potato chips and other junk food on a store shelf in a supermarket

Consumers Force Lobbying Group for Big Food Brands to ‘Re-Brand’ Itself

October 2, 2019 | Katherine Paul

Organic Consumers Association

Think consumers don’t have much power? Think again. 

It may have taken a few years, but consumers can take the lion’s share of credit for bringing down Big Food’s $2-billion lobbying group.

Back in the day before Congress killed consumers’ right to know about GMOs, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) spent millions of dollars in California to defeat a citizen ballot initiative in 2012 that would have required labels on GMO foods.

That made the GMA and its members—including organic and natural brands owned by Big Food corporations—favorite targets of pro-labeling consumers. 

Brands weren’t too happy about that. So when a similar initiative came on the ballot in Washington, the GMA tried to protect Big Brands by illegally laundering donations to the anti-labeling campaign.

From then on, it was all downhill for Monsanto’s Evil Twin.  

The state of Washington swooped in and sued the GMA. In a statement, then-Attorney General Bob Ferguson said:

“Truly fair elections demand all sides follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views.”

True to form, the GMA fought the lawsuit—and is still fighting it. 

Capital Press reported last week that the GMA is asking the Washington Supreme Court to overturn the record fine the trade group was ordered to pay.

The GMA’s attack on consumers’ right to know inflicted so much damage on member brands, that one by one, brands left the trade group—and took their membership dues with them.

Between the lawsuit and the membership mass exodus, the GMA found itself struggling. What to do?

Rebrand itself, of course. The group recently announced that it will now call itself the Consumer Brands Association.

The GMA was once a $2-billion lobbying powerhouse. Consumer pressure led the organization to launder donations in order to relieve that pressure . . . which led to a lawsuit that tainted the group’s own “brand” . . . and which ultimately led the consumer brands that funded the GMA to jump ship.

Will changing its name to the Consumer Brands Association be enough to erase its sordid, anti-consumer past?

Time will tell.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.