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When Observation Becomes Innovation: Lessons for the CPG Industry »

January 31, 2018

By Shannon Cooksey, Vice President, GMA Science and Regulatory Affairs

The seismic shift of consumer preferences paired with the evolution of science, has brought innovation to the forefront of the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry. As the rate of exchange of information increases, it has become both an opportunity and necessity for CPG companies to explore new science, ideas and perspectives.

The CPG industry is not alone in facing major disruption in the marketplace. By observing how other industries have adapted or innovated the way they do business, CPG professionals can gain valuable insight and solutions to tackle the challenges they face today.

Grant Imahara, roboticist, animatronics engineer and modelmaker for some of Hollywood’s biggest box office hits, is a speaker at the upcoming GMA Science Forum, which is March 26-29. He will offer his perspective on innovation in the film industry. In advance of his appearance, Imahara responded to several questions –   and reveals the most memorable myth he debunked during his role on Discovery Channel’s hit show Mythbusters:

  1. You have worked as an animatronics engineer on many major motion pictures including Star Wars. How have you seen technology change the film industry and how do you see these changes translating to the CPG industry?

Imahara: In the mid-1990s, the visual effects industry experienced a quantum shift with the advancements in computer graphics. Suddenly, traditional ways of thinking and doing things were no longer preferred. As professionals, we had to adapt to new techniques to remain competitive. Adapt or become obsolete.

  1. The GMA Science Forum event brings the CPG science community together to discuss emerging science and innovation. Where do you find inspiration for your next innovation?

Imahara: Generally speaking, my inspiration usually comes from the world around me. Wherever I go, I look at the way things are made and how they work. I store this as a kind of “solution database” that constantly processes in the background. And when I need a stroke of inspiration, I search my database for something that I’ve seen that could be applied. In this way, the design for a robot’s arm could come from a bird’s wing or a funky latch I saw somewhere in my travels. I guess you could say inspiration is all around us!

  1. What was your most memorable food myth “busted” on Mythbusters?

Imahara: Hot Chile Cures. We tried all kinds of solutions including water, beer, tequila, vaseline, wasabi, and toothpaste – in the end, nothing was better than milk!

There is knowledge to be gained from those who have innovated and adapted to seize a new future. To hear more from Grant Imahara, join me at GMA’s 2018 Science Forum in Washington, D.C. – Register here today!

New Roadmaps for Navigating Disruption in Supply Chain, IT »

January 30, 2018

By Jim Flannery, Executive Vice President, Operations and Industry Collaboration

CPG companies enter 2018 contending with forces such as changing consumer needs, a new retail landscape that includes e-commerce, and new cost pressures. These hurdles are impacting every aspect of CPG company operations, including IT and supply chain. But along with these challenges also comes opportunity – and a chance for CPG companies to evolve alongside the rapidly changing digital landscape and harness new technologies and trends to foster growth.

Two timely new BCG reports commissioned by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) address how IT and supply chain leaders can navigate ongoing disruption pressures to help their CPG organizations emerge in stronger positions. The reports are based on industry surveys and related research, and can provide guidance for GMA member companies.

Looking first at the IT side, it’s evident that chief information officers face daunting balancing acts today. They are being asked to drive digital innovation to support their companies. However, instead of being provided with more resources for this endeavor, CIOs face increased budget constraints. The BCG/GMA benchmarking survey, called Accelerating Digital Innovation in CPG,” found that CPG companies have succeeded in reducing IT costs, but haven’t made nearly as much headway in prioritizing IT innovation.

BCG characterized CPG companies’ levels of IT innovation along a range that moves from “deliberators” at the low end, to “leaders” at the high end. Companies can use BCG’s definitions to help benchmark their own progress. Leaders show the highest IT spending as a percentage of revenue, pay more in compensation, work on more key digital transformation priorities, make better use of analytics, and are better at accelerating innovation internally.

However, what defines leadership is typically a moving target, as evidenced by the technologies companies have embraced over time. Not long ago companies were considered leading edge if they made some use of software as a service (SaaS) platforms and the cloud. Today, the report stated, these practices are increasingly the norm. Requiring more focus from CPGs today is the practice of agile development, the report added. Agile development has come to be associated with technology leaders such as Amazon, Google and Netflix. This highly collaborative form of development includes close working relationships between product owners and software teams to enable strategy shifts in real time.

