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5 key takeaways from The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit

At The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit, which reconvened in-person for the first time since 2019, Vincent Clerc, CEO of Ocean & Logistics at Maersk posed an interesting question to the audience: When it comes to disruption, is your business riding the wave or mapping the current?

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic – arguably one of the biggest waves many of us will face in our professional careers – we are now experiencing the undercurrents that will shape the industry for years to come. We see this in the form of an acceleration of digital among consumers, their demand for fast delivery options, and their growing desire to live healthier, more sustainable lives.

This year’s Global Summit brought together some of the industry’s leading voices to explore the waves and currents within the retail and CP sector and what brands can do to weather the metaphorical storm. Here we share some of the event’s biggest takeaways and what they mean for brands and retailers.

Sustainability must be collaborative, not competitive

The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit was grounded in two broad and interconnected themes: sustainability and collaboration.

According to many of the presenters – from Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO James Quincey to Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Finance for Ireland and President of EuroGroup – it’s not enough for brands to embrace sustainable business practices or set carbon neutrality goals on an individual level. Rather, the industry must unite on a common mission and recognize the value of taking a cooperative and collective approach.

Put another way, if sustainability is an industry imperative, then collaboration is a force multiplier. To that end, many of the sessions, events and networking hours focused on building connections that would help the industry reach its collective sustainability goals, faster.

Consumers expect brands and retailers to play a role in creating a healthier, more sustainable world

One of the uniting factors of this year’s summit was the idea that brands bear some responsibility in helping consumers live healthier and more sustainable lives. In practice that means making healthy, environment-friendly products more accessible and affordable.

Our most recent retail and consumer product research, What Matters to Today’s Consumer, echoes this sentiment, with 7 in 10 consumers indicating they plan to be more vigilant of their personal health post-pandemic and 6 in 10 saying sustainability will be even more important when deciding where to shop and what brands and products to buy in the future.

But as many summit speakers pointed out, people can’t make real, lasting change alone. Brands must commit to making sustainable, responsible products. Retailers need to stock those products. Both need to educate people, through digital technology, in-store events, and other awareness campaigns, about the wide range of benefits of those products, for people and the planet.

Improving resiliency is at the top of every agenda

There is no question that today’s landscape is extremely challenging. Companies continue to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, while also weathering disruption from global conflict, a looming financial crisis, and the ongoing issue of climate change.

In this landscape, resiliency is paramount – and it is no wonder that many sessions focused on how brands and retailers can leverage data, analytics, and transformational technology to strengthen the business to withstand all forms of disruption.

At the same time, companies need to realize that data is only as good as the action it inspires. To that end, organizations need to develop a comprehensive, cohesive, scalable data strategy that puts insights in the hands of people across the business. It is through this exchange that organizations can enhance decision-making, identify issues, anticipate trends, and reduce risk.

Reinvention is a constant necessity

The rapidly evolving environment, as well as shifting consumer sentiment, means that companies must constantly reinvent. This is especially true of brands that want to reach younger consumers who tend to be far more discerning in their purchases than generations past.

In one session, “Future Consumers: The Next Generation of Food Fighters,” attendees heard directly from Christina Adane and Jacob Rosenberg, two Gen Z consumers and national youth board members of the food justice organization Bite Back 2030. Together they articulated what Gen Z wants: For brands to make healthy options available and affordable for all consumers.

While Gen Z may be the most vocal on this issue, many of their senior counterparts share their sentiment. Our research shows that consumers are increasingly drawn to brands and retailers that mirror their personal values and support their desire for improved health and sustainability. Nearly 7 in 10 of shoppers (68%) agree that private organizations can do more to help society and 6 in 10 (61%) expect private companies to give back to society during a crisis.

Brands need to balance purpose and performance

Finally, another common theme running through many sessions was the need to chip away at the idea that sustainability is a cost center.

At Capgemini, we have advised our clients for years that they need not choose between purpose and performance. Instead, they need to find links between the two.

This sentiment was shared by Unilever CEO Alan Jope who revealed that the company had saved $1.2 billion in costs as a result of sustainable sourcing.

This opportunity is available to all brands and retailers, be it through changing or reducing packaging to use less material, reformulating products to contain more sustainable ingredients, or changing delivery methods to leverage more environmentally friendly channels.

From takeaway to taking action: How brands and retailers can embrace the learnings from The CGF Global Summit

For brands and retailers, the final theme of The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit was one of urgency. With the metaphorical waves of disruption and their undercurrents continuing to reshape the landscape, there is a need for organizations to act swiftly and decisively to solve the systemic issues facing the industry. The heart of the consumer, the health of the business, and the future of the planet depends on it.

What Matters to Today’s Consumer

For brands and retailers, evolving consumer behaviors and expectations are impacting every aspect of the business.

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