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Campbell Soup Company (NYSE:CPB) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript

Campbell Soup Company (NYSE:CPB) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript December 6, 2023

Campbell Soup Company beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.91, expectations were $0.87.

Operator: Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Campbell Soup Company First Quarter Fiscal 2024 Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in listen-only mode. After today's presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference call is being recorded. It's now my pleasure to introduce your host, Rebecca Gardy, Chief Investor Relations Officer. Please go ahead.

Rebecca Gardy: Good morning, and welcome to Campbell's first quarter fiscal 2024 earnings conference call. I'm Rebecca Gardy, Chief Investor Relations Officer at Campbell. Joining me today are Mark Clouse, Chief Executive Officer; and Carrie Anderson, Chief Financial Officer. Today's remarks have been pre-recorded. Once we conclude the prepared remarks, we will transition to a live webcast Q&A session. The slide deck and today's earnings press release have been posted to the Investor Relations section on our website, campbellsoupcompany.com. Following the conclusion of the Q&A session, a replay of the webcast will be available at the same location, followed by a transcript of the call within 24 hours. On our call today, we will make forward-looking statements, which reflect our current expectations.

These statements rely on assumptions and estimates, which could be inaccurate and are subject to risk. Please refer to Slide 3 of our presentation or our SEC filings for a list of factors that could cause our actual results to vary materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements. Because we use non-GAAP measures, we have provided a reconciliation of each of these measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measure in the appendix of our presentation. Slide 4 outlines today's agenda. Mark will provide insights into our first quarter performance as well as in-market performance by division. Carrie will then discuss the financial results of the quarter in more detail and outline our guidance for the full fiscal year 2024, which we reaffirmed this morning.

And with that, I'm pleased to turn the call over to Mark.

Mark Clouse: Thanks, Rebecca. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining our first quarter fiscal 2024 earnings call. From Campbell's management team, we hope you enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving with family, friends, and, of course, some Green Bean Casserole and Pepperidge Farm Stuffing. As you saw in our press release this morning, we reported first quarter results with top-line coming in consistent with our expectations, and adjusted EBIT and adjusted EPS coming in slightly ahead as we lapped one of our strongest quarters with 15% growth across all three key metrics in the prior year. I am pleased with these results as we continue to navigate an evolving and challenging consumer environment. We also made material progress advancing the key initiatives of our focused strategic plan and continue to build confidence in the next stage of Campbell's growth.

I am encouraged by the consistency of our outstanding execution, including strong sustained performance across our supply chain, numerous successful innovations and marketing programs and, more recently, improving share trends. We achieved all this while maintaining our margin and earnings expectations. Going forward, we anticipate these areas of focus to fuel sequential improvement over the course of the year, generating momentum in terms of revenue, volumes, market share and profit margins, particularly as we head into the second half of fiscal '24. As a result, we remain confident and are affirming our full-year guidance. We believe this building momentum paired with the pending acquisition of Sovos Brands will set the stage for accelerated growth and solidify Campbell's position as one of the most dependable names in food.

Turning to Slide 7. As expected, organic net sales decreased by 1% to $2.5 billion, following a 15% increase in the prior year, resulting in growth of approximately 7% on a two-year compound annual growth rate basis. Adjusted EBIT and adjusted EPS declined 9% and 11%, respectively, following a 15% increase in both key measures the prior year. Our dollar consumption was down 2% but grew 8% versus two years ago. In-line with expectations we communicated during our fourth quarter earnings call, the consumer landscape remains challenging. However, we have many opportunities within our portfolio to meet these shifting macro consumer trends and have optimized our strategies and plans concentrating on three key areas. First, we're dedicated to ensuring the affordability of our products and maintaining competitive price gaps within our margin goals.

This is particularly important, especially as consumers seek to maximize the value of their spending, stretching their budgets to cover the cost of family meals every day and during the important holiday season. Second, we are committed to sustaining our marketing and innovation plans. This is critical not only to reinforce the value and differentiation of our products, but also to continue to build the long-term equity of our brands, on which we've made significant progress in recent years. Finally, our approach to spending remains disciplined and balanced, focused on high ROI and impactful programs. We are driving productivity and making appropriate trade-offs to fuel this investment, while we protect our margin and earnings objectives. Where support has been added, we believe it's both sustainable and profitable.