The report found that the majority of CPG companies use agile development for less than one third of projects, and only half of companies plan to increase its use.  As a result, the report urged more focus on agile development with this pointed warning: “In five years, a CPG company that isn’t using agile for most of its development projects will likely find it difficult to be competitive in terms of digital technology.”

Turning to the supply chain side, a new BCG/GMA benchmarking study found some good news in the form of improved service levels — in areas such as case fill rates and average on-time delivery.

However, in exploring the biggest supply chain disruptors, the report, called “How CPG Supply Chains are Preparing for Seismic Change,” found that retail “channel proliferation is the greatest impediment to on-time delivery performance.” This is particularly true when CPGs serve the emerging crop of smaller format retailers, especially online retailers, versus their traditional larger-format customer base that includes grocery, club and mass. This is because CPGs have longer and more collaborative working relationships in place with the bigger format retailers. However, those mainstream retail customers are under more pressure, and are ramping up on-time delivery requirements with new financial penalties for falling short.

The report urged specific actions for CPG company supply chain operations to satisfy both increased customer needs and their own business requirements. These include seeking new efficiencies; bolstering their ability to hire and retain employees with analytical skills; gearing up for e-commerce; making better use of big data and digital tools; and improving collaborative relationships with customers, especially when it comes to alternative and e-commerce channels.

While IT and supply chain are different business functions, they face many of the same CPG industry challenges and can each benefit from taking new approaches to technology and other strategies. These reports are useful guides for companies to build their game plans in 2018 and beyond. The reports can be downloaded at these links: Accelerating Digital Innovation in CPG and How CPG Supply Chains are Preparing for Seismic Change.

Food and Agriculture Trade in the Asia Pacific – Facilitating Trade and Driving Growth »

November 15, 2017

By: Melissa San Miguel- Senior Director, Global Strategies-Multilateral Affairs

Each November, the leaders of 21 of the world’s fastest-growing economies from both sides of the Pacific gather at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Annual Leaders Meeting to set the agenda for trade and growth in the region. Fair trade in the Asia-Pacific region is a key priority for our industry, where exports help drive growth and support our 2.1 million jobs here at home. That’s why we at GMA are delighted that President Trump has identified removing non-tariff barriers to food trade as a high priority for APEC going forward (White House fact sheet).

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3 Ways CIOs Can Lead A Transformation In Grocery Manufacturing »

November 8, 2017

This piece originally ran on

By: Matthew Campbell & Evan Kelly Managing Director; Director, Consumer Goods & Services-Accenture

Remember how straightforward the groceries business used to be? Manufacturers navigated a well-trodden path of monitoring supply-side size and scale, distributing inventory as widely and inexpensively as possible, and watching the profits flow in. It was a simpler time of mass-produced products distributed through a limited number of channels.

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Watching a Good Idea on Streamlined Product Code Date Labels Become a Reality »

September 20, 2017

By: Jim Flannery, Senior Executive Vice President, GMA and Mark Baum, Senior Vice President of Industry Relations, FMI

There is an undeniable satisfaction that comes with seeing a really good idea move from the realm of the imagined and into the concrete world of reality.  The grocery industry’s Product Code Date Labeling initiative – with its goal of helping consumers better understand and use produce date labels – is beginning to elicit that glow of gratification. 

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Modernizing NAFTA to Preserve U.S. Jobs and Consumer Choice »

June 28, 2017

By: Melissa San Miguel, Senior Director, Global Strategies- Multilateral Affairs

A former boss (who had toiled away on trade negotiations for decades) used to joke that trade was in the news for about five minutes every five years.  If he’s reading this blog post now, I hope he’s happy that trade is finally getting its moment in the spotlight!  Certainly, in the lead up to the U.S. presidential election and now during the first few months of President Trump’s administration, trade has been a hot topic – and for all the right reasons.  “Trade” might seem remote, but the unique opportunities and challenges of the modern, global marketplace deserve attention to get the benefits right for U.S. families and workers.

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