business news in context, analysis with attitude

MarketWatch reports that Campbell Soup has announced its withdrawal from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the nation's largest trade and lobbying organization representing manufacturers.

Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison told attendees at the company's investor event that the decision was not financial, but rather "driven by purpose and principles."

Campbell Soup, which has been highly focused on being a "leading health and well-being food company," also has put a premium under Morrison's leadership on the importance of transparency as a way of establishing trust and credibility with consumers.

MarketWatch writes that GMA defended its approach to transparency, with Roger Lowe, executive vice president of strategic communications for the GMA, writing in an email that "it was GMA's leadership that helped achieve passage in 2016 of a national standard for GMO disclosure. We supported an option that can provide consumers more information about GMOs than could ever fit on a label."
KC's View:
In some ways, this all sounds like inside baseball ... but I actually think it gets at something very important. I've always argued here that the food industry - and especially GMA - have been on the wrong side of history in its approach to transparency. GMA for a long time was a vocal proponent of a national voluntary GMO labeling standard that would also ban states from enacting their own laws.

And, if I recall correctly, GMA got hit with an $18 million fine in Washington State for hiding the names of corporations that funded a campaign against a food labeling initiative there. Hiding donor lists isn't my definition of transparency.

The larger lesson here is that as transparency has become much more of a public virtue, with social media providing ways for consumers to push for it and expose companies and industries that they think fall short, trade associations may have to think differently about how they represent their members' best interests ... and even what those best interests are.