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GMA to become Consumer Brands Association

New identity reflects changing CPG industry, CEO says

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is renaming itself the Consumer Brands Association (CBA), which the consumer packaged goods (CPG) trade group said is part of a “sweeping overhaul” of the organization.

Plans call for the Arlington, Va.-based association to operate as GMA through the end of the year and institute the CBA banner in January.

In announcing the name change yesterday, GMA said it’s adopting a new advocacy agenda that reflects “the broader interests of a modern CPG company.”

Geoff Freeman_GMA CEO - Copy.jpg“We represent an industry of iconic brands that are innovative, forward-looking and touch the lives of every American,” GMA President and CEO Geoff Freeman (left) said in a statement. “As the new Consumer Brands Association, we are making 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 organization in recent years has seen the exit of key member companies — including Campbell Soup, Kraft Heinz, Mars, Nestlé, Hershey, Unilever, Cargill, Tyson Foods, Dean Foods — amid flux in the CPG sector. Consumer attitudes, especially among younger shoppers, are shifting away from the traditional packaged food brands closely identified with the supermarket center store toward fresh foods and consumables brands embracing better-for-you ingredients, transparency and sustainable practices.

Along with the move from processed foods, consumers have gained the upper hand over brands as digital technology and content have given them more control over what they eat and purchase, namely online shopping and mobile apps.

GMA said its new agenda includes the following priorities:

• Smart regulation. That includes rational, uniform regulatory frameworks maintaining affordability, promoting choice and bolstering consumer trust across product sectors from household items to food and beverages, according to GMA.

• More sustainability in packaging. The association said that by galvanizing stakeholders, the industry can spur solutions that reduce packaging material, boost recyclability and foster manufacturing with recycled content.

• More trust in CPG. As the CBA, the organization will step up promotion of the industry’s commitment to safe, reliable products and sharing information about them by establishing a more informed, transparent environment.

• Frictionless supply chains. Accounting for 20% of all U.S. freight shipping, the CPG industry represents a key stakeholder and “expert voice” on supply chain issues, GMA said, adding that the association will work to remove barriers to provide consumers the products they rely on daily.

“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,” commented GMA Chairman Jeff Harmening, who is CEO of General Mills. “I’m excited about this defining moment and the tremendous opportunities it presents to champion product innovation, choice and affordability.”

GMA noted that it already has begun pursuing its new agenda. This summer, the association released what it called the industry’s first-ever economic study, which found the CPG sector supports over 20 million U.S. jobs and contributes $2 trillion to the nation’s gross domestic product.

Freeman, who has served as GMA’s CEO since August 2018, also has formed a new leadership team, including Bryan Zumwalt as executive vice president of public affairs, Betsy Booren as senior VP of regulatory and technical affairs, Stacy Papadopoulos as general counsel and senior VP of operations and special initiatives, Brandon Partridge as senior VP of member engagement, Mike Gruber as VP of federal affairs, Tom Madrecki as VP of supply chain and logistics, Katie McBreen as VP of communications and research, Bill Pappas as VP of accounting and finance, and Meghan Stasz as VP of packaging and sustainability.

A GMA board member since 2017, Harmening has been chairman since the end of May, taking over from Vivek Sankaran, former CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America, who joined Albertsons Cos. as president and CEO.

“Our brand change reflects a sea change. We are a new organization, representing the totality of the consumer packaged goods industry and establishing a new presence in Washington and beyond,” GMA said in a blog post Thursday. “The transformation of our organization reflects today’s era of transparency and consumer-first thinking. We represent the best-known, trusted and iconic brands — companies that play an essential role in the lives of millions of Americans every day. Each of these brands is constantly striving to keep pace with changing consumer preferences and rising expectations. Our industry is constantly learning, improving and innovating to meet their needs. And so must the industry’s trade association.”

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