The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit – Day One Review

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit – Day One Review

Chicago may be known as the 'Windy City', but luckily for the delegates attending The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit, the Illinois state capital was bathed in sunshine – a welcome development for those of us that had flown in from Northern Europe.

Following a Tuesday store tour that took in locations such as Potash Markets, Jewel-Osco, Mariano's, Amazon Go and Whole Foods Market, the Summit got properly under way on Wednesday with a call to action from the CGF's co-chairs, Frans Muller, President & CEO of Ahold Delhaize, and Dirk Van de Put, Chairman & CEO of Mondelēz International, to "accelerate the actions" being undertaken by the nine Coalitions of Action that underpin the Forum's activities.

Elephants In The Room

Calling on those present to address the 'elephants in the room' by asking them to sketch a flying elephant – some renderings of which were more polished than others – Muller highlighted some of the successes achieved in the coalitions to date, particularly noting the success of the Food Waste coalition through initiatives like #TooGoodtoWaste.

Elsewhere, Van de Put elaborated on the introduction of a new Net Zero coalition that seeks to set a common set of metrics to measure CO2 across the value chain.

"Climate is on all of our minds," as Muller put it, adding that retail and CPG leaders need to "speak the same language" in tackling this universal challenge.


The Evolving Consumer

Next up, in a session entitled The Evolving Consumer - Shifting Values & Behaviours, Sajal Kohli of McKinsey presented nine key themes shaping the consumer landscape. These themes included the significant growth from emerging markets – "75% of new consumers will come from emerging markets by 2030", he noted – the spending power of retired consumers, and the "amped up" brand exploration trends of shoppers.

He also noted that sustainability and wellness are becoming paramount, with emerging trends such as the rise of urban hotspots and the boom in social commerce influencing consumer behaviour.

Also taking part in the session, James Quincey, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company emphasised the need to meet younger consumers "where they are", through relevant and engaging media tailored to specific markets. Kathryn McLay of Walmart International discussed the "habit-based" mentality of consumers, highlighting the shift towards omnichannel shopping and the acceptance of private brands during the pandemic.

In addition, Hein Schumacher, chief executive of Unilever, stressed the importance of sustainability, urging for innovative products that meet consumer needs without requiring trade-offs.


"People don't want to pay more," he noted.

Rethinking Packaging

A session on plastic waste reduction followed, featuring Alexis Perakis-Valat of L’Oréal, Dame Ellen MacArthur of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and Galen Weston of Loblaw. MacArthur highlighted the critical opportunity presented by the forthcoming Global Plastics Treaty – "this is a massive opportunity," as she put it – emphasising the need for a harmonised set of rules to avoid fragmented approaches.

The session highlighted the importance of the Golden Design Rules, developed by the CGF's Plastic Waste Coalition, which seek to provide a clear framework and scalable actions that will result in easier to recycle packaging, and less plastic packaging overall.

Galen Weston shared Loblaw's success in adopting these rules, achieving 96% of the retailer's commitment by the end of the year. He advocated for the inclusion of these rules in the UN Plastics treaty to facilitate the transition to recyclable materials.


L’Oréal's Perakis-Valat, meanwhile, discussed the firm's commitment to using 100% recycled plastic by 2030, underscoring the importance of effective Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) systems globally.

In a session on achieving net-zero emissions, Anastasia Kouvela of Boston Consulting Group moderated a panel featuring CEOs from major companies like Danone, ICA, DFI Retail Group, PepsiCo, and Bel Group. The discussion revolved around the economic viability of sustainable practices, emphasising the importance of partnerships over competition in achieving shared environmental goals. The panelists highlighted the fragile yet crucial chain of talent and supplier relationships necessary for driving meaningful progress towards net-zero emissions.

"The game is infinite," as Bel Group's Cécile Beliot-Zind put it. "If you subscribe to that, there is no more competition between the same players in the same commodity areas. There is only partnership towards one goal."

After lunch, Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of L'Oréal, highlighted how the company is seeking to "revolutionise beauty through technology". He reflected on L'Oréal’s 150-year dedication to beauty, adding that beauty is a collective experience that fosters connections and enhances the retail experience, underscoring its significance beyond personal grooming to driving retail sales and creating a magical consumer experience.


"Beauty is not just a 'me' thing, it's a 'we' thing," he noted.

The day concluded with an inspiring presentation from former First Lady Michelle Obama, which lifted spirits ahead of the annual L'Oréal Gala Dinner, always one of the highlights of the Global Summit.

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