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March 8, 2010

Campbell’s (Not) 25% Less Sodium Tomato Soup

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:36 am

As we become more health conscious, we tend to be attracted to products that are better for us. Unfortunately, manufacturers usually charge a premium price when a product offers health benefits compared to similar products.

Here, for example, is Campbell’s Tomato soup — the regular type and the 25% less sodium version. Their regular tomato soup is $1 a can, while the can with less salt is $1.39. A huge percentage price difference. Funny, how we’re charged more for less. But it gets worse. When one checks the nutrition label, there is a big surprise:


The 25% reduced sodium version has just as much salt as the regular version!

Interestingly the mouse print on the back of the label of their regular tomato soup claims that it has 42% less sodium than Campbell’s regular soup — a greater reduction in salt than their so-called reduced sodium product.

How does Campbell’s explain these discrepancies? Consumer reporter Michael Finney (who tipped us off to this story) of the local ABC affiliate in San Francisco asked them [ignore initial 15 second ad]:

(Here is a direct link to the story if you cannot access the video above.)

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  1. All I can say is what a scam. Looking at the nutrition label, it actually has less Potassium and Iron. 25% less sodium “than regular condensed soup”, this would clearly imply they’re comparing against the “regular tomato soup”, not all varieties.

    Comment by Peter — March 8, 2010 @ 8:21 am
  2. The only thing healthy is the bottom line for corporate liars and that is exactly what they are. Maybe the spokesperson for Campbell’s should try out for Dancing With The Stars since their response was one on the best song and dance routines I’ve heard in a long time.

    Comment by Rick — March 8, 2010 @ 8:41 am
  3. I read this column every week and it has made me into a label reading consumer (thank goodness!). From the size reduction of packages, to devious labeling on soup cans, it really pays to be informed.

    Comment by Sko Hayes — March 8, 2010 @ 10:32 am
  4. Note that the mouse print directly below “25% LESS SODIUM” reads “THAN REGULAR CONDENSED SOUP”. As deceptive as it reads, it doesn’t specified tomato soup – it’s only a broad statement that confirms the explanation from Campbells. If this 25% label is found on other soup cans besides tomato, then the wording is justified. Does anyone know for sure?

    Edgar replies: Frankie, Campbell says the claim refers to other soups generally. That, however, is not the likely interpretation that consumers would make viewing the front of the cans.

    Comment by Frankie — March 8, 2010 @ 11:25 am
  5. Jesus, what a bunch of cynical liars. Did Campbell actually think that no one would notice and call them on it? Campbell’ reaction: Call the lobbyists! We have to get rid of nutritional labeling!

    Comment by Mark701 — March 8, 2010 @ 11:35 am
  6. Talk about Orwellian double-speak. Double plus good! *snort* Thanks for exposing this latest scam. To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything these companies won’t stoop to. “Let the buyer beware” only becomes truer every day.

    Comment by Lana Gramlich — March 8, 2010 @ 12:09 pm
  7. Least it has less potassium more VitA and less iron.

    Comment by me — March 8, 2010 @ 1:56 pm
  8. “As deceptive as it reads, it doesn’t specified tomato soup – it’s only a broad statement that confirms the explanation from Campbells.”

    Unfortunately, this is 100% accurate. Caveat Emptor.

    Comment by Matt — March 8, 2010 @ 2:36 pm
  9. Deception is not justified by questionable legal statements but by it’s intend.

    Comment by Peter — March 8, 2010 @ 2:52 pm
  10. Caveat Emptor.
    The easiest way to punish companies such as this is to cease buying their products.
    Nothing any Company hates worse than a drop off in sales.
    So by all means complain as publicly as possible, copy and email these complaints and send to all your friends.
    Almost forgot.
    If you receive an email detailing such a complaint, forward it to Campbells.
    The more Emails they receive and the less their product sells, the faster they will do something.
    This advice applies to any product made by any company.

    Comment by Blaster — March 8, 2010 @ 2:54 pm
  11. “Least it has less potassium more VitA and less iron.”

    Less potassium is not a good thing, your body needs it for proper fluid balance and it can help lower your blood pressure.

