Officially founded in December 2009, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a non-profit organization, is known as an industry-leading collaborative that brings together some 400 CEOs and senior management members from global companies that collectively generate a total of EUR 2.5 trillion in sales. With its headquarters in Paris and its regional offices in Washington, D.C., Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai, the association has staged some of their flagship events in Asia Pacific, such as the 57th annual Global Summit (Tokyo, 2013) and the 14th Global Food Safety Conference (Kuala Lumpur, March 2015). We asked Tetsu Tomonaga, Managing Director of the Tokyo office, to tell us why, among other things.
Interview Katie Lau
Could you briefly describe the history and goals of Consumer Goods Forum?
With its origins dating back to 1953, the Consumer Goods Forum in its current form was created in 2009 in Paris. We are the only global body that represents the consumer goods industry. We have an unusual mission for a trade association: we work with our members at a pre-competitive stage so that they can improve their business efficiency while driving positive change for the planet and its people.
We have four focus areas: food safety, social and environmental sustainability, health and wellness, end-to-end value chain and standards. We develop the best global standards in each area for our members. We develop free actionable toolkits so that they can implement our commitments and resolutions. We offer them thought leadership and networking opportunities thanks to about 30 meetings, working groups and events we organise per year.
Our events are usually attended by around 3,000 delegates every year, ranging from global CEOs to technical experts.
Please describe your organisation’s presence in Asia Pacific.
The Consumer Goods Forum Tokyo office was set up in 2008, when we were still called CIES (The International Committee of Chain Stores, a global trade association focused on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) retail) with many members based in Japan. When the CGF was officially created in 2009, Asia was already a key FMCG region in terms of growth and becoming significantly important for all our members.
We have since organised some of our flagship events in the region, including the 57th annual Global Summit in Tokyo in 2013, and the 14th Global Food Safety Conference in Kuala Lumpur this March. It was our first-ever edition outside of Europe and the USA and the second most successful of all with more than 900 delegates from around the world. We also organise local events like Japan Day and Food Safety Days in China. In addition, for 2017, we are planning a new regional conference with a global reach, mainly targeted at general managers and senior managers who run day-to-day operations.
Since 2014, we have placed permanent staff in Shanghai to manage the Chinese market, under the supervision of our Tokyo office.
How do you pick the destination for your events? What qualities/requirements do you look for in venues and destinations?
Our events are steered by our CGF team and by committees composed of our members. The choice of destinations is based on which will add the best value for our members and the industry. For instance, we held the Global Food Safety Conference in Kuala Lumpur this March because the region is important for the food industry. We are organising our 60th Future Leaders Congress in Rio de Janeiro because emerging markets such as Brazil are critical for the future of the FMCG sector.
Your events are attended by CEOs and senior management professionals. What are the challenges involved in catering to this kind of delegates?
Our audience are experts, so we have to provide them with forward-thinking, thought-provoking and unique insight, which means we are very selective in choosing speakers for our events. We only invite world-class pundits – either from our industry or from other relevant sectors that can add value and inspiration. In addition, our delegates really value personal networking. Therefore, we arrange opportunities for targeted qualitative networking. We ensure they meet the right people, either in terms of customers, prospects, key stakeholders and thought leaders.
What is the most memorable CGF event for you?
Our annual Global Summits are always memorable. That’s where the world’s best professionals in our industry meet to debate the latest trends, innovations, and design its future. This June, the 59th edition of this members-only event would take place in New York. A total of 1,000 global CEOs and their teams would convene for a series of panels, inspiring keynotes, thought leadership and top-to-tops networking opportunities. What our delegates like about this flagship event is that it’s not a tradeshow. There’s nothing transactional about it.
Then there’s Global Food Safety Conference, just held in Kuala Lumpur this March. Again, it’s not a tradeshow but a top global event for about 1,000 food safety experts where they can meet for business networking and keep abreast of key strategic and operational issues about food safety. The next edition will be held in Berlin in March 2016.
In addition, our Future Leaders Congress is always very stimulating and energising: it gathers future leaders of the FMCG industry for three days of interactive workshops, store checks and networking. About 140 delegates receive tips on leadership, strategy and operations from CEOs. The 60th edition will take place in Rio de Janeiro in October.
Do you have a favourite country or destination for your events?
I really enjoy Singapore as it offers an easy access and a lot of convention facilities suitable for events of the right scale for us.
As the General Manager of CGF in the Asia-Pacific region, how do you find your job?
I had worked in the retail industry for 37 years with 17 years’ working experience in Asia before joining the CGF. I love the job because I can make the most of my experience. In addition, it is a lot of fun for me to work with fellow Asian people who are keen to create a new society. The biggest challenge is the size of the region: it is so big and there’s a wide variety of cultures. I have to travel long distances and set customised approaches to better understand different cultures.
Any plans in the pipeline?
The CGF has seen a healthy growth in its membership and its events have attracted more and more delegates. We are focusing on providing even more exclusive value and content to our members, bringing the best of our global industry to our members in different regions, and facilitating better communications externally and with our members about the successes of our industry.
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