For the Consumer Packaged Goods industry, 2018 has already shown itself to be the year when norms will be challenged. From the lack of women in leadership roles to advancing technology’s impact on the business landscape, there are many trends to track. The recently held Food Marketing Institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference was an opportunity for industry executives to gather, discuss current issues and develop strategies for addressing change. Here are a few of the market’s current issues from the Food Marketing Institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference.

Women in Leadership

It has become increasingly more evident that female leadership is missing in many corporations around the world. It has become such an issue that it was the primary focus for the Food Marketing Institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference that was held earlier this year.

According to the research that was conducted and presented by Accenture while in partnership with Network of Executive Women (NEW), the statistics showed that there were 70% fewer women who worked in an industry leadership position than there was in a decade based on current attrition rates.

An Urgent Issue

Beth Marrion, Managing Director for Retail with Accenture, summed it up when she said, “Urgent action is needed to change these trends.”

According to NEW, women are occupying less than 30% of senior leadership roles and 15% in c-suite executive roles. This was found to be less than any other industry.

This issue isn’t about being politically correct. Industry leaders are increasingly aware that their leadership should reflect the demographics of their consumers. Subarna Malakar, VP of Global Diversity and Inclusion with Ahold Delhaize, emphasized that 75% of their shoppers are women.

“Our workforce should reflect the community we serve,” he said during the discussion.

A Lack of Flexibility

Part of the problem is the companies are typically not adapting to the changing needs of potential leadership. A lack of flexibility around pivotal issues such as maternity leave and other life changes are noted as primary hindrances to increasing female leadership. Also lack of institutional support and unconscious bias were named as key issues snubbing women’s advancement.

Setting Goals for Change

According to a recent interview with Food Dive, leading food retailer Ahold Delhaize “has a goal of achieving 50/50 gender parity between men and women in leadership roles by 2025.”

Their plan includes:

  • Increasing flexibility around life events.
  • Creating networks of women leaders within the company for support.
  • Addressing unconscious bias through training.

“Everybody is doing unconscious bias training, but you have to do it at critical stages like before a talent review,” Malakar told Food Dive. “You’ll never get rid of your unconscious bias, but you can at least be aware of it.”

Other Conference Highlights

Food Marketing Institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference held in January brought to light many of the issues facing the CPG industry.

  • Industry Disruptors Remain a Strong Force
    Amazon’s introduction of purchasing food online and having it delivered has heavily disrupted the grocery chains as people no longer have to leave their house to get their food. Wal-Mart has introduced other methods like ordering online and driving to pick it up in an attempt to counter Amazon’s success.
  • The Role of Technology Continues to Evolve
    All of the food giants know that technology has disrupted how food is purchased by consumers. Many companies are not ready to enter this competitive market as they vie for market shares against Amazon. Time will tell how they will adapt to the continually growing e-commerce channel and the disappearance of brick and mortar stores.
  • Transparency is a Growing Trend
    Transparency continues to be in high demand for consumers who are increasingly aware of and attracted to healthy, simple, and natural ingredients.


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