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Safety Shouldn’t Stop at State Lines »

August 26, 2019

By: Dr. Betsy Booren, GMA Senior Vice President, Regulatory and Technical Affairs

If an ingredient in the food we eat or the products we use poses an issue to consumers, it is an issue everywhere — not just in one state. That’s why the FDA has always been charged with allergen labeling. But the state of Illinois is threatening to upend that process.

A recently enacted law in Illinois requires that manufacturers label sesame in food products. The law is not the issue — if there is good reason to include sesame on product labels, then our industry absolutely will. The issue is that ad hoc state and local requirements create inconsistency and confusion for consumers, ultimately undermining their trust.

Label requirements are important. We have seen “contains nuts” on labels for more than 10 years. If you or your child has a nut allergy, that’s a critical warning. Imagine if that critical warning were present in one state, but not in another. It could be literally life-threatening.

That’s an extreme example, particularly since CPG companies want to be transparent and helpful to consumers, and knowing the dangers of nut allergies, they would proactively label. But the point stands, no matter the ingredient — nuts, sesame or fill-in-the-blank —we need a reliable, uniform process that enhances trust with consumers.

GMA supports the creation of uniform national standards and the regulatory primacy held by long-standing federal authorities, like FDA. Food allergies are a serious public health issue and consumers deserve a uniform framework that communicates clear and reliable information consistently across the country.

When it comes to consumer health, there is no state that should be safer than another. Patchwork policies do not align with that fundamental principle. The role of the FDA in determining allergens is important to consumers, and we encourage them to engage with the state of Illinois on sesame — just as we would encourage them to engage with any state considering similar action.

The Regulation Files: CBD »

August 22, 2019


The Regulatory Problem

Consumer demand for CBD products is skyrocketing across the United States. Yet the lack of clear, consistent and aligned national regulations for these products, and the absence of methodical testing, threshold and safety requirements brings product safety into question. Without a clear regulatory framework, companies are forced to make sense of and comply with a maze of inconsistent, and often contradictory, state and local regulations. To consumers, this means a product purchased one place may be different than an identical product bought elsewhere. If not addressed, the status quo will lead to confusion, waning consumer trust and supply chain challenges. In short, a regulatory mess.

Our Stance

The recent public meeting started a dialogue on uniform, nationwide regulations for CBD. The FDA should pursue a transparent regulatory process to develop clear rules and requirements. This should include consistent definitions for production, testing standards and thresholds for marketing claims like “THC-free.” The establishment of consistent, clear regulations will empower consumers to make smart decisions, bolster safe products and allow for an effectively functioning market.

A Bit More Detail

Consumer demand for CBD is growing rapidly and is projected to surpass $13 billion in 2019. Without clear federal guidance, states have been scrambling to keep up — and each one is taking a different approach. The 2018 Farm Bill amplified confusion by legalizing hemp and certain derived products, such as CBD. The result is a patchwork of state-level CBD laws that ineffectively ensure safety and quality, undermine informed decisions and short-circuit the industry’s ability to respond to consumer demand.

Consistent consumer safety in question 

Legal obstacles in cannabis research and gaps in knowledge related to the health and safety of products pose a risk. Additional data is needed to quantify how much CBD is safe to consume in a day. For example, if a consumer uses CBD lipstick, oil and candy in one day, is the cumulative dose safe? The cannabis plant is also a bioaccumulator, meaning it absorbs heavy metals, pesticides and toxins from the soil around it. Product manufacturing facilities aren’t inspected in some states and many states can’t verify if products contain CBD at advertised levels. Clear standards are needed for the testing and control of products utilizing CBD like those that exist for other ingredients added to food and cosmetics.

137 state bills – and counting 

There are currently 137 state bills for CBD products and hemp derivatives alone. Unsurprisingly, they are inconsistent, confusing and sometimes contradictory. For example, federal law and most states declare the THC limit for CBD products at 0.3%, but Mississippi may set it at 0.1% and California has alluded to jettisoning percentages entirely. These various definitions threaten to feed distrust among Americans, disrupt the supply chain and create barriers that prevent companies from providing the CBD products that consumers want.

