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The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit – Day One Review

"A crisis reveals what you are... and what you are capable of."

With this comment, Carrefour chief executive Alexandre Bompard captured the mood of the room at The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit in Dublin – while businesses currently have to deal with countless, simultaneous crises, they are showing incredible dexterity in doing so.

Bompard was one of the closing speakers on a fascinating Day One of the Summit – the first in-person Global Summit to take place since Vancouver in 2019 – and one of several industry leaders to take to the stage over the course of the day.

In their opening address at the start of the day, CGF co-chairs James Quincey of Coca-Cola and Alibaba's Daniel Zhang spelled out the challenges facing retail and consumer goods firms at present, with economic instability, geopolitical tensions and a myriad of other global issues circulating at the same time.

"Whilst the last few years have been tumultuous, the next few years will be tumultuous in ways we can't yet realise," Quincey observed, calling on those present to collaborate to drive "impact at scale".

Circular Economy

A panel discussion on the need to migrate to a circular economy kicked off proceedings, with Dame Ellen McArthur calling for a re-evaluation of the 'value' of packaging, in order to drive meaningful change.

"There needs to be an incentive," she explained, calling on firms to "design things so that they have a value" – after all,  if they don't, "why are they even created?"

A panel debate on the importance of collaboration followed, featuring top executives from Douglas, AS Watson and L'Oréal – all firms with one foot in the cosmetics and beauty segment.

This segment has proven itself to be forward-thinking in adoption of technology, and thus the conversation therein turned to the topic of the metaverse, which L'Oréal's Nicolas Hieronimus described as an "extension of the engagement possibilities for brands".

Douglas CEO Tina Mueller added that the drugstore retailer plans to open a store in the metaverse in the future, "because we need to be where our customers are".

Fireside Chats

The opening day of the Summit also played host to a number of 'Fireside Chats' with leading retail and consumer goods representatives – with each being refreshingly honest in discussing the challenges in the marketplace (perhaps it had something to do with the Irish hospitality).

Unilever's Alan Jope opened with a fair appraisal of the current period – "I'm a bit fed up of living in unprecedented times, I wouldn't mind some precedented times" – before exploring how the consumer goods giant is seeking to "make a positive contribution" with its actions.

As he explained, both shareholders and customers alike are encouraging Unilever to do more, a positive push effect that is leading to dynamic change. "The business case is becoming clearer and clearer – consumers are definitely choosing sustainable brands over non sustainable brands," he said.

Kerry Group's Edmond Scanlon is also a believer in taking proactive steps, using his presentation to outline the areas in which the business has successfully tackled food waste, using technology to address waste in areas such as bakery and meat.

"By extending the shelf life of bread and meat, you are extending the opportunity for consumers to consume that product," he explained.

Health Inclusivity

Brian McNamara of GSK Consumer Healthcare – soon to be Haleon – was up next, discussing the group's Health Inclusivity Index, an initiative to identify the drivers and barriers to health inclusivity across 40 countries.

As a key participant in the CGF's Collaboration for Healthier Lives coalition, McNamara called on those present to look at ways to "come together in a pre-competitive way" to address social health issues.

"If we don't do it, and if we don't lean in as an industry, nobody else is going to," he noted.

Digital Transformation

And so it was on to Bompard, the CEO of Carrefour, a retailer established six decades ago on a hypermarket and supermarket model, which recently announced its willingness to transition to a digital-led, omnichannel operator.

As he explained, while others might see Carrefour's hypermarket estate, for example, as a disadvantage, he sees it as an "opportunity" – particularly as consumers increasingly embrace a myriad of shopping channels.

"If we manage to build a seamless experience, the fact that we have all these types of formats and a strong e-commerce activity is an enormous competitive advantage, even when faced with pure e-commerce players," he explained.

Roll on day two! Keep up to date with the latest news from the Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit via ESM's Twitter and LinkedIn pages.

© 2022 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest A-brands news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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