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Recession Leads Campbell to Overhaul Cooking Site

Beefs Up Recipes as Consumers Settle in for Long Haul

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Just in time for the holidays, Campbell Soup Co. has completed an overhaul of its cooking site, CampbellsKitchen.com. The site, designed by IMC2's New York office, features topical holiday recipes and a number of upgrades based on consumer insights, such as more budget-friendly options that help move cooks "beyond the casserole."

CampbellsKitchen.com users can search for dinner options by mood, with choices linked to flavors.
CampbellsKitchen.com users can search for dinner options by mood, with choices linked to flavors.
Charles Villa, VP-consumer insights at Campbell, said consumer research underscored not only the well-known facts that consumers are eating at home more and trying to feed four people on $10, but that they're not viewing these changes as short term.

"We're observing a fundamental change in how Americans approach the task of planning and preparing dinner for their families," he said. "Families all across America are now coming home to dinner and enjoying connecting around the dinner table. While the economic recession will pass over time, we believe these new behaviors will be long-lasting."

In addition to the usual casseroles and coupons, users can search for dinner options by mood, with choices linked to flavors. For instance, "chocolaty" yielded chocolate raspberry mini-napoleons, while "cheesy" brought up broccoli chicken divan. Consumers can also use a tool for seven-day meal planning, peruse a wider array of photos, and find tips for substitutions, portion control and healthier alternatives.

While the user-friendly site is likely to help weary cooks, the recipes can be a big boost for Campbell. Many of the dishes call for the use of several products, from the Campbell's, Swanson, Pepperidge Farm or Prego brands. Such ingenuity has been a major priority for mature segments like condensed soup. The site's debut is also well-timed for Thanksgiving, which is the biggest cooking holiday by a substantial margin. FoodNetwork, Epicurious, Butterball and others are battling for share of audience, but Campbell has an ace in the hole. Dorcas Reilly invented the green bean casserole in Campbell's Kitchens for a magazine article in 1955.

"Our team embarked on a quest to better meet the needs of family-focused cooks, which ultimately resulted in completely revamping our website," Lisa Walker, VP-condensed soup & broth, Campbell's Kitchen said in a statement. "We talked to thousands of people and spent time in their homes across the country to learn what has changed in recent years regarding the way they put meals on the table."

Campbell conducts intensive consumer research each year, interviewing thousands of people in their homes or in focus groups. The company carefully studies the way consumers read recipes, measure ingredients, cook, and budget for groceries.

But the competition for aspiring cooks isn't getting any easier. General Mills launched Tablespoon.com earlier today, in an attempt to unite Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Bisquick and Progresso recipes on one site. Users can search by likes and dislikes, customize settings and share recipes on Facebook and Twitter.

"Our brands have a proud history of giving people great ideas and inspiration in the kitchen," Tablespoon.com manager Eric Dwinell said in a statement. "We're excited to share our collection of easy, proven recipes and to help home cooks share their favorite recipes with others. Food lovers who explore Tablespoon will discover a place to share their own best dishes, opinions and cooking experiences, too."

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