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Campbell Soup CEO to investors: Don't forget we also sell Goldfish and pretzels

Campbell's snacks business offered a bright spot for the iconic food company while soup sales slumped.

Campbell Soup (CPB) CEO Mark Clouse has a message for his investor base: The snacks business — led by Goldfish crackers and Snyder's pretzels — is mm! mm! good.

"With half of our business in this terrific on-trend leading snacks business with a self-help margin story that gives us fuel into the future, I think it's something that our investors need to think about as they digest the trajectory for the company," Clouse said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above).

To be sure, Campbell Soup investors have a few things to chew on after the company's results this week showed a tale of two food stories.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and other items are displayed at a supermarket in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and other items are displayed at a supermarket in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

For one, Campbell's saw organic sales growth of 12% in its snacks business as consumers continued to show a penchant for on-the-go eating.

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Operating earnings for the division grew a hearty 41% from the prior year, also boosted by price increases.

The snacks division posted a 16% operating profit margin in the quarter, the highest since Campbell purchased Snyder's-Lance for $6.1 billion in 2018, Jefferies analyst Rob Dickerson estimated.

Snacks are the "growth engine" for Campbell's, Dickerson said in a client note.

But another part of the engine stalled in the quarter — Campbell's iconic soup business.

Sales of US soup fell 11% from the prior year.

FILE - This May 23, 2017, file photo shows a variety of Campbell's soups in a grocery cart at a store in Phoenix. Campbell Soup Co. plans to focus on its core snacks and soup business in North America and sell its international business, paying down debt. The Camden, N.J., company said Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, it’s working urgently to complete all the moves by next July. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
This May 23, 2017, file photo shows a variety of Campbell's soups in a grocery cart at a store in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Campbell's pinned the blame on a tough year-ago comparison and stores restocking their shelves amid better post-pandemic availability. The company also called out that shoppers had some greater-than-expected resistance to price increases.

Analysts added that increased competition from private-label soup players is also a problem and may continue to weigh on profit margins for the business in coming quarters.

"Campbell is facing pressure from private label, and the company noted that promotional activity is picking up as supply chain performances improve," Stifel analyst Matthew Smith noted.

Clouse says the company will continue to push its soup innovation — such as spicier flavors — under the Chunky brand.

Other soup brands owned by Campbell, such as Healthy Request, may need sharper price points to compete with private players, execs hinted on an earnings call.

The mixed performance in the quarter left Wall Street mixed on Campbell's near-term stock outlook.

"Volumes remain a risk, especially as soup faces ongoing private label pressure and continues to lose share, while Snacks may require additional brand investment to support the growth engine," Dickerson added.

Smith echoed the sentiment.

"Shares currently trade below 11 times using our calendar 2023 EBITDA [operating profits] estimate, a 15% discount to peers, which we believe appropriately balances the slower top line trajectory and risk volumes do not recover as pricing diminishes," Smith said.

Brian Sozzi is Yahoo Finance's Executive Editor. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn. Tips on the banking crisis? Email brian.sozzi@yahoofinance.com

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