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What We Learned at the 2017 GMA Leadership Conference

“Commitment to science goes to the core of who we are as an industry…Public policy must be science and fact-based as must be our innovation. You cannot have one without the other. And because innovation is continuous – so are our challenges.” — Pamela C. Bailey, GMA President and CEO


Food, water, shelter – the three ingredients we need to stay alive.

Food is a necessity, and much of our landscape is built around making food accessible. We have grocery stores, restaurants, cafes, vending machines, gas stations, farmer’s markets – food is everywhere in our physical landscape. Food is also accessible via online channels in various ways – restaurant delivery, fresh food subscription boxes, and grocery delivery services from big retailers like Amazon’s Prime Pantry.

Digital demand is growing. Annual online grocery sales are projected to exceed 100 billion dollars (over 20% of the market!) by 2025.

How Can We Keep Up?

Let’s Look to the GMA.

In response to rapid changes like these growing online food distribution channels, the industry behind our network of grocery suppliers has to keep up in terms of innovation, problem solving, and anticipating demands of the market.

The GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) exists so that grocery manufacturers and other industry leaders can collaborate on these issues and problem-solve together.

The Food, Beverage, and Consumer Product industry is the single largest US manufacturing employment sector, with over 2.1 million primary employees. This industry generates a total economic impact of 11 million primary and secondary jobs, 627 billion dollars in labor income, and 1.1 trillion dollars added to the nation’s GDP.

Leadership in such a massive industry is crucial.

What Is the Grocery Manufacturers Association?

The GMA “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.”

This organization been at the forefront of leadership in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry in the US since 1908. During WWI and WWII, they helped triple US food production for the war efforts. In 1964, they helped pass the Food Stamp Act to make nutritious food accessible to all Americans. In 2010, the GMA partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama to combat childhood obesity in the US.

The organization prides itself on its historic leadership and innovation. The annual GMA Leadership Forum is part of their dedication to leadership in the industry.

At the 2017 GMA Leadership Forum, hundreds of industry leaders met to discuss current conditions of the industry, as well as ideas for innovation and progress.

Keynote addresses by George W. Bush and David J. Stern presented ideas on how to stay competitive with marketplace shifts towards digital demand, and opened up four days of lectures and discussions.

Setting and Holding Standards

Ric Lee of Atlantic presented at the 2017 GMA Leadership Forum, where his talk centered on the importance of using science to set industry standards in packaging.

Ric Lee of Atlantic Presents at the GMA Leadership Forum

He demonstrated how engineered stretch wrap application can have a significant impact on shipping costs, brand trust, and a company’s reputation.

Wes Hobson, Senior Engineer at the DOW Chemical Company, presented with Ric in order to demonstrate the payoff of stretch film standardization in his company.

Wes provided evidence on how much money and time his company saved by applying standards to a previously unregulated stretch wrap segment of the company.

Wes Hobson of Dow Chemical Presents at the GMA Leadership Forum

Related Article: Taming the Wilds of an Unregulated Industry.

Wes also emphasized that getting people to understand stretch film is critical.  Not only do you require stretch film for shipping your products, but you also need it to prevent damage and eliminate unnecessary waste and expense.

To do that, you have to take a holistic approach and consider all the elements of stretch wrapping.

  1. Right Film – You need a high performance film (rather than a commodity, price-only based product).
  2. Right Application – The film has to be applied properly, using a process tested and proven to protect your product so it arrives intact at the retail shelf.
  3. Right Settings – your stretch wrapper has to be maintained with the optimal settings in order consistently apply the film every time.

Wes highlighted how mentalities about stretch wrap have to be changed through education, in spaces that promote dialogue, like the GMA forum.

Keep Up the Dialogue

Manufacturers are always looking for ways to cut costs and be more productive. The GMA leadership conference was a great opportunity for manufacturers and other key players to come together from different sides of the industry to explore new cost saving opportunities, sustainability, and the future demands of a rapidly changing industry.

Learn More About Sustainability in Packaging