Nishant S Jain
Case Analysis: Campbell Soup Company
Throughout the 1980s, the Campbell Soup Company was formidable competitor in the
food market, offering a wide range of products (spaghettis, vegetable juices, frozen dinners,
condensed soups, dry soups, etc.), and continuing a reputation for high-quality products. The
canned soup market was evolving rapidly however. Competition was growing and competitors
were beginning to offer products with good quality that also incorporated at-home convenience.
In this challenging but favorable context, Campbell Soup Company decided in 1983 to begin
development on a microwaveable soup housed in a container that was microwave-safe. After
market research data was analyzed, the Plastigon container was chosen as the design worthy of
production. The Plastigon design was innovative. It was sealed to keep food fresh without
freezing, had handles that allowed the consumer to handle the container hot, and had an
attractive table-top appearance. Campbell put much hope in this innovation, considered as the
key to their future success.
The Campbell Soup Company allocated teams of engineers, set aside floor space in their
Maxton, NC planet, and invested in newly designed production capital for the Plastigon project.
Despite all these efforts, four years later the product is not yet in production, despite the
seemingly close proximity of the ultimate goal.
During the years of planning and production line testing/debugging from 1983 to 1988,
the Campbell Soup Company had some shortcomings that delayed the Plastigon container from
being ready for sale. Due to their strong stance in the food market and past success, primarily
due to frozen products, Campbell’s engineers attempted to adapt previously held knowledge of
soup production in order to develop this new product. Instead of adopting an incremental
approach, they jumped into a wide ocean of new challenges with little preliminary evaluation of
the company’s capabilities, and the unforeseen technical challenges that lie in handling new
container geometry, the Plastigon. Thus, it was not initially treated as an entirely new project
with dedicated step-by-step studies and suited processes, but merely as an adaptation of an
existing process. Indeed, John Gardner (the third Director of Engineering Programs since 1983)
considered the Plastigon line “nothing more than a frozen food line with a sterilizer instead of a