NAME:
James Ford

CURRENT POSITION:
Vice President of Category Leadership

COMPANY:
The Coca Cola Company

TENURE WITH CURRENT COMPANY:
20 years

YEARS OF INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE:
30

GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY OF YOUR CAREER.
I started my career at Mars Wrigley in sales and then as a category manager before joining Coca Cola in 1996. For the next 16 years, I held a variety of roles across category management, commercialization, revenue growth management and planning at Coke.  After 4 years at Red Bull running category management and shopper insights, I rejoined Coke where I currently lead Category Management for North America and Canada.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST LEARNING EXPERIENCE OF YOUR CAREER?
There is no greater satisfaction and return than investing in your team and giving them the skill sets and opportunities to make a difference in the business. To quote the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

WHY ARE YOU EXCITED TO BE PART OF THE CMA BOARD?
I have been involved with the CMA since my first stint at Coca Cola, and I have seen it evolve quite a bit over many years. I feel it is very important for people in the careers of category management and shopper insights to have an industry advocacy association and the CMA is doing a great job in providing that direction. The work being done around omnichannel and eCommerce is crucial to the next evolution of our industry. I’m excited to be a part of shaping that work and the direction of the CatMan process as a result.

WHAT ROLE DO YOU SEE THE CMA PLAYING IN THE CPG AND OVERALL RETAIL INDUSTRY?
I think the CMA plays a critical role in not only tackling broad challenges, but also providing training and networking opportunities for the industry. Additionally, introducing us to new and innovative solution providers that may help solve a need or provide us with incremental insights is helpful as well.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED IN THE CATMAN DISCIPLINE GOING FORWARD?
The evolution of the shopper path to purchase and the tactical implications on space and assortment. With the ever-increasing choices of how shoppers can fulfill demand for products within a category, understanding where, when and how much assortment to carry will be a critical question to answer. Additionally, understanding the rationale and need states of why consumers chose different fulfillment options will be critical to helping retailers build a loyal shopper base.

HOW ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT THE NEXT 3-5 YEARS IN RETAIL?
Channel blurring is something we are watching closely. It was already happening, but I think you’ll see more of it post-COVID. And eCommerce, obviously, with more sales moving online. How will we need to flex our process to account for that? I also think DTC (direct to consumer) will probably become more important and adopted by some CPG companies over the next few years. Figuring out who should do it, and how to do it cost effectively, will be key to success.