    Comment by Gert — March 8, 2010 @ 3:31 pm
  12. Could it be that the regular tomato soup is being discontinued and the “less sodium” label will actually appear on all their tomato soups? It would still be deceptive to some, but you wouldn’t be able to compare it to the old variety right there on the shelf and, therefore, could reasonably understand the label the right way.

    Admittedly that explanation doesn’t work for the “low fat” soup.

    Comment by Boris — March 8, 2010 @ 3:52 pm
  13. Sorry for straying a little but I cannot resist it!!!

    This Campbell’s name rang a bell in my mind. It then reminded of the movie “Buona Sera Mr. Campbell” starring the irrepressible Gina Lollobrigida. The film was released in 1969 and its plot can be seen at,_Mrs._Campbell.

    In the movie, Gina had adopted the name of Campbell for her daughter born out of wedlock, as it was only one of the two American names she could recall at that time while struggling to keep her good name. The only other name she could think of was Coco Cola and she could not very well call her daughter as Miss Coco Cola, as she explains to her maid!

    There is a particular scene in this movie, where Gina will wax eloquent on the name of Campbell and she accuses her daughter of trying to tarnish it by eloping with a married man. The servant maid’s gaze as followed by the camera during this tirade will pan on the Campbell soup on the shelf.

    Back to this post. Campbell does not seem to have improved in terms of sincerity. :))

    Dondu N. Raghavan

    Comment by Dondu N. Raghavan — March 8, 2010 @ 8:41 pm
  14. There is no justfication for a wholesome product like tomato soup being a a sham. Why wouldnt they just make it less sodium? For 40% more

    Comment by Jeff — March 8, 2010 @ 8:46 pm
  15. I agree with Boris’ conjecture, but the company did not even offer that as one of their reasons. And it also doesn’t explain the price difference.

    Comment by Harmy G — March 9, 2010 @ 12:11 am
  16. @Gert

    I know, I was being ironic…

    The funny thing is the numbers. The are giving you exactly 25% less potassium (480 * 0.75).

    So if you didnt read the label closely and just looked at where the numbers are you may mistake it? In some ways this food is actually less healthy than the non diet one. If you are going after this one because you are on a lower salt diet potassium is exactly the wrong thing to take out!

    Comment by me — March 9, 2010 @ 3:58 pm
  17. I contacted Campbell’s and complained about their 25% less sodium version containing the same amount of sodium than the regular and at a higher price. Of course, they justified the price increase but opted not to answer the 25% less sodium claim. Here’s how they replied.

    we received your message and appreciate your taking the time to contact Campbell Soup Company.
    Currently, we offer three varieties of condensed Tomato soup with different recipes. They are: Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Campbell’s 25% Less Sodium’ Soup and Campbell’s Healthy Request Tomato Soup.

    The 25% Less Sodium version costs more to produce because the recipe contains a number of different ingredients, we use different amounts of some ingredients and we make smaller quantities of the 25% Less Sodium variety. Retailers, of course, establish the price that consumers pay at their stores.

    While these two products may seem similar (both contain 480 mg. of sodium), they have different recipes with slightly different ingredients, different quantities of some ingredient, all of which result in a different taste. The costs of ingredients and smaller-scale production for Campbell’s 25% Less Sodium’ Tomato soup are higher than the regular Campbell’s Tomato soup.

    The 25% Less Sodium version costs more to produce because the recipe contains a number of different ingredients, we use different amounts of some ingredients and we make smaller quantities of the 25% Less Sodium variety.

    Retailers, of course, establish the price that consumers pay at their stores.

    Comment by Peter — March 11, 2010 @ 12:27 pm
  18. They’re saying that retailers establish the price consumers pay… Are they saying that they are selling to the retailer at the same price and the retailer is jacking up the price?

    Even when their shell games are exposed, they still can’t help distorting the facts.

    Comment by Tim — March 22, 2010 @ 9:02 am
  19. Are you kidding me?

    Comment by Tim — March 22, 2010 @ 9:05 am
  20. Well, if Campbell is one of the most ethical, Heaven deliver us from the rest of them!

    Comment by Lady Anne — May 10, 2010 @ 8:06 am

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