We intend to maintain this focused approach throughout fiscal 2024, and we are confident that we will build momentum as the year progresses and continue to deliver our financial commitments. We remain confident in this forecasted improvement in trends throughout the year for a number of reasons. It's important to recall that our growth rates in the first half of fiscal '23 averaged in the mid-teens and subsequently tapered down to mid-single-digit growth in the second half. This approximate 10-point decline in part reflected a slowing in incremental pricing. These more modest comparables post Q2 support our expectations for improving top-line and volumes. In addition, we have a robust pipeline of innovation and marketing programs informed by the current consumer trends to also fuel the improving outlook.

So, although the consumer landscape remains dynamic, we are well-positioned for improvement and will continue to plan contingencies and remain nimble as we navigate the balance of the year. Turning to our Meals & Beverages division. As planned, we experienced a low- to mid-single-digit decline in top-line and consumption in the first quarter. On a two-year compound annual growth rate basis, organic net sales were up 6% and dollar consumption was up 1%. The difference in net sales and consumption growth rates reflect the strength in our foodservice business and unmeasured channels, as well as a year-ago supply and inventory recovery. Within these results, we find many reasons to remain confident in the trajectory of the business as consumers depend more and more on affordable, stretchable meal solutions, which is at the core of our Meals & Beverages division.

Turning to our soup portfolio on Slide 11. As anticipated, throughout the summer, we experienced decreases in dollar consumption overall. However, within these results, there are pockets of strength. For example, as consumers sought to stretch their food budgets, they turn to the strong value and convenience of the cooking portions of our portfolio. In fact, in our condensed cooking portfolio, we gained dollar share for the fifth consecutive quarter, increasing 1.5 share points in the quarter. Even among younger households, we continue to see long-term potential, as household penetration of total condensed cooking soups gained 0.4 points versus the prior year. In our broth business, we continue to drive relevance among consumers in this dynamic environment as total broth was up 4% behind the strength of our Pacific broth portfolio, which saw dollar consumption grow 16%, well above the category rate.

The ready-to-serve and condensed eating businesses experienced more pressure in the quarter as a result of more consumers shifting to more stretchable meals versus single serve options. Turning to Page 12. As we have begun ramping up planned support in anticipation of the important holiday season, trends have been improving, especially as it relates to share. In fact, over the latest four weeks, including Thanksgiving, we've seen improvement in all segments driving overall dollar and unit share gains, including a 0.2 improvement in dollar share as well as a 0.9 improvement in unit share for our very important total soup business. Importantly, we are doing this with modest incremental investment as we are seeing more retailers actively returning to Campbell's brands from private label a year ago.

This is providing an outsized benefit while we continue to balance the critical interplay between growing share, volumes and margins in-line with our expectations. Although the category remains somewhat under pressure on dollars, it's very encouraging to see improvement in both share and units as we head deeper into our key season. Turning to our Snacks business, we delivered first quarter organic net sales growth of 1%, consistent with the increase in dollar consumption. Our power brands grew net sales by a solid 5%, following a 21% increase in the prior year for a 13% growth on a two-year compound annual rate basis. Even with some emerging broader category pressure due to the consumer dynamics that we discussed earlier, our eight power brands have shown remarkable resilience, with brands like Goldfish and Lance posting net sales growth of 5% and 15%, respectively.

The strength of our power brands was tempered in the quarter by lower-margin partner brands and fresh bakery, as those businesses are somewhat more vulnerable to private label and consumer trade down. On the following slide, we highlighted the continued strength of each of our power brands. Dollar consumption grew 3% versus the prior year and 19% versus two years ago, while five of eight power brands held or gained share in the quarter. Our eight power brands, which now represent approximately two-thirds of division net sales, remain a powerful and consistent growth engine even in the current consumer environment. Turning to Slide 15, a prime example of our Snacks power brand growth engine is Goldfish. For the fifth consecutive time, Goldfish has been named teens' most preferred snack brand according to Piper Sandler's Taking Stock With Teens, most recently in the fall 2023 survey.

This recognition is the result of the remarkable work of our cross functional teams in expanding the brand to a broader audience and adding manufacturing capacity to meet the incredible demand for this product. We continue to see share strength in the overall portfolio as Goldfish marked its fifth consecutive quarter of holding or gaining dollar share. One of the keys to our Goldfish success has been a steady drumbeat of innovation. On this front, we're excited to bring to consumers our latest limited time offer for the holiday season, Goldfish Elf Maple Syrup Flavored Grahams in partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery, celebrating the 20th anniversary of its iconic movie, Elf. Is there anything better than maple syrup Goldfish to spread holiday cheer, and it's perfect for stocking stuffers or snacking all season long.

