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What to expect at 2011 PLMA show

March 30, 2012
KEYWORDS wholesaler
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Douglas Merrill, a former chief information officer and vice president with search giant Google, and Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst with food research firm NPD Group, will deliver keynote addresses at this year’s Private Label Manufacturers Association show in Chicago Nov. 13 through Nov. 15.

PLBuyer surveyed vendors to bring you a preview of what you can expect to see, and hear people talking about

Douglas Merrill, a former chief information officer and vice president with search giant Google, and Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst with food research firm NPD Group, will deliver keynote addresses at this year’s Private Label Manufacturers Association show in Chicago Nov. 13 through Nov. 15.
Merrill, who was with Google from 2003 until 2008, will speak Nov. 14, while Balzer speaks at a breakfast event Nov. 15.
The conference will open with a general session at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, followed by concurrent sessions at 3 p.m. The exact number of sessions, speakers and topics had not been determined as of PLBuyer’s press time. Watch for more details on those in our November issue.
Sporting the theme “It’s a Store Brands World,” this year’s show will include a Viva Latino pavilion featuring products aimed at the Hispanic market. PLMA’s Idea Supermarket will exhibit products and packaging from retailers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America and Asia.
More than 2,000 exhibitors are expected to be showing private label and private label-related products at the event.
PLBuyer asked its readers what they plan to show at this year’s PLMA show. We also asked them what they see as the major issues, and hottest trends, facing private label as 2011 draws to a close (see tables, pages 51, 52 and 54).
Many respondents discussed challenges that are specific to their segments of the private label universe.
Asked the greatest challenge facing private label, Dart Container responded to a PLBuyer online survey by saying, “In disposable packaging, keeping up with the hottest trends of the national brands.”
Heartland Sweeteners responded, “Trading sugar consumers up to the sweetener category.”
“We see organic as being continually challenged on a value basis for new shoppers to the category.  Natural foods are too confused... need a market-wide, acceptable definition,” stated Organic Foods International.
“In the allergy relief category, it’s meeting customer demand. The sluggish economy has increased consumer use of PL products overall as well as in the OTC market. The challenge is simply to deliver more product to more retailers on a timely basis,” stated Taro Pharmaceuticals U.S.A.
“Finding the brand fit that has the right balance of cost/benefit for packaging innovation,” was the response from Ampac, a packaging supplier.
“Educating grocery buyers on how to effectively buy ‘quality’ olive oil and how the reverse action actually negatively impacts the category,” was the response from oil supplier Catania-Spagna.
But several others responded with more universal concerns when asked about challenges. “Margin diminishment is crippling a lot of the PL manufacturers. Input costs are climbing but retailers are flatly rejecting price increases,” stated Berner Food & Beverage. Similarly, Mount Franklin Foods, responded, “Commodity price pressure.”
Pricing pressure and margin concerns struck a cord with several respondents. Commodity prices are forecast to continue rising despite sluggish U.S. consumer demand, putting pressure on retailers and suppliers to hold down retail goods costs or risk losing marketshare.
“The greatest challenge is trying to produce an innovative quality product and keep the costs down,” said Wild Thymes Farm., Inc., a sauce maker.
PLBuyer also asked vendors about the hottest trends in their segments of the market. Answers ranged from new types of packaging to fresher foods to new ingredients and product categories.
“All manufacturers must be keen toward health and wellness issues. This along with getting as green as possible seem to dominate the present dialogue between us and our customers,” stated Berner, which supplies private label beverages and sauces.
“A shift to lower cost proteins, (chicken and turkey due to the continued high cost of pork & beef) and an increased rate of downsizing. Secondly, the growth of gourmet chicken links,” said Salm Partners, a maker of smoked sausage and hot dog products.
“Sustainable packaging; packaging with lower carbon foot print and better end-of-life options,” was Ampac’s response.
“Microwave safe, and silicon air-tight sealing lids,” were trends reported by BUDDEEZ Inc., a Missouri container maker.
Back on the food side, “Healthy alternatives and natural foods are proving to be on the rise,” reported Marfood USA, a private label meat snacks supplier and PLBuyer Category Colonel award winner in 2011.
In beverages, coconut water and ultra craft beers were mentioned.
Among the new products vendors who responded to PLBuyer will be showing at PLMA are gummi sharks, frozen skillet dinners, diced hot tomatoes, gourmet chicken links, sugar-free gum, new sauces, new sweetener blends and new packaging.
And while the show will take you around a store brand world, the next issue of PLBuyer, which will be distributed at the conference, will feature a special report on private label trends around the world, specifically in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
And while at PLMA, be sure to watch for details about PLBuyer’s special Design Excellence packaging awards reception for finalists and guests.

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