Business & Lobbying

Consumer brand group relaunches with new agenda

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The former Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is now officially the Consumer Brands Association (CBA).

The group, which first announced the change in September, said it hopes that the new brand will emphasize sustainability issues and its membership.

“We’re starting a new book, a new story, in terms of how we represent that industry. We are really closing the book on GMA and what it did effectively for more than 100 years,” CBA CEO Geoff Freeman said in an interview with The Hill. 

CBA’s main goals will involve championing smart regulations for the industry, building frictionless supply chains, enhancing packaging sustainability and building consumer trust.

“When we work on an issue like packaging sustainability, we’re setting out to fix a broken recycling system that is confusing more than 80 percent of consumers across the country,” Freeman said.

“When we set out to champion smart regulations, we’re going to engage on an issue like CBD, which is currently confusing consumers coast to coast. You have companies making false claims, overinflating claims, companies advertising to kids,” he added.

They plan to expand membership because, while the Grocery Manufacturers Association focused mainly on food and beverage, the new CBA wants to also be seen as the association for household products, personal care and cosmetics.

“We are looking at issues through the lens of the totality of the industry. To think of the metaphorical grocery store, we are looking at aisles one through 15 and we’re saying, ‘what does the industry have in common?’ That’s our sweet spot,” Freeman said. 

Jeff Harmening, CEO of General Mills, is CBA’s chairman and other board members represent companies like Colgate, Land O’Lakes and Kellogg.

“Those are the things that unite the interest from PepsiCo to Procter and Gamble, from Coke to Clorox. You see a constant and unifying set of issues there, which is very appealing,” Freeman said. 

The change and new focus on issues such as sustainability come on the heels of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, which was formed as a competitor to the Grocery Manufacturers Association in July 2018. It is focused on food policies that reduce impact on the planet and cut greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues.

Freeman was named CEO of GMA in August 2018 after previously being at the helm of the American Gaming Association. His first big hire was Bryan Zumwalt, who was named executive vice president of public affairs of GMA in July.

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