History

A Century of Leadership

Since 1908, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has helped guide, mobilize and inspire the consumer packaged goods industry in the United States and abroad. GMA serves as the voice of this vital industry which brings nutritious, affordable and high-quality foods to Americans and to the world.

Many of our members have been with the Grocery Manufacturers Association for 100 years or more. We are proud of the value they see in their membership and of the work we’ve done together over the years to serve the needs of consumers and the industry.

The following is a brief timeline of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and its leadership of the consumer packaged goods industry:

March 1908: The Grocery Manufacturers of America is created when 60 manufacturers representing 45 of the most respected food and grocery manufacturers meet in New York City to discuss ways to bring their fledgling industry in accordance with new laws, and to build better industry trade relations.

1914–1919: The Grocery Manufacturers of America sets up a War Council to work closely with the Federal Food Administration. From 1917 to 1918, American food suppliers triple the normal food production levels of bread, meat and sugar products to assist in the war effort.

Also in 1917, GMA begins its lobbying role for the industry, and Massachusetts adopts a law “recommended by GMA.”

1923: GMA agrees on its first Mission Statement.

1924–1929: Rose M. Knox, president of the C.B. Knox Gelatine Company, serves on the GMA Board of Directors—one of the first women to serve on a large national board.

1925: President and Mrs. Coolidge open the White House to the entire GMA Executive Conference delegation.

Also during the 1920s, GMA creates a special science committee, with scientists from member companies meeting three times annually to collaborate on the latest food science and discuss ways to introduce new and more nutritious foods.

1930s/Great Depression Era: President Franklin D. Roosevelt requests that GMA form an industry committee to create a “master code” establishing fair competition under the National Recovery Act, the cornerstone of Roosevelt’s plan to stabilize the Depression-era economy.

1938: With the passage of the Pure Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938, GMA sets up the Food/Drug Law Institute to teach food and drug law to U.S. law schools.

1941: GMA creates the Nutrition Foundation, led by top scientists around the country, to award grants in numerous fields that influence the food and consumer products industry.

1941–1945 World War II: President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominates GMA official Clare Francis of General Foods to ensure that all U.S. factories are operational and contributing to the war effort, serving more than 12 million soldiers at their posts around the globe. FDR also tapped numerous GMA officials to help coordinate the nation’s food supply at home and abroad.

1948–1949: GMA members are the primary donors of food airlifted to 2.5 million residents of Berlin during the 328-day Soviet blockade of the city.

1950s: America’s supermarkets become a symbol of power. As the world recovers from World War II, GMA participates in the Marshall Plan, feeding war-ravaged victims around the world. GMA also lectures throughout Europe on the successful production and distribution techniques of the American food and consumer products industry.

1959: At a special showing of a U.S. model kitchen in Moscow, Vice President Richard Nixon holds up the U.S. food system as the “showcase for democracy.”

1962: GMA provides $12 million worth of food—contributed by members Gerber, Heinz, General Mills and others—as ransom for Bay of Pigs prisoners held in appalling conditions in Cuban jails.

1964: GMA helps pass the Food Stamp Act and begins offering nutritional education programs for stamp users.

1967: GMA headquarters relocates to Washington, DC, where it remains today.

Early 1970s: GMA, led by Chairman Burt Gookin of H.J. Heinz, plays pivotal role in the development of one of the industry’s most important innovations: the Universal Product Code (UPC). The UPC is utilized all over the world by retail stores to track their customers’ purchases and their shelved merchandise.

1986: GMA leads a business coalition in defeating the Value Added Tax in Congress.

1990s: GMA increasingly emphasizes sustainability. A 1996 report reveals that the industry reduced its grocery packaging discards by more than 14 percent from 1980 to 1993.

1998: GMA welcomes Congressional passage and enactment of the FDA Modernization Act.

2001: GMA member companies are among the first to respond after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, operating on-site feeding stations and sending tons of ready-to-eat foods to both sites.

2006–2007: GMA and the Food Products Association begin merger talks. The merger is completed in January 2007, creating an advocacy, value chain and scientific powerhouse for the food, beverage and consumer products industry.

Winter 2010: GMA forges unprecedented partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama to combat childhood obesity. On March 16, Mrs. Obama delivers the keynote address at the GMA Science Forum, calling for even greater collaboration between government and the private sector to find lasting solutions to the issue of obesity in America.