Blog: Dean Best"We're evolving" - flagship US lobby group insists change coming as more members quit

Dean Best | 10 January 2018

Hershey and Cargill are the latest US-based food majors to have decided to leave The Grocery Manufacturers Association - and the lobby group says it is looking to change to meet the "disruption" in the industry.

The moves by the chocolate maker and the agri-food giant not to renew their memberships of the GMA follow the departure of other big names in the US, including Campbell Soup Co. and Nestle.

Speaking to investors in July when Campbell announced its decision, Denise Morrison, the company's president and CEO, said: "There's two ways to look at it. Why did you decide to leave it? We actually turned it around and said 'Why would we stay on it?'

"The GMA has grown over the past few years, more as a lobbying and regulatory association dealing with a lot of the regulatory issues in the food industry. What we have experienced is finding ourselves at odds with some of the positions.

"When you think about it, you step back, it's comprised of mostly very large food companies and not a lot of small companies and our philosophy seems to be aligning more with the smaller food companies."

Campbell has subsequently joined The Plant Based Foods Association, set up just 18 months ago to promote the growing category in the US.

just-food approached Hershey and Cargill to outline why they had decided to quit the GMA. Hershey has not replied to a request for comment at the time of writing.

In a statement, Cargill said: "We have valued our partnership with GMA and wish to thank its staff for the services and support provided to Cargill since our company joined the association in 1998. Cargill regularly evaluates our external partnerships and believes at this time of unprecedented industry change, we can accomplish our business objectives outside GMA.

"Cargill is committed to nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way and will continue bringing together people, ideas, and resources to move the industry forward. Together with our customers and other partners, we remain focused on delivering products, technology and ways of operating that build successful businesses and communities so all people can thrive.

For its part, the GMA said the companies that had decided to not continue their memberships had "given a range of reasons".

A spokesperson added: "GMA and its board are continuing our work to build the new GMA for the future to meet the needs of long-time and new member companies and of consumers. The food industry is facing significant disruption and is evolving - and so is GMA. We all will continue to evolve and change at an even faster pace. We are always sorry when member companies decide to leave, and hope to work with them on issues of mutual interest in the future."

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