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The Big Washington Food Fight


(Helena Bottemiller Evich & Catherine Boudreau)

Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, rocked food circles in late October with the news that it was leaving the industry’s most powerful lobbying group in Washington, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, amid disagreements about how to respond to changing consumer tastes.

The departure of a conglomerate that owns thousands of brands — from Hot Pockets to Deer Park water — was the most visible sign yet that the food industry’s reign in Washington is faltering as some companies scramble to adapt to rapidly evolving consumer demands while others are slower to embrace the trends. Long the attack group for large companies like Kraft and General Mills on legislative and regulatory issues, GMA now has members like Nestlé opposing some of its positions.

The splintering of the food lobby has been driven in part by an upheaval at the grocery store, where iconic brands are stagnating as millennials and moms seek healthier and more transparent products. But complacency and a lack of leadership at GMA are also to blame, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former member companies, former staff and other industry leaders in Washington. Click here to read more.