“Hershey annually evaluates our various trade association memberships,” said Hershey’s spokesperson Jeff Beckman. “We will continue to focus our time and resources in 2018 on initiatives that benefit consumers, such as product transparency and delivering a wider range of great snack options to delight consumers.
“The food and retail environment is dynamic and the entire CPG industry is adapting and operating differently to meet the changing needs of consumers,” he added.
Hershey did not give further details on its reasons for the dropout. However, its move mirrors many other large companies’ recent decisions, including Hershey’s competitors in the confectionery space such as Mars and Nestlé – which both left GMA late last year.
Edie Burge, spokesperson at Nestlé USA, told ConfectioneryNews that unlike Hershey, the company also decided to leave the NCA at the end of 2017 since it is expected to sell its US confections business in the first quarter of this year.
Mars also said in a statement, “After careful consideration, Mars has decided to end its membership in the Grocery Manufacturers Association. At this time, we believe we can more effectively drive our business objectives and meaningful progress for our categories and consumers by working with other like-minded companies and through other sector-specific trade associations and collaborations.”
GMA said it is sorry when member companies decide to leave, but it hopes to work with them on issues of mutual interest in the future.
“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,” said Roger Lowe, GMA’s EVP of strategic communications.
Conflicting past on regulatory issues
The GMA, as a food industry lobbying group, has had several conflicts with big companies such as Campbell Soup (left the association in July, 2017) in terms of regulations before, according to our sister publication, Food Navigator-USA.
Nestlé started to use a common logo on its packages to identify which of its US food and beverage products do not contain GMO ingredients in 2016.
Campbell Soup’s CEO, Denise Morrison, previously pointed out, “What we have experienced is finding ourselves at odds with some of the [GMA’s] positions [in many regulatory issues].” She added that the GMA is comprised of mostly “very large companies,” but Campbell Soup’s philosophy seems to be “aligning more with the smaller food companies.”
Nestlé cited similar reasons to disassociate with the GMA, as Politico pointed out in October last year that it became known in food policy circles that the company officials were “not in full support” of GMA’s “overt opposition” to mandatory GMO labeling (passed during the Obama Administration).
Beginning in 2016, Nestlé started to use a common logo on its packages to identify which of its US food and beverage products do not contain GMO ingredients, according the company.
The GMA earlier supported a federal law that was approved in the US House of Representatives in 2015 “that would have provided for voluntary disclosure of GMO ingredients,” Lowe said. However, the law did not pass in the senate.
“We [at the GMA] strongly opposed state ballot initiatives, state legislation and federal proposals for on-pack symbols/text only disclosure of GMOs,” said Lowe. “(But) we strongly supported passage of the compromise federal law that required disclosure of GMOs in three ways: digital disclosure through scanning an electronic code (like our SmartLabel initiative) on the package, or an on-package symbol or text,” he added.
Lowe mentioned the USDA is currently mapping out the rules of compliance and it anticipates implementing the law by summer of 2018. However, he declined to speculate whether Nestlé’s current non-GMO label would stand at odds with the federal rules.
Still has chocolate in membership
Lowe said the companies who are no longer part of the GMA were “leaving for different reasons,” and he declined to comment on them individually.
Despite the dissociation of the two biggest names in the US chocolate category, Hershey and Mars, the GMA still retains several chocolate companies in its portfolio, including Mondelēz, Ferrero, Godiva and Big Island Candies, according to Lowe.