Chili Sales Heat Up Thanks to Consumer-Focused Packaging
By Dana Dratch
What’s one recipe for catching customer attention? Add a new line of hot products and stir up some excitement.
When Campbell’s Chunky brand introduced a line of chili in July of 2004, it was “just a natural extension of the business,” says Jessica Paul, associate brand manager, Campbell’s Soup Company.
The target market: men, between the ages of 23 and 49. It was the same demographic focus as the Chunky soup line—and exactly what you’d expect from a brand whose ads feature NFL players and fans. “Regular guys,” says Paul.
Then lightning struck. At the same time several new chili products—including Campbell’s Chunky—entered the market, consumers suddenly started eating more canned chili. Dollar sales in the category jumped 25 percent between August 2004 and July 2005, when they had been declining two to four percent annually for the last three years, says Paul. And almost half of the growth belonged to Campbell’s, Paul reports.
Chunky’s chili sales topped $40 million in the 2004 fiscal year, says Paul. It was “above expectations,” she says.
Showcasing the product
The package reflects the product. With the emphasis on a filling no-fuss, no-muss meal, it was a no-brainer that Campbell’s would use the same easy-open, pull-top can that has become the standard for its entire line of soups. The easy-open end, known as Quick Top, is supplied by Silgan Containers.
Marketers see the easy-open can as a plus for buyers who might just as easily be eating the chili at a tailgate as in their own dining room. “You don’t have to have a can opener,” says Paul. “It’s one less step to open it up and prepare a meal.”
Brand identity, which is very important to Chunky, was also a main theme in package design. The Campbell’s Chunky logo is identical throughout the line and is positioned front and center “so the overall look and feel is consistent—soup to chili,” says Paul.
“That’s the main piece of Chunky branding,” she says.
But designers also added some distinctive refinements aimed at the chili consumer.  A black background makes that logo pop and differentiates the can from other brands that tend to use lighter colors, says Paul. The dark color is also meant to appeal to the male target market. “It has that masculine imagery,” she says.
Also important: a prominent label image of the chili simmering in a giant kettle.  “The kettle invokes hearty flavors, the hearty product inside,” says Paul.
Four of the five flavors come in a 19-ounce can that also stands out physically among the 15-ounce sizes of most other brands, she says. “Having scale on the shelf does help,” says Paul. And the larger size also adds to the perception of value, which is important to the Chunky buyer, she says.
The company is also putting some money into promotional pricing. Regular retail price per can is $2.29, making it one of the pricier products on the market, says Paul. But 40 percent of the first-year sales went out the door at special prices—like the manufacturer’s suggested promotion of two cans for $3, she says.
“Certainly having a sales incentive does drive volume,” Paul says. And the discount pricing will continue in year two, she says.
The future
The line is also still evolving. In January, Chunky added two new twists. Along with the pull-top cans, it started offering the two most popular varieties—Roadhouse and Firehouse—in 15.25-ounce plastic, microwaveable bowls.  And it added “Hold the Beans Beef Chili,” a recipe designed for the third of the market that prefers a meat-only chili, in a 16-ounce, easy-open can.
The microwave bowls follow on the heels of seven Chunky soups which are offered in the same type of container and capitalize on the convenience aspect Campbell’s has determined is important to its Chunky customer base. “Pretty much all you need is a spoon,” says Paul.
Campbell’s is mum on future plans involving marketing or tweaks to the Chunky chili packaging. A new ad campaign, which complements the NFL focus of the line’s soup ads, has just hit the airwaves. The focal point: game day rituals of diehard fans.
On the marketing end, the next year will center on getting the product into more stores, says Paul.
Campbell’s sees packaging as one critical aspect of the product.  “Each piece can’t stand alone,” she says. “It’s a combination of branding on the shelf, interest and excitement combined with a high-quality product [that’s] driving consumers to our business and keeping them.” BP
Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.
Where to go for more information...
Easy-open can end. At Silgan Containers Corp., contact Rick Redmond at 818.710.3734 or
Microwaveable bowl. At Rexam Plastic Containers, call 636.583.5550 or visit
Aluminum closure and lid on bowl. At Silgan Containers Corp., contact Rick Redmond at 818.710.3734 or
Bowl overcap and dust cover. At Tech II Inc., call 937.969.7000 or visit
Locking overcap on bowl. At Stull Technologies, call 732.873.5000 or visit
Label. At American Fuji Seal, call 502.348.9211 or visit

And the lineup is…
Campbell’s Chunky chili comes in five varieties:
Roadhouse Beef & Bean Chili (with beef chunks and kidney beans)
Sizzlin’ Steak Chili (steak and bean chili)
Firehouse Hot & Spicy Beef & Bean Chili (a hotter version of Roadhouse)
Tantalizin’ Turkey Chili (turkey chili with beans)
Hold the Beans Beef Chili (an all-beef variety)
Source: Campbell’s Soup Co.