WASHINGTON — Scientific and legislative expertise came together in the 2007 merger of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Products Association.
Now, 18 months after the two groups combined forces, the laboratory specialization that was the hallmark of the FPA and the political lobbying clout that was the backbone of the GMA are functioning together to represent the packaged goods industry on such issues as food safety and sustainability.
“I'm very pleased with the merger of the GMA and Food Products Association,” Cal Dooley, president and chief executive officer, GMA, told SN. “We now have one organization serving the industry and offering our member companies a broader portfolio of services. We have the strong industry affairs capability that GMA was so well known for, and we have the government and public affairs work that GMA and FPA were both involved in. And we brought the core science and regulatory areas of FPA all under one roof. That's allowed us to be more effective, more responsive and more proactive in the interests of the industry.”
Sean McBride, vice president of communications at GMA, said in the past year GMA has been able to leverage the scientific expertise it acquired through the FPA merger in several areas.
“Product safety and food safety is such an important issue to us right now, and the organization is much stronger and much more able to drive home its positions both in the legislative and the regulatory arenas,” he said. “We've now got our advocates armed with the regulatory and scientific expertise they need — those subject matter experts can now go locked arm in arm and they can go to Capitol Hill, they can go to the [Food and Drug Administration], they can go to [Environmental Protection Agency], and it is one-stop shopping — you've got all the professional expertise you need both on the advocacy side and the technical side right there with you.”
Another example, he said, is in the area of environmental sustainability.
“GMA was able to step up to the plate as a merged organization in the environmental sustainability category in a way that it hadn't been able to before,” McBride told SN. “It has enhanced our ability to make an impact and not only promote what industry is doing, but also to find solutions and foster industry adoption of environmentally friendly business practices.”
The combination of the two associations has also given GMA the opportunity to strengthen its educational programs and conferences, such as the GMA Sustainability Summit that took place earlier this year.
About 30% of the membership of the two associations overlapped before the merger, and the two groups often had been on the same side of issues, McBride explained. For several years, members and the leadership of both groups had discussed the possibility of combining forces.
Once the formal discussions began, the process moved relatively quickly, with the span of a few months in 2006 before it became official in January of last year.
“I haven't heard any dissenting voices, but unanimous agreement that the merger was not only the right thing to do, but is also paying huge dividends for members and also providing them with the return on investment that they were hoping for when this was envisioned,” McBride said.