JoDee George

Group Leader, Account Management

Marketers face unique opportunities with GMO Food Labeling Act

On Friday, President Obama signed into law H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, which legislates a federal standard for foods that have been made with genetically modified ingredients. State and local labeling requirements for foods containing GMOs are pre-empted by the Act, including Vermont’s labeling law implemented in July of this year.

While industry experts and activists continue to debate who won and lost, marketers should get to work on understanding what this means for their companies, brands and products.

The two-year clock for written rules from the U.S. Department of Agriculture just started and marketers have a unique opportunity to integrate business strategy, branding and voice of the customer during this time. To deliver on this opportunity, marketers should keep three tenets in mind:

  1. A marketer must guide their team to stay true to their brand and their customer.
    Each company and brand should have a core promise or purpose they treat as their North Star. As a business leader, it is the marketer’s responsibility to remind others of this promise and keep the customer and their needs central to guide the team’s approach to ingredient sourcing, labeling decisions, and customer communication and education. In January, Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison demonstrated this tenet via a message to Campbell’s employees explaining the rationale for the support of mandatory national GMO labeling. She began her message with: “At Campbell, we are unleashing the power of our purpose, Real food that matters for life’s moments. Our purpose calls for us to acknowledge that consumers appreciate what goes into our food, and why — so they can feel good about the choices they make, for themselves and their loved ones.”
  2. A marketer must be the voice of the customer and push for clarity.
    A marketer can mitigate risk by maximizing clarity. Too often, a company’s legal counsel generates language and messaging changes that are developed without the marketing team’s input. A marketer is uniquely positioned to keep brand communications in line with strategy. Keeping language clear and matter-of-fact, no matter its purpose, will help your customers.
  3. A marketer must decide whether to lead or follow.
    A marketer needs to be on the leadership team that defines how a company will determine, announce and implement its response. The legislation, as currently written, presents interesting paths. While much of the news coverage and industry conversation discusses labeling, the Act only requires that food packaging declare inclusion of genetically engineered ingredients through a QR code, a symbol, 800# or plain text.Getting ahead of the written rules is not right for every brand. It is important to have a seat at the boardroom table to be part of the decision on what is right for your company’s culture, business strategy, brand and customers.

 

Now is the time for savvy marketers to go back to their brand promise and customer needs in order to choose a clear path that creates opportunities. Doing so will strengthen customer and consumer relationships and bolster a brand voice during times of constant change in the food industry.

 

Other BR resources:

 

Want to know how to begin? Connect with us for a discussion about what makes sense for your brand in light of H.R. 1599.

Sources: Campbell’s Soup Company and The New York Times

Industry: Agriculture, Food

Topic: B2B2C, Marketing

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