Licenses, labels and tests 

The regulatory problems extend beyond defining CBD to include licensing, packaging and advertising. For example, in Nevada only “nail technologists” or other “wellness” providers are permitted to recommend or administer certain CBD products. These bills also involve multiple state-level agencies — from agriculture to public health to commerce — making matters even more bewildering.

Nowhere to turn

Consumers are confused about what CBD products contain, what their purpose is and whether they are regulated at all. Without federal leadership, a muddle of inconsistent state regulations will only compound this problem. In fact, a person might purchase a CBD product in one state only to find that it’s illegal in another. That’s not the commonsense regulation that American consumers deserve.

Soaring demand should not mean soaring confusion 

Companies want to meet the surging demand for CBD products — just as they have for kombucha, argan oil and all things pumpkin-spiced. However, inconsistent state regulations make this difficult, if not impossible. The mounting legal questions around CBD have different answers in each state, leading to supply chain frictions. This shrinks the options for millions of interested consumers, further impeding the path to a trusted, reliable market.

A Better Solution

A clear national regulatory framework would be a substantial step toward giving consumers consistent, accurate information on CBD. Consumers are increasingly demanding these products, which has potential to create a new driver for the economy. However, to achieve that goal, FDA and other federal agencies must step up – fast. The FDA should act now to provide federal leadership in a framework for regulating CBD..

Download: The Regulation Files: CBD




CPG Products Power More Than Your Every Day »

August 6, 2019

When you stock up on your favorite snacks, purchase your go-to shampoo or pick up a treat for your four-legged friend, the dollars you spend have a much broader reach than most imagine. In the most comprehensive economic study ever conducted of the CPG industry, we found that the industry supports 20.4 million jobs that generate $1.1 trillion in labor income and contribute $2 trillion to the nation’s GDP.

GMA partnered with PwC to conduct this study of the economic impact of the CPG industry, which includes the food, beverage, household and personal care products that Americans depend on each day. Our research shows that the CPG industry supports one in 10 American jobs and is the largest manufacturing employer in the United States.

The impact of the industry can be felt from coast-to-coast and in every congressional district. In fact, the industry supports an average of 45,000 jobs in every congressional district.

Along with this new research, GMA launched a new microsite to share the economic data of all 50 states, 435 congressional districts and Washington, D.C., along with stories of how CPG companies are making more than just a financial impact on their communities.

For more information about the study and to view the full report, visit

If California is About to Define the Future of Packaging Sustainability, Will It Get It Right? »

July 8, 2019

California is currently considering a pair of bills aimed at reducing waste and increasing recycling. The intent is commendable. But we can’t afford to assume intentions will yield results.

This legislation could be a watershed moment for packaging sustainability. While a national, uniform standard would be best for consumers, what California does now could have national implications. Delivering on that potential will require a smart, collective approach that seriously considers the broken recycling system. Unfortunately, that’s not what is happening now.

Single-use plastics that end up littering oceans and rivers are unquestionably a problem. Nearly nine out of ten (87%) of Californians say they are concerned about single-use packaging. The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry is as well. We are invested in reducing waste and creating smarter packaging. We recognize it is our challenge and responsibility to translate the drive for sustainability into practical solutions that get people the products they need. One of the best ways to do that is through recyclable packaging, and the legislations’ recyclability target is the same as what 80% of the largest CPG companies have already set for themselves to achieve fully recyclable packaging.

But recyclable packaging only works if the recycling system does – and today, it doesn’t. It’s a patchwork of rules unique to the more than four hundred local programs across California. What’s worse, as the economics of recycling have become more challenging, counties and towns across the country have reduced their list of acceptable items, often no longer taking commonly recycled items like glass, or shuttered entirely. In California, 34% of residents reported similar changes to their local curbside program and 40% of the state’s beverage container drop-off centers have closed in the last five years.