And there's even more exciting innovation in Goldfish in store this year. Adding to the incredible success of innovations like Goldfish Mega Bites and our run of limited time offers, we are reinventing the category again in a way only Goldfish can with the introduction of Goldfish Crisps, crisps with the way that Goldfish does chips, the best of Goldfish with the best of chips combined into an irresistible, light, airy, crispy, fish-shaped baked snack. Launching in three craveable flavors, Goldfish Crisps will be available at retailers nationwide in January. On Slide 17, I want to highlight the margin momentum that the Snacks division has demonstrated. On a two-year compound annual growth rate basis, we grew Snacks organic net sales by 8% and operating earnings by 12% with approximately 130 basis points of margin expansion.

Consistent with our long-term margin roadmap of achieving 17%, we remain confident in fiscal '24 expectations to finish above 15%. And now, we're adding even more fuel to our Snacks growth and margin journey with our DSD transformation initiative. This includes three key elements you see on Slide 18, two of which were already progressing. First, creating one snacking DSD logistics and warehouse network. This multiyear program will streamline our logistics and warehouse network, eliminate redundancy, simplify our network and improve our technology and capabilities within our warehouses and depots. Second, modernizing and harmonizing tools and technology used by our critical independent distribution partners. This will enable new capabilities and help enhance effectiveness and focus.

A woman preparing a meal using packaged foods with V8 juices and the other products of the company in the background.
A woman preparing a meal using packaged foods with V8 juices and the other products of the company in the background.

In addition, this will also allow better retailer linkage and alignment to orders, while improving in-store insights. And third, we'll focus on DSD routes. The good news is the vast majority of geographies already have scaled routes. And in combination with the upgrades from the first two elements of our DSD transformation, these will be fully optimized going forward. To help improve geographies where routes are not operating at full scale, we're piloting a variety of potential solutions with encouraging early results. I'll share more about this third and very important element in our Q2 earnings call. We're excited to have made so much progress on such a unique and critical part of our business. And in the end, this will result in a strong and differentiated DSD platform to fuel both the growth and margins of the Snacks business.

Before I conclude, let me provide a brief update on the status of our pending acquisition of Sovos Brands. As we announced in October, we received a second request for information from the Federal Trade Commission as part of the agency's review of Campbell's proposed acquisition. We are working hard to complete those requests and are advancing our integration planning. I continue to be impressed with the strong results the Sovos team is delivering and could not be more excited about completing the acquisition and fueling our next chapter of growth. We expect to complete the deal in the next calendar year and will continue to engage with the FTC on their review with the objective of closing the transaction in mid-2024. In closing, the first quarter unfolded much as we anticipated, continuing our consistent track record of meeting our commitments.

Looking ahead, I'm confident and optimistic about the balance of the year. We will remain vigilant and agile to meet the evolving demands of consumers, while continuing to progress our strategic plans. With that, I'd like to wish all of you and my colleagues across the company a happy holiday season and thank the entire team at Campbell's for their ongoing incredible and impactful work. And now, I'll pass it to Carrie.

Carrie Anderson: Thanks, Mark, and good morning, everyone. I'll begin with an overview of our first quarter results. As Mark indicated, our top-line finished as we anticipated, and adjusted EBIT and adjusted EPS came in slightly better, primarily due to the timing of adjusted marketing, selling, and administrative expenses. Our organic net sales decline of 1% reflects mid-single-digit expected volume declines, a lower contribution from pricing and disciplined levels of promotion activity. Lapping a 15% increase in organic net sales in the prior year, organic net sales grew approximately 7% on a two-year compounded annual growth rate. Adjusted EBIT decreased 9% to $407 million, reflecting lower adjusted gross profit, a commitment to continued marketing and selling investments, and lower benefits from pension and postretirement income, partially offset by lower adjusted administrative expenses.

