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Roadmap to non-BPA packaging proves challenging

by Mark Alexander, President, Americas Simple Meals & Beverages

Today we outlined our plans to remove Bisphenol A (BPA) from the linings of our cans by the middle of 2017.

This month, we shipped two million cans with linings made from acrylic or polyester materials, and we will introduce this new lining to all cans used across the U.S. and Canadian portfolio during the coming months.

This has been a four-year journey, with fits and starts, and there is still a lot of work to do, but I wanted to provide you with my perspective on where we are now and where we’re headed.

Commitment to transparency

Our decision to speak publically about our current timeline is driven by our belief that providing transparency into our business is critically important to the people who purchase our food and beverages. We must earn consumer trust every day by being open about what’s in our food, and that includes the packaging we use. We have disclosed which of our products use BPA and our high-level plans to transition away from it on whatsinmyfood.com, but recognize we could go further.

The timing of today’s news was prompted by a recent meeting we had with the Breast Cancer Fund which plans to issue a report this week into linings and coatings used by food manufacturers. We have been talking to them for many years about this issue and realized we needed to be more open about the steps we are taking to move to non-BPA packaging, rather than waiting to tell consumers after we had completed the transition.

Our commitment to transparency is about being willing to have tough conversations; to being open to discussing the challenging issues facing our industry and our company; and talking about how we are addressing issues that consumers care about – even when we don’t have all the answers.

Transition taking longer than anticipated

We first announced our intention to move away from BPA can linings in February 2012. Today, we are not where we would have hoped to be when we made that announcement.  There are three key reasons the transition has taken longer than originally anticipated.

  1. The technical challenge of transitioning to new linings. BPA is one of the most widely tested and proven can linings and has been used by the food industry for decades. Government regulatory authorities and scientists agree that BPA is safe to use in packaging. Many of the alternatives we considered were untested for foods with a long shelf life. Also, the team has worked hard to find a solution for our tomato-based recipes, as tomatoes are naturally acidic and can react with can linings over time. The acrylic and polyester solutions we are moving to have been subjected to extensive testing, approved for use by regulators around the world and offer a viable, cost-effective alternative.
  2. Financial priorities. The cost of transitioning our entire portfolio to non-BPA linings, while not material to our earnings, is significant. We’ve had to balance making this investment with other business priorities. We are now committed to completing this change in our fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Importantly, I want to stress that we do not plan to pass these costs to consumers.
  3. The enormity of the task. We ship nearly two billion cans each year, comprising more than 600 different recipes. Making a change of this magnitude requires input from hundreds of employees across the company. It’s not something that can be done quickly, nor would we want to. The safety of our food and our packaging is paramount. It’s the foundation on which we’ve built nearly 150 years of consumer trust. Any changes we make to our food must be implemented thoughtfully and carefully.

Two Million Non-BPA cans shipped March 2016

In the past six months we’ve made significant strides and are now moving to complete the transition by the middle of 2017. In fact we are working to have more than 75 percent of our canned soup portfolio transitioned by December 2016. So far, we’ve made two million cans using the new linings and began shipping soup in these cans in March 2016.  We will make an additional ten million cans in April, and continue the transition until all our soup cans have acrylic or polyester linings.

While we are not initially labeling those cans which have non-BPA linings, we will consider doing so as we update our labels over time.

We still face technical challenges, especially on some of our tomato-based products and on other packaging which use BPA coatings, and we will keep consumers updated about our progress on whatsinmyfood.com. However, we are confident that our entire portfolio of products will not contain BPA linings or coatings by the middle of 2017.

To learn more about how we make our food, visit www.whatsinmyfood.com.

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Campbell shipped a range of soups packaged in cans with non-BPA linings in March 2016.
Campbell’s Chunky Classic Chicken Noodle was the first variety to be produced in the March transition.

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  • Williams

    I have several recipes that just would not be the same without Campbell soup. I hope you will release information on the safety of the polyester and acrylic can linings. Kudos for moving in the right direction for those who have grown up with Campbell’s and would prefer to not have to look for alternatives. I also hope you will keep the cost from being passed to already beleaguered American consumers.

  • Lee Durmaj

    I am a recovering cancer patient, I will not buy soups lined with plastic inside a can. You say you are changing to cans being lined with non BPA plastics yet your new soups indorsed by Manu Feildel are lined with white plastic.