The food giant is tapping into different textures, sizes and limited-time offerings to maintain the 62-year-old brand’s relevance with shoppers inundated with snacking options.

An inside look at the innovation of Campbell Soup’s $1B Goldfish crackers brand

Courtesy of Campbell Soup

For a tiny 62-year-old cracker synonymous with kids, Campbell Soup is thinking big as it looks to grow its $1 billion Goldfish snack. 

Goldfish “is top of mind like it hasn’t been for” much of the last three decades at Campell’s, Mike Fanelli, who oversees the brand for the packaged food company, said in an interview. “We’re trying to drive relevance, trying to drive the things that resonate when the consumer has a ton of snacking options.”

Campbell’s executives admitted that until four years ago, the company wasn’t doing enough to innovate and market Goldfish to older consumers who grew up with the product. Today, these consumers are responsible for half of the product’s consumption. 

With the Goldfish brand recognized by most consumers, the packaged food manufacturer already had a strong base to tap into; all it needed was to launch products geared toward more adult shoppers. To do that, the meals and snacking giant turned to different textures, bolder flavors and limited-time offerings.

“We need to ensure that we’re continuing to open up the aperture,” Fanelli said. “We are really a fish-shaped snack that can play across different occasions.”

An inside look at the innovation of Campbell Soup’s $1B Goldfish crackers brand

Optional Caption Permission granted by Campbell Soup  

In 2022, it launched Mega Bites, Goldfish crackers 50% larger than the original and available in flavors such as Sharp Cheddar and Jalapeno Cheddar. It later turned to limited-time Goldfish with the launch of Dunkin’ Pumpkin Spice Grahams and Frank’s RedHot crackers, the latter of which became a permanent fixture on store shelves in January.

Other items have been aimed at extending its long-term strategy and tapping into the interests of millennials and Gen Z. 

Goldfish introduced a limited-edition Hello Kitty Strawberry Shortcake extension based on the fictional character that heavily resonates with millennials. It also partnered with family favorite Elf to make Maple Syrup Flavored Graham Crackers.

And arguably its biggest innovation came last December when Campbell’s debuted potato chip-inspired crisps under the Goldfish banner. The puffy snack is the first Goldfish in the snack’s history made with potato.

“Those kids grew up and what we discovered was that they were carrying that snack with them so we recognize there was an opportunity to really level up the target demographic age-wise, for both the innovation and the communication and the advertising,” said Craig Slavtcheff, chief research and development and innovation officer at Campbell’s.

Goldfish traces its roots to Pepperidge Farm founder Margaret Rudkin who launched Goldfish crackers in the U.S. in 1962 after discovering a similar snack while on vacation in Switzerland. It wasn’t until four years after the crackers debuted that the iconic cheddar cheese flavor was introduced.

An inside look at the innovation of Campbell Soup’s $1B Goldfish crackers brand

Optional Caption Permission granted by Campbell Soup  

Slavtcheff noted that a catalyst for spurring growth in its snacking brands came after Campbell’s purchased Cape Cod potato chips and Pop Secret popcorn maker Snyder’s-Lance for nearly $5 billion in 2018. It was the largest deal in the soup company’s nearly 150-year history.

With a larger snacking portfolio, Slavtcheff said Campbell’s realized there was more it could do regarding innovation, with Goldfish among the first snacking brands to get a closer look.

Unlike products sold by many of its competitors that are “firmly rooted in one key attribute,” Fanelli noted that Goldfish can play in both sweet and savory — a factor that makes it more versatile and increases the opportunities available to Campbell’s to expand the brand. It’s also baked, not fried, giving it relevance among consumers who want to eat healthier.

Goldfish continues to prioritize limited-time offerings, new consumption occasions and demographics, and alternative packaging formats to draw attention and usage occasions to the snack, Slavtcheff said. 

So far, the extra attention and innovations have paid off. 

Goldfish is the fastest-growing cracker brand in the category, with dollar sales up 33% during the past three years, Campbell’s said, citing Circana data. Consumers who purchase limited-time offerings buy more Goldfish overall and per trip, make more trips to the store, helping them grow Goldfish and the cracker category overall. 

“We kind of put the pedal to the metal on bringing some innovation to Goldfish,” Slavtcheff said. “We don’t really intend on slowing down.”

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