Adjusted EPS decreased 11% to $0.91, driven primarily by lower adjusted EBIT and slightly higher interest expense, partially offset by a reduction in the weighted average diluted shares outstanding. Slide 22 summarizes the drivers of our first quarter net sales performance. Excluding the impact of the Emerald nut business divestiture, organic net sales declined 1%. We generated 3 percentage points of growth from net price realization and volume and mix declined 5 percentage points in-line with expectations. As shown on Slide 23, our first quarter adjusted gross profit margin of 32.1% decreased a modest 10 basis points, with the year-over-year change in margin driven primarily by unfavorable volume and mix. As shown on the bridge, the combination of net price realization, productivity improvements and cost savings initiatives offset higher cost inflation and other supply chain costs.

Turning to Slide 24. We continue to successfully mitigate inflationary headwinds with core inflation moderating to 2% in the first quarter, driven by attenuation in key inputs such as flour and oil. We expect core inflation to stay within this low-single-digit range for the full year, down from the 12% we saw in fiscal '23. Net pricing averaged 3% for the quarter, reflecting the contribution from our wave four pricing, our smallest and most focused pricing round. As a reminder, our wave four pricing will be fully lapped at the end of Q2 fiscal '24. In addition to pricing, we continue to deploy a range of other levers to mitigate inflation, including supply chain productivity improvements and broader margin enhancing initiatives, including a focus on discretionary spending across the organization.

These other levers will start to have a greater contribution to margin performance as inflation continues to moderate and volume normalizes, especially as we move into the second half of the fiscal year. We are pleased with the progress we have made on our cost savings initiatives. Through the first quarter, we have achieved $895 million of total savings under our multi-year cost savings program, inclusive of Snyder's-Lance synergies. We remain on track to deliver savings of $1 billion by the end of fiscal 2025. Moving on to other operating items. Adjusted marketing and selling expenses increased 9%, driven by higher selling expenses, higher advertising and consumer promotion expense, or A&C, which increased 6% compared to the prior year, and higher other marketing expenses.

On both the reported and adjusted basis, marketing and selling expenses represented approximately 9% of net sales for the quarter. Adjusted administrative expenses decreased by $5 million due to lower general administrative costs, partially offset by inflation. We saw some timing favorability in adjusted marketing, selling and other administrative expenses in the quarter, but expect this to be rephased into Q2 to keep the first half in-line with expectations. As shown on Slide 26, adjusted EBIT for the first quarter decreased 9%, primarily due to lower adjusted gross profit, higher adjusted marketing and selling expenses, and lower benefits from pension and postretirement income, partially offset by lower adjusted administrative expenses. Overall, our adjusted EBIT margin decreased to 16.2% in the quarter, primarily driven by higher adjusted marketing and selling expenses and changes in pension and postretirement benefit income.

Turning to Slide 27, adjusted EPS of $0.91 was down 11% or $0.11 per share compared to the prior year. This was primarily driven by the decrease in adjusted EBIT and slightly higher interest expense, partially offset by reduction in the weighted average diluted shares outstanding. Changes in pension and postretirement benefit income drove an approximate $0.01 impact to adjusted EPS in the quarter. Turning to the segments. In Meals & Beverage, first quarter organic net sales decreased 3%, driven by an approximate 6% volume and mix decline, partially offset by 2% net price realization. Lapping a 15% increase in organic net sales in the prior year, Meals & Beverage organic net sales grew approximately 6% on a two-year compounded annual growth rate.

During the quarter, declines in U.S. retail products were partially offset by an increase in foodservice. Sales of U.S. soup decreased 5% following an 11% increase in the prior year, primarily due to declines in condensed and ready-to-serve soups, partially offset by an increase in broth. Segment operating earnings in the quarter for Meals & Beverages decreased 13% to $287 million, largely due to lower gross profit. As expected, first quarter operating margin declined 230 basis points to 20.4%, driven by the lower gross profit margin, which was largely driven by higher cost inflation and other supply chain cost, as well as the unfavorable volume and mix between retail and foodservice, partially offset by supply chain productivity improvements and net price realization.

In Snacks, first quarter organic net sales increased 1%, and on a two-year compound annual basis, increased 8%. The organic net sales increase reflects net price realization of 5% and unfavorable volume and mix of 4%. Sales of our eight power brands increased 5% in the quarter. Segment operating earnings in the quarter increased 5% to $161 million, primarily due to higher gross profit, partially offset by higher marketing and selling expenses. Gross profit margin increased due to the impact of net price realization and supply chain productivity improvements, more than offsetting higher cost inflation and other supply chain costs. Overall, within our Snacks division, first quarter operating margins increased year-over-year by 80 basis points to 14.5%.

