Grocery Manufacturers Association Ditches its Name as Part of Rebrand

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is no more.

The top trade association representing the food industry announced Thursday it will change its name to the Consumer Brands Association at the end of this year — a move that reflects the group’s pivot to represent the broader consumer packaged goods industry.

The change comes after a rocky couple of years for the association, which represents heavyweights like General Mills, PepsiCo and the Kellogg Company. The group is about half the size it once was, in terms of revenue, following a mass exodus of members, many of which left the group over deep disagreements on policy issues.

“The rebrand is simply the last step in better understanding who we are and what our opportunities are going forward,” Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the association, told POLITICO. Freeman was hired to lead GMA in June 2018 and quickly downsized the association’s staff, cleaned out much of its leadership team and began to look at renaming the 110-year-old organization.

Freeman said Wednesday that the name Grocery Manufacturers Association is too narrow to represent the group going forward.

The association worked with Tether, a Seattle-based design and brand agency, on its rebranding effort. A spokesperson for GMA said the group picked the firm specifically because of its “‘outside-the-Beltway’ mentality, and [its] previous work with consumer-facing brands like Red Bull, Gatorade, Under Armour and Nike.”

“Renaming and rebranding this organization is symbolic of a larger realignment with the [consumer packaged goods] industry’s consumer-first priorities and our desire to have a more open and transparent dialogue with policymakers, customers and consumers,” said Jeff Harmening, chairman of the board and CEO of General Mills, in a statement.

As POLITICO reported earlier this year, the association has been actively moving away from its legacy of being the tip of the spear for food manufacturers, which are increasingly divided on how to handle major policy issues, from sodium reduction to GMO labeling.

"We're not the food industry,” Freeman said in a March interview. “It's probably the most striking thing to realize about this new organization.”

Over the past year, GMA has pulled back from engaging on controversial food and nutrition policy issues. Instead, it’s focused on promoting sustainable packaging and advocating on transportation issues that affect shipping and supply chains — policy areas that are easier to get a broad variety of companies to agree on.

The association is also calling for clear federal rules on cannabidiol, or CBD, to create a level playing field for companies that want to sell products containing the ingredient, which was legalized through the 2018 farm bill.

Freeman declined to discuss whether more non-food companies have joined the group in the past year. The group has long had members that focus on other consumer goods, including The Clorox Company and Procter & Gamble, but food and beverage companies have historically dominated the association.

Freeman said new members would be announced in January when the name change becomes official.

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