Highlights from the opening day of The Consumer Goods Forum’s first virtual Global Summit

The Consumer Goods Industry’s Top Leaders Convene to Discuss Pandemic Challenges and the Road Ahead

PARIS, 21 June 2021 — Today, The Consumer Foods Forum opened the first virtual edition of its flagship event, the Global Summit, to an international delegation of over 650 attendees in 42 countries. The Summit, which has been on hiatus since the 2019 edition in Vancouver, offers an opportunity for leaders to discuss pressing challenges in the consumer goods industry and to collaborate on sustainable solutions. The opening day of the event, streamed from a Parisian rooftop and centred around the theme “What’s Next?”, covered a wide range of relevant topics, including the impact of Covid-19, emerging trends and predictions for the future of consumption. It was fitting that the CGF’s Managing Director Wai-Chan Chan opened proceedings with his own reflections, having joined the organisation at the height of the pandemic.

The Past, Present and Future of Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic — the reason for the Global Summit’s one-year hiatus — was naturally a frequent topic on today’s agenda. Speakers looked back on the events of the past 15 months and discussed ways to prepare for a future shaped by the pandemic. “It may turn out that we’re not in the logistics business, or the retail business, services business”, said John Ross, President and CEO of IGA, Inc., during the day’s first panel discussion. “We may actually be in the confidence business, and it may be our job to make sure that in all the ways that we serve that shopper, we make them feel smarter, make them feel more informed and have confidence that they can make these choices for their family.”

Without diminishing the humanitarian toll of the pandemic, a thread of optimism was woven throughout discussions of the next stage. During a plenary focused on consumer trends, experts predicted robust growth in all countries and sectors within the consumer goods industry and a boom in demand for sustainable products in particular. “There’s a huge need for more sustainable, more ethical, healthier products, and there’s also an equivalent huge need for more information, storytelling and transparency on those topics”, said Solitaire Townsend, Co-Founder of Futerra.  

Chief executives took the fore in many of these discussions, highlighting the CEO-led nature of the CGF. In a theme-echoing plenary titled “What’s Next: Insights from CEOs”, three global leaders — Malina Ngai of A.S. Watson, Tobias Wasmuht of SPAR International and David Taylor of Procter & Gamble — discussed shifts in consumption patterns that they have observed in their respective businesses. All agreed on the importance of open communication both within the company and beyond its walls. “That’s the key learning that we’ve got from the beginning of this pandemic: Through pulling together and learning from each other, we can achieve so much more together”, said Tobias Wasmuht. 

One-on-one “fireside chats”, which feature prominently in the four-day programme, allowed CEOs Rodney McMullen of The Krogen Co. and Tim Steiner of Ocado Group to tell in-depth stories about their pandemic experiences. Both expressed pride in their employees for pulling through a difficult year. “The pandemic has caused us to learn that our teams are capable of doing way more than we would have ever guessed, ever expected”, said Rodney McMullen. 

A subsequent special session, “See Through the Looking Glass: A Sneak Peek at Consumption in the Post COVID-19 Era”, continued this discussion in the context of predictive analytics. Oliver Wright, Senior Managing Director and Consumer Goods & Services Global Lead at Accenture, shared insights from the company’s growth analytics team, which suggested “a huge increase in recreation and culture as consumers seek to accelerate the move to lifestyles that better blend work and play” coming out of the pandemic. 

Helping Consumers Live Better Lives

In addition to recapping the events of 2020, today’s programme picked up topics that were first proposed in Vancouver two years ago. Experts from Kearney, who hosted a 2019 plenary on the imperative of developing a platform strategy, reconvened to help delegates tackle the next step: execution. These online spaces offer “an opportunity to increase profitable growth, creating a delightful customer experience, and a place where community, content, lifestyle services and commerce co-exist”, said Mirko Warschun, a Senior Partner at Kearney.

Consumer health and wellness, perennial concerns at the CGF, also appeared on the agenda. A special session hosted by AlixPartners discussed bridging the gap between consumers’ desires to improve their health and their ability to meet their goals through better-for-you products. “There is a clear demand for more, better products in this space, so much so that if healthier, more natural products are not already a core part of your growth strategy, we would strongly suggest that they should be,” said Tony Reynolds, Director of AlixPartners. 

Global Perspectives from Local Experts

The virtual platform of the 2021 Global Summit allowed for diverse geographical representation among both delegates and speakers. As a benefit of that diversity, two of today’s plenary sessions spotlighted regions that are sometimes overlooked on the global stage: Russia and the Middle East. 

Ofra Strauss, Chairperson of Strauss Group, Israel’s second-largest food manufacturer, shared a perspective on a region where companies are learning to adapt to volatility. During the pandemic, her company went “back to the basics of what we are as a food industry, of making people feel safe, feel that they will not be hungry,” she said, adding that her generation, born after the Second World War, never thought that they would have to worry about the availability of food. Meanwhile, Jan Dunning, CEO of Magnit, a Russian retailer, shared how his company used the pandemic to accelerate digitisation and empower branch leaders towards greater autonomy. Both were enthusiastic about the potential to feed consumers in their regions more effectively with new technologies.  

The Summit’s virtual networking platform offered further opportunities to share and learn from international perspectives. In virtual meetings, chat rooms and invite-only sessions for CEOs, delegates met their counterparts around the globe, made connections and began to lay the groundwork for real-world collaboration and change.

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About The Consumer Goods Forum
The Consumer Goods Forum (“CGF”) is a global, parity-based industry network that is driven by its members to encourage the global adoption of practices and standards that serves the consumer goods industry worldwide. It brings together the CEOs and senior management of some 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries, and it reflects the diversity of the industry in geography, size, product category and format. Its member companies have combined sales of EUR 3.5 trillion and directly employ nearly 10 million people, with a further 90 million related jobs estimated along the value chain. It is governed by its Board of Directors, which comprises 57 manufacturer and retailer CEOs. For more information, please visit: www.theconsumergoodsforum.com.
For further information, please contact:
Lee Green, Director, Communications, The Consumer Goods Forum

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