Not acknowledging the broken recycling system will lead to this legislation’s failure. Provisions like identifying if packaging is recyclable on the label are quite literally impossible to comply with because what is allowed in one town is different the next town over.

The legislation calls for a 75% single-use plastic packaging recycling rate by 2030 – an admirable goal, particularly considering the national rate for plastic recycling is just nine percent. The CPG industry would like to see this goal achieved. The majority (70%) of Californians support it in theory. But despite this widespread approval, 83% agree that the goal can’t be met without a functioning recycling system.

We can only assume the legislators behind these bills want to make the greatest impact for the environment. To do that, we should double-down on what works – and recycling works. It is an innate behavior for the overwhelming majority that can have a massive impact if we fix the system itself. Ninety-three percent of Californians say they are likely to recycle while only 61% say they are likely to create a compost pile and just 53% said they’d trade their car for walking or public transportation. Recycling’s power is in its scale and if we’re going to be serious about sustainability, we can’t afford to limp along like we’re doing now.

California has a chance to lead the country in creating the archetype for packaging sustainability legislation. However, these bills are designed to fail upon implementation because they do not solve the underlying problem and, worse, will fail at creating the lasting change we need. Let’s take the time to get this legislation right, not just get it passed.

Further reading:

Article: California Can Lead on Packaging Sustainability… But Will It?

Press Release: Californians Concede Limitations of Proposed Recycling Legislation, Agree System is Broken

Report: Reduce, Reuse, Confuse: How Best Intentions Have Led to Confusion, Contamination and a Broken Recycling System in America

How Sustainable Are Your Summer Staples? »

July 3, 2019

As the warmer weather rolls in, our favorite summer essentials become part of our everyday routine once again. Sunscreen for the pool, chips for the neighborhood barbeque and cleaning supplies for sticky popsicle drips on the kitchen counter. Our tried and true essentials make summer easier to enjoy — and easier to ensure your environmental footprint this summer is nothing more than a footprint left behind in the sand.

The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry has been investing heavily in more sustainable and recyclable packaging, and actively developing solutions that work for both consumers and the environment. Seventy-four percent of Americans consider themselves extremely or very concerned about the environment and 75% say they have changed their behavior in recent years to be more environmentally conscious.

Our world today is forward thinking and fast paced, and consumers expect products and experiences that keep up. The CPG industry is adapting quickly to these needs and delivering products that are both convenient and cognizant of the environment.

All of the 25 largest CPG companies have made commitments to increasing recyclable content and minimizing packaging or reusing material. Eighty percent have gone a step further by committing to producing completely recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2030. CPG companies make up a large part of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment: Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Kellogg, McCormick, PepsiCo and Reckitt Benckiser, just to name a few, have all taken the pledge to help eradicate plastic pollution.

To meet these goals, CPG companies are rigorously optimizing their product packaging, utilizing recycled materials and reducing the amount of packaging when possible:

  • Kellogg reduced the weight of cereal box liners by 17%, eliminating 192,000 pounds of packaging material;

  • Clorox’s Glad brand reduced the plastic in its trash bags by 6.5%, the equivalent of 140 million fewer bags per year;

  • Ferrero redesigned its Nutella packaging, saving more than 26 tons of excess packaging material; and

  • PepsiCo now packs Tostitos in plant-based, compostable bags for food service accounts in the United States.

Companies like General Mills and P&G are utilizing recyclable materials in their packaging, including beach plastic for shampoo bottles and virgin wood fiber that does not contribute to deforestation, respectively. Coca-Cola is investing heavily in recycling technology as part of their “World Without Waste” vision. These global brands are driving change across all industries and meeting consumer wants and needs for the products they use every day.

But sustainability doesn’t just stop at CPG — consumers make a huge difference when it comes to actually recycling and reusing the products they purchase. The problem is, America’s recycling system is just plain confusing, making it increasingly difficult for consumers to navigate our country’s broken system.

