More major food companies are leaving the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. Tyson Foods and Unilever are the two most recent, according to reports, and they join Campbell Soup Co., Nestlé USA, Dean Foods and Mars, all of which decided not to renew their memberships for 2018.
News site Politico reported the most recent defections on Dec. 15, although they were confirmed by GMA. Neither company was critical of GMA, just saying they were re-evaluating and placing their priorities elsewhere, but each is committed to greater transparency and has expressed support for GMO labeling, while their association has fought GMO labeling.
Campbell was the first to quit, back in July, and CEO Denise Morrison was clear she no longer agreed with GMA philosophies. "Many of our beliefs have diverged from the rest of the food industry and our trade association," she said. "For example, viewing GMOs [GMA lobbied against labeling]…. Another issue is the delay in the implementation of the FDA's new Nutrition Facts panel [GMA lobbied for the delay]. To that end, we have decided to withdraw from GMA at the end of this calendar year."
We reported the departure of Campbell in July and Nestle in October, but Dean Foods and Mars apparently quietly exited in recent weeks.
"We review and assess our trade association memberships each year and decided not to renew our membership in 2018 as we increase our focus on advocacy aligned with delivering our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan," a Unilever spokesperson told Politico. Tyson said, "While we respect the work of the organization, our company is moving toward a more global discussion about the future of food."
Roger Lowe, executive vice president of strategic communication at the grocery association, said, “GMA and its board is 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. We are always sorry when a member company decides to leave, and hope to work with them on issues of mutual interest in the future.”