Back in March, we welcomed back our global GFSI Community to the GFSI Conference, which was hosted in a not-so-sunny Barcelona at the end of the month. It was amazing to bring the GFSI Community back together again after so long, but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have doubts about hosting the event in-person and in not offering a hybrid solution. However, having seen 700 people together again, everyone in GFSI and across The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is delighted that we took the decision and showed faith in our community to want to be together again.
People were genuinely overjoyed to see each other, which was so rewarding to witness and made the hard work worthwhile. Your efforts also helped inspire us: so much so that the CGF’s flagship CEO event, the Global Summit, which is also in person only and starts in Dublin next week, is sold out! This decision to host the event in person was fully validated after seeing the success of the GFSI Conference.
GFSI is known for leading from the front and we were courageous in committing to putting the Conference on face-to-face even when COVID was still dominant in many places. Of course, this decision was supported by a great programme, which was eclectic, but linked directly to the work that GFSI does.
The sustainability theme was more embedded than ever before – a sign of the times we now live in – and was designed to enable our community to see how the work we do on food safety is critical to sustainable food systems. We are now halfway to the deadline set by the UN when they launched their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we all have a role to play if we are to make the necessary progress. People around the world are struggling and the cost-of-living crisis is only exacerbating this. Food safety is critical to food security and in reducing food waste and delivering sustainable food systems, so it was a very welcomed addition to the event’s agenda.
Of course, the Conference also continued the highlight the work of GFSI – it is the GFSI Conference after all – as well as the work being done by our Technical Working Groups and Local Groups, which bring together topic experts who volunteer their time to help build capability globally and ensure safe food for people everywhere. Learning about the updates from the regions is always an inspiring moment for me, personally, as it validates what we are doing and how important it is to take the global strategy and apply a local lens when implementing it in our regions.
We also provided more technical sessions, many powered by our sponsors and partners, who delivered a deeper look into key food safety challenges and solutions. Given the broad mix of delegates, it has proven successful to have parallel breakouts on these topics, as people can then lean in and choose the topics most relevant to them. Year-on-year, these prove to be truly insightful sessions that explore case studies, best practices and help companies to understand the path ahead.
Today, as we now get ready for the next edition of the GFSI Conference, which will be hosted a little later than usual from 25-27 April in Atlanta, Georgia, we are looking for ways to deliver even more in 2023. Working with our global events team at the CGF, my team and I are, together with our Steering Committee, will be fully focused on delivering the best edition of the Conference yet. After 22 successful editions, this is no small feat, but we are up for the challenge!
Before that though, I will be in Dublin attending the Global Summit. As a CEO-led organisation, it is critical leadership comes from the top, and I’m glad that in the area of food safety this doesn’t appear to be a problem. Therefore, I’d like to give special thanks to our Co-Sponsor Dirk Van de Put of Mondelēz International, who has continued to be a beacon for us within our community and on the CGF Board. His support has been critical, as has that of our Steering Committee, who, like everyone else, were so happy to see each other in person in Barcelona.
To close, thanks to everyone who participated in the GFSI Conference in Barcelona; thanks to everyone who provided feedback on what worked and what we can improve on; thanks to all our partners and sponsors who continue to make the Conference possible; and thanks for inspiring me.
I look forward to seeing you again in Atlanta in 2023!