Manufacturers of packaged foods will soon have a convenient tool to provide consumers full disclosure about what’s inside.
This new transparency initiative was unveiled Saturday on the first day of the annual Grocery Manufacturers Association Leadership Forum, held at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The two-day education and networking event for the food industry’s top executives included a variety of leadership tracks focusing on e-commerce, omnichannel marketing, shopper behavior and other key issues.
Pamela Bailey, GMA’s president and CEO, said the voluntary transparency initiative comes in response to consumers’ desire for more information about what they’re eating. It’s also a tactical maneuver as GMA and other industry groups have opposed the hodgepodge of local and state regulations looking to wield authority over how packaged foods are labeled.
Calling it “something truly breakthrough,” Bailey described the initiative as providing consumers with full access to the content and makeup of branded products in a “simple, clear digital format.” (GMA requested that the trademarked name of the app not be revealed until it’s rolled out publicly later this year).
Consumers can reach the app’s landing page via search, QR code on product packaging of participating brands, or through other apps that partner with the initiative.
GMA Senior EVP Jim Flannery, who led the app’s 18-month development, explained that consumers can simply scan a product’s bar code with their mobile device, taking them to a brand landing page where they can find complete ingredient and allergen information. The individual brands control the content, Flannery noted: “The brands are having the dialogue with the consumer.”
GMA has high hopes for public acceptance of the app, based on focus group feedback, video of which was shown during the forum. Consumer panelists praised the app as “user friendly” and appreciated its simple design, clear presentation and deep resources; some noted it saved them hours they usually spent researching ingredients on Google.
Brand manufacturers can participate in the initiative by building their own landing page using GMA’s style guide, outsourcing the web work, or using a “plug-and-play” version designed by The Hershey Co. and donated to GMA for use by its members.
The initiative is an ongoing project, Flannery said: “It will provide brand owners with the opportunity to have a deep dialogue with consumers.”
GMA also honored several of its members with annual awards for their innovations and contributions to the industry.
E&J Gallo Winery and Coca-Cola received this year’s CPG Awards for Innovation and Creativity.
Gallo won for its creation of a next-generation sales system. Having transformed over the past decade from a winery focused primarily on mid- and value-price wines to a wine and spirits company with offerings across almost every price point, region and spirits category, Gallo needed to change the way it worked as a sales organization, enabling a truly mobile sales force through visual discovery, mobile access and opportunity analysis and prioritization.
“This initiative required an outside-the-box approach to application development, embedding IT personnel with sales to perform an in-depth evaluation of how they work and how to leverage emerging technologies in the name of efficiency,” said Herb Smith, Gallo’s VP of off-premise customer development. “Thanks to the contributions of over 50 team members, our sales force is now armed with this new technology, enabling them to confidently handle priorities across all categories and segments more effectively than ever. We are honored to be recognized by our peers today.”
Coca-Cola won its award for its highly successful “Share a Coke” campaign, launched in the United States during summer 2014. The campaign, guided by research from the original 2011 campaign in Australia, allows people to find their names and those of friends and loved ones on Coke bottles. “Share a Coke” was a top global trending topic in July 2014, with nearly 700,000 posts across all social platforms.
“Research shows people generally feel more positive about a brand when marketing messages are personalized. Share A Coke gets people talking and connecting by giving them a new way to relate to our brands,” said Jim Dinkins, chief retail sales officer for Coca-Cola North America.
Further, GMA presented its Hall of Achievement Award to George Deese, chairman of the board of Flowers Foods, and Greg Wasson, retired Walgreens president and CEO. GMA’s highest honor, this award recognizes the extraordinary service and contributions of the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry’s most distinguished leaders.
Deese, who received his award Saturday before 400 attendees at the forum, was recognized for growing Flowers Foods into the second-largest baking company in the United States through organic growth, market expansion, and strategic acquisitions and for his leadership role in the development of the Grain Foods Foundation. Deese joined Flowers in 1964 as a route salesman and was successively promoted to higher levels of responsibility. He was elected president and CEO in 2004, chairman of the board in 2006 and non-executive chairman in 2014.
Wasson was recognized Sunday for leading Walgreens through a major rebranding campaign, acquisitions, new product offerings and a strategic partnership and merger with Alliance Boots.
Wasson’s tenure at Walgreens began in 1980 as a pharmacy intern while enrolled at Purdue University’s School of Pharmacy. He rose through the ranks, managing pharmacies, leading operations and serving as president and COO before being named CEO in 2009. As CEO, Wasson led Walgreens through a rebranding campaign that revamped the look and feel of its stores as well as enhancing and expanding services. In 2010, Wasson spearheaded the acquisition of New York-based pharmacy chain Duane Reade, and two years later, put into motion the company’s strategic partnership with Alliance Boots, leading to the full merger of the companies at the end of 2014.
“GMA is proud to recognize these two extraordinary business leaders in the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry,” Bailey remarked. “Their leadership, impact on the industry and record of success and service is an inspiration to us all.”
GMA Education sessions
Among the educational tracks in Saturday’s sessions:
- “The Digital Store of the Future and CPG Collaboration in the New Age of Omnichannel Commerce” – Leaders from IGA, Pepsico and Cognizant Business Consulting discussed how retailers and manufacturers need to forge closer partnerships in order to better engage consumers who desire an omnichannel retail experience. Customers want a seamless shopping experience, with 95 percent of all sales the result of some combinations of in-store and online experiences. Keys to success include mobile alerts with personalized offers, interactive product displays, digitally connected associates and curated social media. But with only 12 percent of retailers currently offering an omnichannel experience, they are struggling to deliver on shoppers’ wants and needs. “We have to react faster to what shoppers want,” declared Mark Batenik, IGA’s president and CEO, noting that retailers must constantly poll shoppers about their needs or risk losing them: “Loyalty is what you did in the last 5 minutes.” The future of retailing, the panel concluded, is about “making human nature digital.”
- “Revitalize, Re-engage and Grow: A Study of Consumers and Shopper Behavior” – Leaders of Pennsylvania-based pet food maker Ainsworth Pet shared its story of how a partnership with Nielsen allowed it to leverage current consumer trends to transform the company from a historic value-priced regional player to a maker of superpremium pet food with a national reach. Following the trends of health and wellness, premiumization and pets as family, Ainsworth launched the Rachel Ray Nutrish line of pet food to be sold only by grocery retailers as a way to bring shoppers back to the supermarket pet aisle. With a mission of “pet store quality and supermarket easy,” Ainsworth continues to grow its business and drive traffic and sales for its grocery partners.
- "Making Winning Bets in Grocery E-Commerce” – Leaders from General Mills, Coca-Cola and Clorox looked at the economics of e-tail. New rules include an “endless aisle” assortment, consumer-guided merchandising, dynamic pricing and trade funds funneled toward online initiatives. CPG companies need to do a better job helping retailers merchandise their products online, Coke’s Jim Dinkins said. The panel also questioned whether the dominant e-commerce model has emerged yet.
- “Winning CPG Strategies in Online Grocery” – Leaders of Instacart, Coupons.com and Drizly shared how they have helped drive traffic and sales for traditional retailers by helping them leverage online shopping trends to better connect with consumers. Instacart and Coupons.com partners with grocery retailers, while Drizly connects consumers with liquor retailers to facilitate online home delivery. “Shoppers want relevance at every turn,” said Coupons.com’s Mir Aamir. Digital-influenced offline sales are growing rapidly for CPG brands; 40 percent of in-store grocery purchasing is influenced by digital, according to A.T. Kearney research.
Saturday’s agenda wound up with a discussion of cyber security by retired Gen. Keith Alexander, former head of the National Security Administration.