The consumer packaged goods industry has a lot on its plate, all of which was evident at the GMA Leadership Forum in Colorado Springs this past weekend.
Executives at this annual gathering of top leaders are grappling with issues such as digital disruption, changing demographics and new consumer behaviors.
Forum speakers offered insights on these issues and updates on industry initiatives, and GMA also took the time to recognize achievements.
Here are five key highlights:
Target Corp. is succeeding by responding to shifting consumer trends in areas such as health and wellness, said Carolyn Sakstrup, vice president, Guest Center of Excellence, during an educational session.
“Sales of natural and organic items are growing about 10% in the industry, and we’re outpacing at more like 15% the last several years,” she said. “This is a pervasive consumer trend, and it’s going to be enduring.”
For Target, however, consumer shifts are about far more than food. “There’s a move to nontraditional for many other categories at Target,” she explained. “Consumers want things like quality and an understanding of where things come from. They are willing to pay more for it, and they’re making tradeoffs in how they purchase.”
Target has evolved its brand partnerships in the wellness segment by putting a big emphasis starting last year on working with smaller, innovative brands.
“These brands may not have marketing budgets, but Target puts its marketing weight behind it.”
The words disruption and digital were synonymous at this event, and anchored many of the educational sessions and hallway conversations. In a session about online shopping, Instacart's Dan Bourgault outlined how the high-profile company is progressing in the grocery space. Bourgault, who runs business development brand partnerships, said the company is now involved with more than 63 retail brands. He is building partnerships with CPG organizations, and encouraged manufacturers to get involved early in the game. "Many CPGs have innovation teams and are developing promotions with us," he said. One advantage for CPGs is access to data, he added.
Meanwhile, an A.T. Kearney online grocery survey found "increased usage and penetration across all consumer demographics," said Randy Burt, partner. About 34% of respondents had tried it by mid-2015, "which is a good indication of a tipping point," he said. "We think online grocery will be an attractive growth area for CPGs."
The digital talk at the event extended to what digitally driven physical stores of the future will look like.
Likely elements include iBeacons, digital coupons, digitally trained associates and after-hours pickup, said Meena Surti Patel, assistant vice president for consumer goods and retail business consulting, Cognizant. "Retail-CPG collaboration will become far more important than it has ever been, this time aided by powerful technology," she said.
GMA outlined development of a Consumer Information Transparency Initiative that will put more details about products in the hands of shoppers. Over the past 18 months, more than 90 companies have been involved in the project, said Pam Bailey, president and CEO of GMA.
The program will be rolled out to consumers once it achieves critical mass. Consumers who scan bar codes or search online will be taken to landing pages with detailed information about attributes such as ingredients, allergens, nutrition and sustainability. Brand owners will maintain the landing pages, explained Jim Flannery, senior EVP, operations and industry collaboration, GMA.
"This is truly a game-changing initiative," Bailey said.
Forecaster and futurist Daniel Burrus, founder and CEO, Burrus Research Associates, urged executives to do a better job of understanding where trends are headed, including "anticipating disruptions before they disrupt."
He said the best days of brick-and-mortar stores aren't in the past, but that "retail in-store isn't what it used to be. We're recreating it, it's about the experience."
He urged companies to give more thought to the brain drain that will result from Baby Boomer retirements. "I know you have a database, but do you have a wisdom base?" he asked. "Capture the wisdom of people who will be retiring."
He also forecast "the future will be about relationships, and trust is key." Whether the topic is health and wellness, safety or something else, "if a move reduces the amount of trust, then change how you implement it."
GMA presented the Hall of Achievement Award, its highest honor, to Greg Wasson, retired Walgreens president and CEO, and George Deese, chairman of the board of Flowers Foods. Deese was honored for growing Flowers Foods into the second-largest baking company in the United States and for his leadership in the development of the Grain Foods Foundation. Wasson was recognized for achievements including a major rebranding campaign, acquisitions and new product offerings.
GMA also honored Coca-Cola and E. & J. Gallo Winery with the 2015 CPG Awards for Innovation and Creativity. Gallo won for its "innovative initiative to create a next generation sales system," while Coca-Cola was recognized for "its highly successful 'Share a Coke' campaign."
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