ESM: A Year In Retail – Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit, Issue 4, 2018

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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ESM: A Year In Retail – Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit, Issue 4, 2018

In the run up to Christmas 2018, ESM is proud to present a recap of some of our biggest articles of the year, exclusively for Premium website subscribers. During the summer, we headed to Singapore for the annual Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit, an event that sets the trend for the year ahead in retail and FMCG. This article appeared in ESM Issue 4 2018.

Kicking off the day after the historic Trump-Kim summit in Singapore – indeed, many delegates to whom ESM spoke “ran into” the North Korean leader as he toured the Marina Bay Sands complex – this year’s Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit was always likely to be historic.

The theme of this year’s summit was ‘Consumer Centricity in a Data-Driven World’, and there were few continents more suitable in which to debate this topic than Asia, the most digitally-attuned region on the planet, where the merging of the online and offline worlds has been under way for many years.

ESM: European Supermarket Magazine was, once again, the media partner for the summit.

Day One: Asia Comes To The Fore

The opening day focused largely on the increasingly important role that Asia is playing in setting the global retail and consumer goods agenda. There were presentations from Seah Kian Peng, CEO of NTUC FairPrice, the leading retailer in Singapore; Chia Song Hwee, president and COO of Temasek, an investment company headquartered in the city-state; and S. Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, among others.


In his presentation, Seah highlighted the unique challenges of operating a successful retail business in the region, encouraging those present to develop more efficient retailer operations, converging the online and offline worlds, as well as build partnerships with other businesses, such as FairPrice’s relationship with Tesco.

Elsewhere, Temasek’s Chia examined how technology has led to a re-evaluation of what consumers value the most, which presents opportunities for businesses to harness their needs through the use of technology.

This point was also addressed by Anthony Tan, co-founder and CEO of Grab, the leading ride-hailing group in South-East Asia, who examined a world in which consumers “do everything” on their phones.

Towards the end of the day, Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organisation, offered a positive appraisal of the industry’s efforts to address labour issues around the world, encouraging those present to continue to work together to further consumer trust in big business.


Day Two: Findings From Global Giants

Following a first day that focused on the growing influence of Asia Pacific on the retail and consumer goods sectors, the second day of the Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit cast its net wider, examining global best practice.

James Quincey, CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, took the stage for the opening keynote. He said that Coca-Cola’s strategy is centred on creating a very consumer-centric portfolio, with digital as a catalyst to win with new consumers. Quincey noted that, in this digital world, where the parameters dictating the success and failure of brands is markedly different to those of the past, operators need to ensure that they aren’t carrying any excess “baggage”.

“We need to be courageous enough to kill off the zombies that aren’t working,” he explained. “In this world dominated by a digital mindset, the worst mistake you can make is not knowing when to innovate, upgrade or delete.”


Following Quincey’s presentation, it was the turn of one of the most eagerly anticipated presentations of the day, from Alibaba’s Daniel Zhang, who outlined how the group’s infrastructure was tailored to ensuring that its partners – small business owners – could perform better.

“We are an enabler, not an e-tailer,” Zhang explained, outlining the premise behind Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s recent exhortation that we are now entering the world of ‘new retail’.

“The thought behind it is that we strongly believe the online and offline worlds are not two separate worlds – customers are a single group of people,” Zhang explained, adding that everyone in the room is online “any time, any where”, so retail needs to evolve to take cognisance of that new reality.

Later, an eye-opening, anecdote-heavy presentation from Ian McLeod, chief executive of Dairy Farm, established some of the fundamentals that underlie a strong business, and how Asia is increasingly being seen as a benchmark-setter for the trade.


“If you are looking for the future of retail, the future of technology, don’t look West – look East,” explained McLeod, who was also responsible for arguably the biggest laugh of the day, recalling his many years spent working at retailers around the world.

“I was at Asda when it was great, and I was at Asda when it was terrible,” he explained. “I was at Walmart Germany when it was terrible, and I was at Walmart Germany when it was … terrible!”

Other highlights of Day Two included a panel discussion with a myriad of Asian retail leaders, including Nicolò Galante, CEO of Central Retail, Thierry Garnier, CEO of Carrefour China, Shafie Shamsuddin, CEO of Transmart, and Winston Cheng, president of international at, who shared their views on how the online and offline channels could provide a better experience for shoppers through collaboration.

Closing the second day, David Taylor, CEO of Procter & Gamble, offered advice to young leaders that they should stay curious, be willing to fail, and keep striving to make a difference in today’s world.

Day Three: Looking To The Future

Following a late evening at the annual L’Oréal party the previous night, it was a tribute to the inspirational speakers presenting on Day Three of the Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit that the main plenary hall was full first thing in the morning, and with good reason.

Ahold Delhaize chief executive Dick Boer kicked off proceedings in his last address at the summit before retiring from the Dutch-based retailer, with a call for more collaboration between forum members in order to address consumer health.

“When it comes to healthy, why are we not spending more money on prevention?” Boer asked. “We are in the business of food. We can promote healthier food, healthier eating. We have to not only talk about it, but do it.”

Boer, who, following his presentation, received a standing ovation, was then joined by Emmanuel Faber, the chief executive of Danone – a company that has also been at the forefront of encouraging people to live healthier lives, with its ‘One Planet, One Health’ strategy.

He called on those present to reinject “a sense of purpose” into what they do, or face a consumer backlash, saying, “We need to address this, or we will be the victims.”

Next up was Alain Bejjani, chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim, which operates shopping malls and other retail and leisure establishments in the Middle East and North Africa. Bejjani offered an interesting appraisal of the changing relationship between the physical store and consumer.

“Bricks and mortar has a different role to play,” he suggested. “It is now the theatre, and not the place where the transaction necessarily happens.”

Later there were presentations from ‘disruptors’ both old and new, with Sebastian Mejia of online delivery service Rappi outlining how the firm has created a opportunity “where one didn’t exist” in Latin America, and Masahiko Uotani, CEO of Shiseido, on how investment in the company’s people has helped the Japanese firm enjoy an impressive turnaround.

Noting that the company’s market value has quintupled in the past few years, Uotani asked, “Who made this happen? Our people, the passion of our people, the enthusiasm of our people.” It was a theme that was evident throughout the entire event.

Closing the day’s events, and the summit overall, was Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State of the United States – a timely choice, given that week’s historic US-North Korea Summit. Albright met Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, some 20 years previously.

On the socio-political future of the US, where protectionism is on the rise under President Donald Trump, Albright paraphrased the poet Robert Frost by saying, “The older I get, the younger are my teachers,” noting that a rising tide of discontent among younger voters is an indication of a promising future.

It was a sobering but optimistic note on which to end the summit.

Next year's Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit takes place in Vancouver, Canada, on 11 to 14 June, with an impressive lineup of speakers already confirmed. Click here for details on how to attend. 

© 2018 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.

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