New Group Has Global Ambitions

A new global association that will seek to bring food retailers and manufacturers from around the world together on strategic issues was officially launched here last week. Replacing CIES — The Food Business Forum, based in Paris, and Global Commerce Initiative, based in Cologne, Germany, is the new Consumer Goods Forum, a top-level organization that will seek to tackle such issues as food

NEW YORK — A new global association that will seek to bring food retailers and manufacturers from around the world together on strategic issues was officially launched here last week.

Replacing CIES — The Food Business Forum, based in Paris, and Global Commerce Initiative, based in Cologne, Germany, is the new Consumer Goods Forum, a top-level organization that will seek to tackle such issues as food safety, sustainability and logistical standards.

“History was made this morning,” said Pierre-Olivier Beckers, chief executive officer of Delhaize Group, Brussels, and co-chairman of the new group, following the voting by members that confirmed the creation of CGF. “Hopefully, it is the beginning of something that, in two years, we will look back and say this was the right thing to do for our industry.”

Many of the projects that have been under way at CIES and GCI will continue within the new group, the leaders explained. CIES had been focusing on best practices in such areas as food safety and sustainability, while GCI has been more focused on technology and logistics issues, such as the GS1 data codes for product identification.

A.G. Lafley, the chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, and the new group's other co-chairman, said CGF would concentrate its efforts on “only the very few things that only a global-based organization can do.

“They tend to be big, complex issues that require common principles and common standards,” he said. “They also tend to be global problems that affect all of us.”

As an example, he pointed out that retailers and suppliers in different parts of the world have been working independently on reducing their “carbon footprint” as part of their sustainability initiatives. The new group will strive to come up with a universal set of metrics that can be used on the packaging side of that effort, he said, although he declined to provide further details.

Beckers said CGF will also seek to address legislative issues that have a global reach, and will seek to lend the food industry's expertise to governments that are tackling issues like food safety, security and the environment.

“On a number of topics of great importance, you will see more common positions being taken,” he said. “By coming together and having a strong voice on one target, I think we will be able to make the entire industry move faster. We think that in many instances we could be part of the solution to issues that our planet is facing.”

The board of the new group reflects its “parity-based” nature, Beckers explained, with 25 members each from retail companies and from manufacturers.

While those two “colleges” within CGF plan to work together on most issues, there will also be opportunities for each half to meet separately and address issues of importance to each respective industry.