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This month, Neil Marshall, Global Director of Quality & Food Safety at The Coca-Cola Company and longtime GFSI Board member, is retiring. Over the years, Neil has made enormous contributions to GFSI thanks to his commitment and leadership on the GFSI Board. His dedicated support for GFSI has always been greatly appreciated, and he will be sorely missed!

To help us bid a fond farewell to Neil, GFSI Director Erica Sheward sat down with him to discuss his time with GFSI – achievements, favourite moments, the impact of GFSI on Coca-Cola and what he wants to see GFSI do next.

Erica Sheward: How have you seen GFSI evolve since you joined the Board in 2013?

Neil Marshall: There has been a massive improvement in the diversity in the Board composition in the last seven years, which has been a major positive point in my opinion. The variety of thoughts and differening experiences has helped to enhance strategic thinking and planning. I was lucky enough to have been involved in the GFSI Working Groups since around 2008, so it was easy for me to go into the GFSI Board having the background and insights from the food safety community. GFSI is a special and unique forum, bringing together food safety leaders from major retailers and manufacturers in one room, to drive non-competitive food safety solutions.

Erica: What did you enjoy the most and what stands out to you the most from your term?

Neil: The people! The ability to make so many global contacts and connections through the GFSI global events, Local Groups and public-private partnerships. We really have made a step change in the impact of GFSI from the early days where it was mainly known as an annual conference. Now GFSI is a global brand that is recognised for many activities that have helped improve food safety across the globe, from huge multi-nationals to local suppliers through deployment of the Global Markets Programme. I enjoyed my time as Vice Chair of the GFSI Board with Mike Robach, supporting Cenk Gurol as Chair, where we helped create a structure for the Board governance which was then adopted by The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) for the other work streams of the CGF. During the last three years, I have enjoyed mentoring and supporting the onboarding of the new GFSI Board members, and look forward to seeing how they further develop the future strategy.

Erica: What do you feel has been GFSI’s biggest achievement?

Neil: Building the brand, increasing its credibility and awareness, whilst helping to grow the adoption of GFSI in new markets beyond Europe and the USA to improve food safety management systems across the supply chain.

Erica: How did your role with GFSI have a positive impact on your company? On you?

Neil: Quite simply, there’s been a massive impact at The Coca-Cola Company through three points, which I am proud of:

  • We helped change the food industry through our adoption of GFSI-recognised certificates for our own 1,000 manufacturing plants in 2008-2009, when we went from relying on our own internal quality and food safety management system, to the adoption and mandate of GFSI-recognised certificates.
  • In 2010, we mandated a GFSI requirement for all of our global ingredient and packaging suppliers, when there weren’t even benchmark guidelines established within GFSI for packaging suppliers to be certified. This made me become personally engaged in establishing requirements and helping to improve the industry’s global food supply chains.
  • Senior level CEO support and commitment from our company demonstrated leadership, which created a groundswell of support and adoption by the industry.

Erica: What do you want to see GFSI do next?

Neil: Keep on getting better, driving awareness and adoption of GFSI. Stay true to the value and belief that food safety is non-competitive, but be constructively discontent in pushing ahead for further adoption via the use of technology to assist with the reduction in incidents and recalls. I will remain an active GFSI Alumnus.

Erica: Do you have any favourite moments?

Neil: There are so many, but here are a few that come to mind:

  • the “grilling” I received from BBC journalist Adam Shaw on stage in Berlin in 2015,
  • the pop-up events in London, Barcelona and Tokyo, which always seemed to happen late in the evening with the usual suspects,
  • strong engagement with government regulators and the ability to enhance relationships with colleagues in the FDA, FSA UK and FSANZ,
  • the 2011 GFSI Conference in Orlando, where Coca-Cola and Cargill jointly sponsored and hosted the best-ever evening event at Universal Studios
  • and working with all the great people on the Board, past and present, who I learned so much from.

It has been a pleasure to work with the entire community over the last seven years and being a part of GFSI’s Working Groups for the past twelve! I can honestly say, I have learned so much and made great friends during every subsequent year.

Erica: Thank you Neil! All of us here at the GFSI would like to thank you for your commitment and long-standing support of GFSI, and we wish you the best going forward. We are all looking forward to the next chapter of GFSI successes, and hope to see more of you in one capacity or another on our continued journey to safe food for consumers everywhere!

This blog was written and contributed by:

Erica Sheward
GFSI Director
The Consumer Goods Forum

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