidge Farm" breads, cookies, and crackers, "Franco-American" gravies and pastas, "V8" vegetable juices, "Swanson" broths, and Godiva Chocolates.

The way those products have been marketed also goes deep into American history. Celebrities from Ronald Reagan and Johnny Carson to Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, Helen Hayes, Donna Reed, Robin Leach, George Burns, and Gracie Allen have served as spokespeople for various Campbell products.

Today, the Campbell name stretches to China, Australia, Argentina, and beyond. Campbell products are available in practically every country in the world. While many of the products Americans know are offered internationally, regional varieties like Watercress and Duck-Gizzard Soup in China and a Cream of Chili Poblano soup in Mexico, have been introduced to respond to cultural differences.

To produce its first kosher soup, Campbell worked closely with experts at the Orthodox Union to "kosherize" an entire soup production line in its Maxton, North Carolina facilities. This ambitious undertaking required a production line to be completely shut down so that all equipment and utensils could be specially cleaned and certified under the watchful eyes of OU officials. The first cans of kosher condensed Vegetarian Vegetable Soup hit the market in late 2003.

Even though the Company’s foods have found their way into homes thousands of miles from the Camden, New Jersey headquarters, they still bear the name of the man who made his mark selling soup from a horse-drawn wagon -- Joseph Campbell.

Information courtesy of the Campbell Soup Company.

For more South Jersey History, visit our History page.

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Author: Editor

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