Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Consumer Brands Association is ready to go ‘back to the future’

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/	Elena Feodrina
Source: Getty/ Elena Feodrina

Related tags Soup-To-Nuts Podcast Consumer Brands Association Supply chain Sustainability Packaging

Under a new CEO and with peak-pandemic receding farther into the background, the Consumer Brands Association is “going back to the future” to focus on core values that, while still priorities in recent years, took a backseat during the chaos of COVID and rising geo-political tensions.

Among these are a renewed focus on sustainable packaging and improving the recycling system, lingering supply chain challenges, emerging trade tribulations and ensuring smart regulations.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA's Soup-To-Nuts Podcast​, CBA’s new CEO David Chavern shares how CBA and the consumer packaged goods industry are thinking about each of these issues – including possible solutions and unintended consequences that they want to avoid. He also shares where he sees the industry and trade group heading and how he hopes to draw on past experiences to help guide them and shape a brighter future.

[Editor’s note: Never miss an episode of FoodNavigtor-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast – subscribe​ today.] 

Chavern draws on experience from Chamber of Commerce, News Media Alliance

When Chavern joined CBA as the trade group’s new CEO six months ago he brought with him a wealth of experience, including more than decade at the US Chamber of Commerce where he launched an office focused on technology and innovation, and most recently from a seven-year stent at the News Media Alliance – a non-profit representing more than 2,000 digital and print journalism organizations – which he says prepared him for balancing the needs of CBA’s diverse member base.

“What really intrigued me about [joining CBA] was the scale and impact of the industry. It's even tough to get your mind wrapped around the ubiquity and scale of these companies and what they mean to people. It is the biggest domestic manufacturing segment.

“We have something like 20 million consumers who are not only using our products every day, they're using them every hour of every day and sometimes every minute of every day. Now, we often cite that consumers use 42 of our member products every day. That's on average, and that doesn't count when you're sleeping. So, there's just this ubiquity to it that both shows it's important to the consumer but shows it's important to the economy.

“So, that really attracted me [to CBA]. These are important enterprises that are delivering a lot of value to the consumer​,” he explained.

Emerging from the pandemic with a focus on sustainability

Within the first six months that Chavern has been at the helm of CBA, he says he has already seen significant changes in the CPG industry as companies chart a path out of the pandemic. He explains many are eager to refocus on core values and priorities which may not have received the attention they deserved during the height of the pandemic.

As such, he says, CBA is ready to “go back to the future a little bit in terms of really looking at our both growth for the industry and challenges for the industry.”

Among CBA’s top priorities going forward will be continuing its efforts to improve recycling capabilities across the nation and supporting members’ sustainability goals, including reducing the impact of packaging.

“All of our members hare sustainability goals and commitments. And they all also want to do sustainability. It is not only just good for the planet, but they really do view it as good or their business. They want shortened supply chains on the packaging, they want access to good effective packaging, they want to reduce use of plastics. So, they really have leaned into wanting sustainable outcomes,”​ he said.

The challenge, he explains, is the US’ recycling system is highly fragmented and investments are necessary to improve mechanical and chemical recycling in the local municipal systems.

To help support this, Chavern said, many in industry and CBA are advocating for extended producer responsibility​ to support investments in recycling systems.

Chavern explains CBA has worked with the industry to create a set of guiding principles for effective ERP, which includes improving the underlying recycling system, dedicating new funds raised through ERP to recycling improvements and not government general funds, basing change on accurate data and science, including more than one source of funding and not letting those funds replace or supplant other sources, allow for an industry-funded and run producer responsibility organization, promote uniformity and finally bring everyone to the table.

CBA also wants to support consumer education and understanding about recycling through additional information provided through its Smart Label QR codes.

Beyond recycling, CBA is supportive of member companies that Chavern says are leaning into regenerative agriculture as a way to make their businesses and the industry more sustainable.

Lingering supply chain challenges, trade complications pose threats

Beyond enhancing sustainability, Chavern says, CBA will focus on resolving lingering supply chain challenges and protecting against potential trade complications that could arise from a proposed tariff on tin plate steel.

“The supply chain, broadly, is a lot better than during COVID,”​ but there are still delays in the ports that need to be addressed, he said.

As for the proposed​ tariff on tin plate steel, Chavern said if passed the measure would increase the cost of canned food for consumers as there is not enough domestic supply to meet demand – driving up costs.

CBA advocates for ‘smart regulations’

CBA also has a packed regulatory agenda as it hopes to help shape “smart” changes to oversight and packaging, including labeling, to help better protect and inform consumers.

At the top of the trade group’s agenda for working with FDA is to encourage the creation of single human foods program as recommended by the Reagan-Udall Foundation, which Chavern explains could help streamline regulations and oversight more effectively.

The trade group also is working with FDA on the agency’s proposal to add front-of-pack labels to packaging that the agency has said it hopes will help consumers understand the nutritional content of products.

CBA also is actively involved in FDA’s review of the definition of healthy and FTC’s review of the so-called Green Guides – both of which speak directly to the core values of the trade group’s members.

CBA wants to better tell ‘the whole story’ around packaged foods

Finally, Chavern says he wants to help CBA at a higher level tell the big story about the consumer packaged goods industry’s impact on consumers daily lives, the economy, geo-politics and more.

He explained: “I want to spend more time telling that big story about who we are because I think it’s important for people to understand that and also understand all that goes into taking something from a farm or field and delivering it to you and your home and [offering] a great product and all the systems and investment and everything else that goes into that.”

Related news

Show more

Follow us


View more