Campbell Soup to withdraw from G.M.A.

by Eric Schroeder
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Campbell Soup products
Campbell Soup will withdraw from the G.M.A. at the end of the year.
 

CAMDEN, N.J. — In a move the company said is not driven by financials but instead by “our purpose and principles,” Camden-based Campbell Soup Co. on July 19 said it will withdraw from the Grocery Manufacturers Association at the end of the year.

Denise Morrison, Campbell
Denise M. Morrison, president and c.e.o. of Campbell Soup

“As we continue to evolve as a purpose-driven company, many of our beliefs have diverged from the rest of the food industry and from our trade association,” Denise M. Morrison, president and chief executive officer, said during a July 19 corporate analyst meeting.

Over the past several years, Ms. Morrison said Campbell Soup has taken ownership of its company purpose and has made the phrase “Real food that matters for life’s moments” a fabric of who it is. The company’s purpose continues to be the single most important change in Campbell Soup’s culture in the past few years, she said, and has fundamentally changed the way the company thinks, talks and acts about its food.

Campbell Soup motto
Campbell Soup has made the phrase “Real food that matters for life’s moments” a fabric of who it is.
 

“It’s created an enterprise understanding that the future of food is rooted in health and well-being, and it’s changed the way we make decisions and allocate resources,” Ms. Morrison said.

Ms. Morrison said Campbell Soup has taken important steps to be a leader in transparency, including the launch of whatsinmyfood.com, and continues to believe that transparency is the single most important ingredient in the recipe for earning consumer trust, especially with new generations who demand to know where their food comes from and how it's grown.

Campbell Soup whatsinmyfood.com
Campbell Soup has taken important steps to be a leader in transparency, including the launch of whatsinmyfood.com.
 

“Our purpose has led us to take principled positions about the most pressing issues facing the food industry,” she explained. “One of the problems with having principles is you have to live by them. And as a result, at times, we find ourselves with philosophical differences with many of our peers in the food industry on important issues. For example, viewing G.M.O.s through the lens of our purpose caused us to think very differently about transparency, and we changed our position on G.M.O. labeling. It was a popular decision in the eyes of consumers and customers. Another recent issue is the delay in the implementation of F.D.A.’s new Nutrition Facts Panel. While the F.D.A. has agreed to delay implementation, we're continuing to strive to meet the original deadline of July 2018.” 

Roger Lowe, G.M.A.
Roger Lowe, executive vice-president of strategy communications at the G.M.A.

Responding to Campbell Soup’s decision to leave the group, Roger Lowe, executive vice-president of strategy communications at the G.M.A., said, “We are always sorry when a member company decides to leave our trade association, which happens from time to time for a range of reasons. In 2017, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has gained new members of all sizes from throughout the industry. They tell us they are joining G.M.A. because they want to be part of our work committed to consumer transparency, sustainability, food safety, nutrition and retailer collaboration. As the leading trade association for food, beverage and consumer products manufacturers, G.M.A. is led by an active and engaged board of industry leaders. It was G.M.A.’s leadership that helped achieve passage in 2016 of a national standard for G.M.O. disclosure. We supported a national standard that enabled our members to maintain their efficient supply chain costs. We supported an option that can provide consumers more information about G.M.O.s than could ever fit on a label. Today, our innovative consumer transparency tool, SmartLabel, is being widely adopted, with nearly 10,000 products already using SmartLabel and 30,000 products expected by the end of 2017. In addition, it was G.M.A.’s leadership working with the Food Marketing Institute that created common wording for product code dating to reduce consumer confusion and food waste. We will miss Campbell’s participation and wish them well.”

Campbell Soup G.M.O. label
Campbell Soup supports G.M.O. labeling.
 

In addition to announcing the company’s withdrawal from the G.M.A., Ms. Morrison said Campbell Soup is partnering with the Sage Project to raise the bar on food transparency. Through the use of design and technology, Sage has developed a new food data platform with reimagined food labels to allow consumers to locate the information they need about the food they eat, Ms. Morrison said. 

“Transparency doesn’t mean much if the consumer can’t understand what they’re looking at,” she said. “We believe that food data should be open, accessible across digital platforms and most of all, easy to understand. Sage’s technology creates the labels we’ve always wanted for our food: smart, simple, personalized and interactive.

“This represents a quantum leap forward in giving consumers the information they are demanding about their food. Sage’s customizable digital lens includes meaningful information about calories, nutrition, product attributes and where the food was made.”

Campbell Soup Sage Group partnership
Campbell Soup and Sage will initiate their transparency efforts with the company’s Well Yes! soup line.
 

Ms. Morrison said Campbell Soup and Sage will initiate their transparency efforts with the company’s Well Yes! soup line and will gradually expand the program over the next two years to tell the “real food stories of our brands.”

“Campbell is the first major food company to embrace the platform because we believe it delivers the information consumers are increasingly demanding,” Ms. Morrison said. “This commitment to transparency is matched by our investments to make our food better and healthier. As previously discussed, we’re investing $50 million over the next few years to make the kind of food that consumers are looking for, the kind of food that we’re proud to serve at our own tables.”  
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