Embattled Grocery Manufacturers Association gets a makeover
The Grocery Manufacturers Association is renaming itself as the Consumer Brands Association as it seeks to recover following the exodus of some of the nation's largest food marketers.
The trade group’s rebrand takes effect in January. The name change is part of an overhaul being led by Geoff Freeman, who joined GMA as president and CEO in August 2018, and its board of directors.
In a statement, Freeman called the GMA’s overhaul “a game-changing shift to unite the totality of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry around a focused, proactive agenda that aligns with the values of the brands we represent and the consumers they serve.”
The trade group, which was founded in March 1908, needed to evolve. Some of its large members have left in recent years over disagreements with the group’s policy direction.
In July 2017, Campbell Soup Co.’s then-CEO, Denise Morrison, announced Campbell’s plan to leave GMA during a meeting with analysts and investors. She said Campbell had found itself at odds with some of the positions pushed by the GMA and found Campbell’s ideas aligning more with smaller food companies. Campbell was ready to point out GMOs on its packaging and add more details to nutrition facts panels, while the broader industry, including the GMA, wanted to hold back or delay such changes.
Soon, the likes of Nestlé, Mars, Tyson, Cargill, Hershey Co. and Kraft Heinz followed Campbell’s lead and left the GMA. While others weren’t as outspoken about their reasons for leaving, many have been trying to be more transparent about their manufacturing processes and ingredients to appeal to consumers looking for products they feel good about buying.
In 2018, Danone, Mars, Nestlé and Unilever started a new organization, the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, which advocates for “ food and agriculture policies that improve people’s lives and protect the planet,” according to its web site.
The GMA says it has been in touch with all of the members that left and has also been meeting with prospective members. “We anticipate announcing several new members in January when we officially launch as CBA,” the trade group said.
As part of the name change, the GMA plans to replace its red and white uppercase logo with one with lowercase letters and blue and yellow hues. GMA says it worked with Tether, in Seattle, on the updated look.
The GMA is touting changes beyond its name and logo. It says it will now focus its efforts on four areas: advocating for uniform regulation, improving packaging sustainability, building trust in consumer packaged goods, and what it calls creating frictionless supply chains; it points out that the industry accounts for one-fifth of freight shipping in the U.S.
“Renaming and rebranding this organization is symbolic of a larger realignment with the CPG industry’s consumer-first priorities and our desire to have a more open and transparent dialogue with policymakers, customers and consumers,” Jeff Harmening, chairman and CEO of General Mills and the trade group’s current chairman, said in the GMA’s statement.
The trade group released its first economic study in August, pointing out that the CPG industry supports one out of every 10 U.S. jobs and calling itself the largest manufacturing employer in the country.