New industry group aims to safeguard bottom line success

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chief financial officer, Management occupations, Vice president

A new forum has been set up to help food, beverage and consumer products companies adapt to market changes and share ideas to ensure continued financial success amid economic challenges.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has announced the formation of its Chief Financial Officer Committee which will tackle the financial and marketplace issues affecting the industry.

The committee will begin with considering issues including cost management, financial reporting, taxation and sustainability investments and practices, among other topics.

It is being lead by the chairman Donal L Mulligan, executive vice president and chief financial officer at General Mills. The vice chairman is Humberto Alfonso, senior vice president and chief financial officer, The Hershey Company.

Mulligan said: “Our objective is to connect top industry CFOs and financial professionals to identify trends, regulatory changes and benchmarks critical to every CPG maker’s governance and bottom line.

“In doing so, we believe the industry at large can benefit by its members having more ready access to pertinent financial data and trend analysis and by GMA receiving counsel from senior financial leaders.”

The committee already has 19 members who are financial professionals from leading food, beverage and consumer products companies. The aim is to have about 25 members to advise GMA on financial and economic research and initiatives.

The group will meet twice a year and maintain an ongoing dialogue regarding financial issues, trends and business challenges in the domestic and global economic landscape.

Brooke Weizmann, senior manager, industry affairs at the GMA, who is also managing economic and financial issues and the CFO committee, told “Financial and economic matters are going to be top priorities for corporations, Congress and regulatory agencies in the months and years ahead of us.

“This committee will serve as a guide for GMA as we engage in these policy discussions.”

He added that in the current economic and regulatory climate, “it only makes sense to develop a representative voice on financial matters” ​and the GMA sees​the role of the committee becoming increasingly more strategic.

Similarly, the insights gleaned from the executives involved can serve the industry at large.

Weizmann said: “Serving consumers is the top priority of GMA member companies, so the group's initial charge is to share thoughts and best practices for streamlining business practices so that our members can continue to provide consumers with safe, healthy products at the lowest price possible.

GMA associate member PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP will work with the committee, providing expertise on technical accounting and financial issues, highlighting industry challenges and trends and supporting various committee initiatives.

Sharing ideas to cut costs

GMA's 2008 Financial Performance report, published jointly with PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that increased corporate transparency is a growing trend among CPG companies.

An example of recent schemes which encourage companies to pool together include a new sustainability alliance called The Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association, which provides a network for businesses to share best practices in the food trade and work towards sustainable improvements.

More than 20 companies in the natural and organic products industry have joined the not-for-profit business association, launched earlier this year. Part of the aim is to save on costs in a climate of stretched resources.

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