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PERSPECTIVES


From food and cocktails to shopping, Get on reuters correspondent Martinne Geller’s beat

Martinne covers breaking news on the consumer goods industry across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Where are you from originally?

I’ve lived in London for over a year, but I’m from New York—born in the Bronx and raised in the suburbs. After college upstate, I taught English in Japan, which is where I got my first taste of journalism.

Tell us more about your start in journalism.

I was selling advertising for an English magazine in Tokyo and did a bit of writing for it, so that when I returned to the States, I was able to get a job at the New York bureau of Nikkei Business where I started writing business stories. I got a Master’s degree in business journalism at night and then went to Reuters in 2005

What other sectors have you covered, and which has been your favorite thus far?

At first I covered eye care, on the pharmaceuticals team, writing about contact lenses and macular degeneration. But soon I joined the consumer and retail team, where I’ve covered everything: home goods, shoes, fashion, food, drinks, tobacco. I’ve been lucky. Fashion was fun, because it meant going to Fashion Week, but fast-moving consumer goods is more exciting because there’s so many mergers and acquisitions, and people are really interested in household brands. Plus there are so many other issues—obesity and health, commodities, sustainability, food safety, science and technology, so there are tons of areas to mine for stories.

Which story or interview did you enjoy working on the most?

It’s always most exciting to cover big corporate sagas and deals. It’s a challenge to get the story, it can be very high-profile and there are often dramatic twists and interesting personalities behind the headlines.

Aside from my regular beat, one very notable assignment was being sent to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands to chase Allen Stanford—the Ponzi schemer. I didn’t find him, but I found his boat, his office, his interior designer, his real estate agent and other people that knew him—so I found a story.

Moving now to your work in CPG, what do you think is the biggest change or trend in the CPG industry today?

Probably the rise of consumption in emerging markets. CPG companies are racing to supply the growing middle classes in Latin America, Asia and Africa though growth in many of these markets has slowed dramatically, resulting in a string of disappointing financials recently.

What CPG innovations are you most excited about?

In terms of real product innovation, I think e-cigarettes are the most interesting, since it’s a new technology with the potential to disrupt the huge tobacco industry and reduce the death toll from smoking. But there is still a huge debate about their safety and regulation. Also, it will be interesting to see how e-commerce will change the CPG industry. How will they change their products, their business models and their supply chains as more people do their shopping online? And personally, I always think it’s interesting to see how brands you know adapt to international tastes—like red caviar Lay’s potato chips in Russia or green tea Oreos in China.

How has technology transformed your job as a journalist?

It has put immense pressure on the business. People don’t read as much news and certainly don’t pay for as much news. For us, it has become much more competitive. But the bright side is the wealth of information available through Google and Wikipedia and the connections you can make through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

When you’re not hunting for the next source or story, what do you like to do?

Well luckily, food, cocktails and shopping are all part of my beat, so I “work” a lot! But I also enjoy hiking, dancing and music. And I just took a diving course in Malta, so hopefully my new hobby will be scuba diving!