WASHINGTON — The search is on for the second time in 18 months at Grocery Manufacturers Association for a new president and chief executive officer, following last week’s surprise announcement that Cal Dooley was resigning, effective in September.
Dooley said he plans to take a similar position at the American Chemistry Council, Arlington, Va. — a larger organization with more of a regulatory interest than GMA, which observers told SN is probably more in tune with Dooley’s background as a former Congressman with strong ties to Capitol Hill.
“The ACC is primarily a public affairs group, and that’s Dooley’s world,” one industry consultant said.
According to another observer, “Dooley was apparently contacted by a search firm for the ACC that offered him a very lucrative opportunity, and he took it.”
Dooley could not be reached for comment.
In an email to some industry contacts, which was made available to SN, Dooley said he has “always been intrigued by embracing new challenges, [and] the ACC, with a budget of $119 million, 200 employees and a challenging policy agenda, presents a career opportunity I could not turn down.”
GMA’s budget, by contrast, is $45 million, a spokesman for the association told SN. It has a staff of about 110.
Dooley’s compensation in 2006 as head of the Food Products Association — the most recent total available — was about $759,000, plus $147,779 in allowances, the GMA spokesman told SN.
Dooley spent 12 years as a Democratic congressman from California’s San Joaquin Valley; in 2005 he was named head of the FPA, which merged with GMA in January 2007, when he was named GMA president and CEO.
He said last week he regretted leaving GMA “while we are engaged in several major projects and initiatives.”
Dooley said he plans to remain with GMA though early September — before beginning work at the ACC on Sept. 8 — “to facilitate the transition in leadership.”
A GMA spokesman said the association’s board has selected several directors to serve on a search committee, though he declined to identify any of them.
“The search committee will work fastidiously over the coming weeks and months to find the best-qualified person to lead GMA,” the spokesman told SN. “Our goal is to find that person by September, but we don’t want to go too quickly under deadline pressure and not do things the right way.”
GMA’s search is taking place at the same time Food Marketing Institute is seeking a successor to Tim Hammonds as president and CEO. FMI announced in April that it would seek to replace Hammonds by the end of the year.
In announcing formation of the search committee at GMA, Doug Conant, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Co. and GMA chairman, said of Dooley, “He has provided tremendous leadership to the association and the food, beverage and consumer products industry. As a result of the merger [with the FPA], GMA is now an advocacy, supply chain and scientific powerhouse on behalf of our industry.”
At the ACC, Dooley will succeed Jack Gerard, who is leaving effective Sept. 1 to lead the American Petroleum Institute.
Observers said it is not clear where Dooley’s successor is likely to come from. “GMA went for a political person with a background on the Hill when it hired Dooley, rather than someone with an industry or association background,” one observer told SN.
“Part of what any association needs is someone with a passion for the business and the industry he represents. That person has to love what he’s doing and work well with the people side of the business.”
Several initiatives that started under Dooley’s watch will remain for his successor to bring to fruition. He discussed some of them with SN in an interview last month in a commemoration of the association’s 100th anniversary:
• Ensuring the safety of imported foods in a global economy through GMA’s “four pillars” initiative, which calls for domestic and foreign suppliers to meet new safety requirements. Under the plan, manufacturers would be required to have a written plan for preventive controls, and every importer of products or ingredients would need to have a quality-assurance plan. “We could probably further enhance consumer confidence in our products by giving the Food and Drug Administration mandatory recall authority,” Dooley said.
• Making GMA more effective in dealing with policy on the state and local level. “We have more work to do to build this political infrastructure,” he told SN.
• Keeping up with inflation. Manufacturers are responding to higher commodity, packaging and transportation costs by striving for higher productivity, but the competitive nature of the business requires that they pass higher costs along the supply chain, Dooley pointed out.
• Maximizing sales opportunities in the Center Store by striving for greater cooperation between manufacturers and retailers. GMA conducted a study last year of what drives shopping decisions at the store level; that effort will be extended this year to measure specific ways companies execute at the point of sale.
Dooley said more sophisticated knowledge of shopper behavior is necessary to reach consumers, who face multiple shopping choices and multiples means of communication. Using that knowledge most effectively will come from new levels of cooperation between retailers and manufacturers, he said.