- Nestlé will drop its Grocery Manufacturers of America membership at the end of the year. This development — reported Tuesday by Politico — likely stems from differing hot-button policy positions taken by the Swiss food giant and the industry lobbying association. Nestlé officials declined to comment to Politico and Food Dive on the move.
- Campbell Soup announced in July that it would leave GMA at the end of this year. CEO Denise Morrison told investors that many of the company's beliefs have "diverged from the rest of the food industry and from our trade association. We had the experience of finding ourselves at odds with some of the positions."
- Roger Lowe, GMA's executive vice president of strategic communications, told Food Dive that companies decide to join and leave trade associations for a variety of reasons over time. "Nestle’s participation in GMA will be missed, and we hope there will be a time when they will rejoin us," he added.
According to the Politico report, Nestlé has been at odds with GMA on mandatory labeling for GMO ingredients and added sugars as well as voluntarily cutting back on sodium. The manufacturer has been in favor of all three issues, and the trade association has lobbied against them.
Because of the difference in opinion, GMA ended up submitting split comments to the Food and Drug Administration on the labeling of added sugars — a situation Politico noted had likely never previously occurred.
Lowe told Food Dive in July that GMA had about 250 members, but didn't comment on whether other large companies besides Campbell Soup were considering leaving the group. Trying to find consensus among that many members can't be an easy task, but clearly GMA needs to do a better job — or risk more defections from the ranks.
It's not likely that losing two high-profile members will cause GMA serious problems right now. However, the departure of both Nestlé and Campbell Soup doesn't look good, and likely spurred internal discussions about what might happen if other major industry players also exit the group.
This may leave many asking whether the group's official views are resonating with the companies GMA represents. And since lobbying organizations get their power — and their funding – from the collective membership, if GMA is no longer representing as many voices in the food and beverage industry, its clout may begin to fade.