CPG companies are stepping up to that challenge as well, helping us all better understand the array of local recycling rules and policies that lead to confusion and high contamination rates. Last summer, PepsiCo and The Recycling Partnership launched the largest-ever residential recycling challenge, aimed at educating and providing resources to 25 million U.S. families on their local recycling rules and how to recycle better and more often.

When it comes to sustainability, innovation is the name of the game and the CPG industry is working swiftly to meet their commitments to protecting the environment and combating climate change. Every company has a vested interest in sustainability and our industry is getting closer to its goals every year.

This summer, research your local recycling rules before breaking out a can of ice-cold beer or a bottle of aloe vera, and enjoy the season confidently, knowing the products in your beach bag are doing their part in helping us achieve a more sustainable world.

How Millennials Will Kill the American Recycling System »

May 30, 2019

By Sarah Soulier, manager of industry narrative at the Grocery Manufacturers Association

Browse the Internet for a few minutes and you’ll likely run across a headline blasting Millennials for “killing” a long-accepted practice. As a Millennial myself, my generation has been blamed for the demise of the housing market, nine-to-five jobs, chain restaurants and even pants — all for being born between 1981 to 1996.

But when it comes to recycling, Millennials should be experts. We were raised in classrooms with the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra taped to the walls and lessons from Ms. Frizzle on the Magic School Bus, teaching us the importance of keeping the earth clean. If there’s one thing we can’t be accused of killing, it’s recycling.


Unfortunately, just about every age group in the U.S., including Millennials, is confused about America’s recycling system. And who can blame us? Thanks to highly varied rules about what can and can’t be tossed in the recycling bin, it’s never been more complicated to recycle properly.

The trouble is, we don’t know what we don’t know. When asked about clarity on their local recycling rules, 64% of millennials said they are very clear on local recycling rules, while 50% of Generation Xers, 47% of Baby Boomers and 46% of the Silent Generation said the same, according to GMA’s new Reduce, Reuse, Confuse recycling report. However, when asked if largely unrecyclable items like plastic bags, Styrofoam, to-go coffee cups and plastic straws are recyclable, more than 65% of millennials said yes for each item. Gen Xers, Boomers and the Silent Generation were slightly better, with responses ranging from 32% to 61% who believed these items were recyclable.

This ‘aspirational’ recycling — the practice of recycling things you aren’t sure about but hoping it will be sorted correctly — has led to a big jump in recycling contamination rates, from 7% of all recycling ten years ago to 24% now. We want to recycle and we want to believe the things we use will be more than just trash. Nearly half (49%) of Millennials are aspirational recyclers, just ahead of Generation X (45%) and far ahead of Boomers (32%) and the Silent Generation (25%).

Aspirational recycling is proof that our intentions are good. Just a decade ago, 38% of Americans considered themselves extremely or very concerned about the environment. Today, the figure has jumped to 74%. For Millennials it’s even higher, at 82%.

We need to find a way to capitalize on the concern and good intentions in a way that is sustainable. For now, the best we can do is educate ourselves on local rules and be more knowledgeable recyclers. But that shouldn’t be enough for the generation of Ms. Frizzle. For as much as we’re accused of killing things, we’re also known for driving innovation. Without Millennials, where would ridesharing, TV streaming or avocado toast be today?

Recycling is not a generational issue. But as the most environmentally conscious generation, we must drive change to the broken system in a way that will give recycling a long-term future. We are projected to be the largest generation by the end of this year and we are the most interested in buying environmentally responsible products — 44% of Millennials frequently buy products for the environmental qualities, compared to just 26% overall.

Change has already come to the CPG industry. 100% of the 25-largest CPG companies have committed to more recyclable materials — 80% will be fully recyclable by 2030. But this level of action depends on a functioning recycling system. It’s up to all of us, Millennials or not, to ask our government leaders to work toward streamlined regulations that eliminate confusion.

If we don’t act, we will all be responsible for “killing” recycling. But we also have a chance to be responsible for fixing it. Let’s take that chance, for ourselves and generations to come.

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