I'll now turn to cash flow on Slide 30. We generated $174 million in operating cash flow in the first quarter and deployed that cash consistent with our capital allocation priorities to maximize long-term shareholder value. We see some great opportunities to reinvest back into the business to drive incremental growth, productivity and enhanced business capabilities. And as such, we stepped up our capital spend in fiscal '23 and this will now continue into fiscal '24 after a few years of lower spend levels through 2022. In Q1, capital expenditures were $143 million, $66 million higher than in the prior year, reflecting our commitment to invest for growth, particularly in capacity for our Snacks division. We also continued our commitment to return cash to our shareholders with $114 million of dividends paid and $28 million of anti-dilutive share repurchases in the quarter.

Our balance sheet continues to be in a strong position with net debt of $4.6 billion, and a net debt to adjusted EBITDA leverage ratio of 2.8 times, below our target of 3 times. At the end of first quarter, the company had approximately $91 million in cash and cash equivalents, and approximately $1.85 billion available under its revolving credit facility. In addition, on October 10th, we entered into a $2 billion delayed single draw term loan credit agreement. The proceeds of the loans under this credit agreement can only be used in connection with the acquisition of Sovos Brands. This $2 billion credit facility, along with our current revolving credit facility, will provide ample liquidity and flexibility as we plan for the pending Sovos Brands acquisition.

As you'll see on Slide 31, we are reaffirming our full-year fiscal 2024 guidance provided on August 31. Organic net sales outlook for the full year remains in an expected range of 0% to 2% and reflects volume declines in the first half of fiscal 2024 with positive volume trends in the second half. Specifically for Q2, we expect net sales to again follow in-market trends with likely modest sequential volume improvement from Q1. However, we still expect volume and mix to be negative compared to the prior year. Additionally, our net sales performance will reflect lower contribution from pricing as we move through the year and continue our disciplined levels of promotion. Our full-year guidance range for net sales is largely reflective of what we see as the potential variability and the speed of volume recovery for the balance of the year.

Full-year adjusted EPS guidance remains in the range of $3.09 to $3.15, with an expectation of modest earnings growth and margin progress in fiscal 2024 weighted to the second half, benefiting from a moderating inflationary environment and ongoing productivity improvement benefits. As I mentioned earlier, the expense timing favorability we saw in our Q1 results will be rephased into Q2. As a reminder, the sale of our Emerald nuts business, which we divested in May of fiscal '23 is estimated to reduced net sales by approximately 0.5% and have a $0.01 per share dilutive impact in fiscal '24. Additionally, the acquisition of Sovos Brands is expected to close in calendar year '24, and therefore, is not included in our current fiscal '24 outlook.

We will continue to commit to investing in our brands, with marketing and selling expense as a percent of net sales expected at the low-end of the targeted 9% to 10% range, with the second quarter having higher sequential spend than Q1. We are increasing our capital expenditure guidance to approximately 5% of net sales, as we make additional investments in the business and strategically increase capacity to fuel organic growth. With the timing shift of the Sovos Brands transaction, we are accelerating certain key growth and infrastructure projects from fiscal '25 into fiscal '24. All other guidance assumptions remain unchanged. Turning to Slide 32. We thought it would be helpful to provide some additional insight behind the adjusted gross margin and adjusted EBIT drivers we expect to come to fruition in the second half of fiscal '24.

As shown on the slide and referenced in our guidance, our core inflation outlook for fiscal '24 is materially improved from the low double-digit levels we averaged in the prior year. With cost inflation expected to remain in the low single-digit range for the balance of the year, we expect to see a greater net contribution from productivity and cost savings to our bottom-line. Other factors that we expect will contribute to improving margin trends in the second half will be more favorable mix as volume stabilize, especially on profitable businesses like soup, normalizing year-over-year changes in marketing and selling cost, as well as lower pension and postretirement income headwinds. In closing, first quarter results were largely as expected, and our fundamentals are strong as we head into this important winter season.

Our Snacks business continues to progress its margin journey while we continue to invest in the equity of our brands. Our Meals & Beverage business continues to attract consumers seeking stretchable meals, which is especially important for winning the holiday season given the current consumer environment. With a clearly defined strategy and a best-in-class supply chain, Campbell is well-positioned to deliver the rest of its fiscal year. From the management team at Campbell's, we want to thank all of our teams for their hard work and wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. And with that, let me turn it over to the operator for Q&A.

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