GMA to become Consumer Brands Association in new year as part of larger ‘transformation’

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Grocery Manufacturers Association to become Consumer Brands Association

Related tags Grocery manufacturers association Recycling Cbd

Starting in January, the Grocery Manufacturers Association will become the Consumer Brands Association and in doing so will continue its dramatic transformation that began when Geoff Freeman took the helm as president and CEO in August 2018 after several high-profile companies left the trade group over differences in opinions.

The new name, announced Sept. 26, represents a dramatic shift in how the association’s leadership and members think about their goals – moving away from an inwardly-focused group divided by fragmented opinions to one that is outwardly-focused on the consumer and on shared values, Freeman told FoodNavigator-USA.

He explained that agreeing on the new name “quite frankly was easy for the industry”​ after the trade group’s new leadership led members through a “process of asking yourself, ‘Who are you? What are you focused on? What matters most to you? It became pretty clear that in this industry, consumers are North star.”

This self-reflection also revealed that the trade group’s power – as well as that of individual members – lies in developing long-lasting, trusting relationships with consumers by promoting shared values, he said.

“One of the things that I have found most fascinating in this industry is that whether you are a company selling cereal, detergent, dog food or a beverage, the leaders of those companies are really thinking in similar fashion about brand building, about efficient supply chains, about driving smart regulation that gives them the predictability they need to do business,”​ he explained.

More than a name change

This realization not only prompted the name-change, but more generally spurred the creation of the trade group’s previously announced four core pillars and advocacy agenda, which Freeman said will focus on enhancing packaging sustainability, championing smart regulation, creating frictionless supply chains and building trust in CPG.

“That, really for us, paves the way for what we think is a potentially quite vibrant association that represents the totality of the consumer products good industry,”​ Freeman said of the pillars.

He also noted that while the pillars, first announced at the group’s spring forum​, may be new, the association already is moving to address them.

For example, earlier this week GMA threw the collective weight of its members behind the Save our Seas Act 2.0 (Sen. Bill 1982), which seeks to address marine debris and recycling by improving domestic infrastructure and investing in our country’s recycling systems.

“We are really focused on sustainability. Primarily from a packaging standpoint because packaging in our middle name, and it is an area where we have to take a great deal of responsibility and make sure we are living up to our brand promise to consumers to … operate in the most sustainable way possible,”​ Freeman said.

In addition, GMA has advanced its new advocacy agenda through an economic study released earlier this year that found the CPG industry supports more than 20 million American jobs and contributes $2 trillion to the country’s GDP.

A bright – and busy – future

Looking forward, Freeman said, the trade group hopes to keep up its momentum for change by sharing its progress every few weeks.

With that in mind, he said, members and other industry players can expect to see in the coming weeks news that will “establish us as the central facilitator and driver of a better approach on recycling.”

Beyond that, in the coming months, he hopes to push forward “smart regulation”​ around CBD, which he described as “the Wild West right now with no rules to the road. You have got every fly-by-night operator getting into this space and the only people that consumers can rely on are trusted brands and so far we are steering clear of this. So, we are looking at how do we bring stringent Federal regulation into this space to create a level playing field.”

Reflecting on all these changes together, Freeman said, the new name and pillars represent “not as much a rebrand as a transformation. The mission, the priorities, how we go about our business. I expect these will be different in the years ahead than the years prior.”

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