NEW YORK — A new global trade association that will seek to address food industry issues worldwide for retailers, CPG companies and others is set to officially launch this week.
As CIES — The Food Business Form hosts its World Food Business Summit here, its members are expected to vote to finalize the merger of three international organizations. CIES, based in Paris, would combine with the Global Commerce Initiative (GCI), based in Cologne, Germany, and the Global CEO Forum, a biannual conference of industry leaders.
“CIES is a network, a platform for exchange and for learning and for generating the natural emergence of best practices, and GCI is organized very differently — it is very project-based, but with the same goal of identifying best practices,” explained Alan McClay, the chief executive officer of CIES, in an interview with SN. “The idea is that we can use the two methodologies together as a means to deliver best practices for the industry as a whole in the service of the consumer.”
Details about the new group, including its name, will be released this week at the CIES World Food Business Summit, a spokeswoman for CIES told SN last week. Previously, CIES had said the new group would be based in Paris at the current CIES headquarters, with an adjunct office in Cologne.
Considering the busy schedules of industry leaders, the new group will seek to eliminate duplication of functions and events, McClay explained. The new group would not seek to replace the functions of existing national or regional trade groups, he pointed out.
“Because this is a global industry with global issues, there's a need to address them with a concerted framework,” he said. “With a global body, the industry will be able to provide a forum on a global scale for retailers, for manufacturers, for service providers, for all the stakeholders in this massive industry, to share experiences, share knowledge and develop best practices for the things that affect the industry as a whole.”
Members of the merging associations have nominated interim boards and committees that have been working on three areas: governance, strategy and finance, McClay explained. The process of merging the groups began in 2007, and the boards of the associations have already given preliminary approval to lay the groundwork for the new group.
The global association is expected to address a range of issues of concern to the entire food industry — both retailers and manufacturers — including sustainability, radio frequency identification (RFID), food safety and social responsibility.
“We need a global platform [to address those types of issues],” McClay told SN. “What happens in one part of the world is instantaneously relevant somewhere else.”
The sessions at this week's CIES Summit will address many of those issues, with the global economic malaise as a backdrop, he explained.
He noted that sustainability remains a high priority for member companies, despite the recession.
“We will continue to see a lot of work being done on that, and that's something we will be talking about in New York,” McClay said. “Making sure the efforts around corporate responsibility and sustainability are also integrating the new dimension of an economic downturn.”