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Exclusive: CVS Breaks Down New Private Label Plans

January 2, 2013
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At its analyst day conference in December, CVS unveiled plans to redefine its Gold Emblem consumable private brand, to consolidate household items into a Total Home private label line, and to increase its private brand penetration from 17 percent to “well over 20 percent.”

In an exclusive e-mail interview with PLBuyer, CVS Director of Public Relations Erin Pensa said the company is delivering on innovation and first-to-market products in its private label division, adding value and meeting customers’ needs.

“Over the next several years, growing and enhancing our store brand offerings continues to be a priority,” Pensa said. “CVS/pharmacy offers consumers the convenience of a one-stop shopping destination to find all their health, beauty and household essentials. And the vast array of store brands and exclusive lines that we have developed offer customers an even greater selection of products to choose from, delivering addition value and innovation to meet customers’ ever-evolving needs.”

Pensa said that CVS had worked on the packaging changes to all 260 SKUs in Gold Emblem and the re-formulations of a quarter of those products for the past year. Pensa said the changes were made with the desire of “enhancing the experience our shoppers have with all of CVS/pharmacy private label brands.”

That meant a more modern look to the packaging for the line, as well as maintaining strict standards for taste.

“Updates include a contemporary identity and package re-design that embodies our commitment to meeting a very high taste standard for every item in the line, as well as a refined taste-test approval process used to evaluate every item that is branded with the Gold Emblem name,” Pensa said. “We are already receiving positive feedback as the first items with the new look have begun trickling into stores.”

The changes have meant close work with suppliers to improve and refine products in the Gold Emblem and Total Home lines. The process has gone well, Pensa said.

“We work closely with our suppliers and partners to challenge everyone involved in the process to think big when it comes to improving and enhancing our lines,” Pensa said. “This includes constantly testing and re-evaluating quality standards, and always striving to exceed customers’ expectations for the products themselves, as well as examining our packaging and design to make sure we are always making it easy for customers to recognize our brands.”

That goes for NBE products as well as those which are looking to meet more niche needs for the customers.

“Wherever we can, we also strive to deliver innovative or first-to-market products as part of these lines, which fill a gap in the national brands’ offerings and meet customers’ specific needs and wants, whether it be in the form of products that offer comparable benefits at a significant value, or items with unique ingredients or packaging that provide specific consumer benefits.”

Being able to meet the value proposition was important to CVS, particularly in the Total Home brand. Total Home replaces CVS Pharmacy and Round The House brand for home-care related items, but whether the product is NBE or value-added, it must meet value price standards along the way.

“Every Total Home product is tested to ensure that it meets or exceeds the performance along the most important product attributes of the leading comparable national brands, at prices approximately 15 (percent) to 20 percent less than the alternatives – and backed by a full money-back guarantee,” Pensa said. “By unifying all these products under the Total Home brand, and one easily recognizable logo and a consistent package design, we are making it easier for customers to recognize the line on shelf, and feel confident that all items in the line will meet their performance expectations.”

Total Home products include cleaning supplies, storage products, and home upkeep items such as batteries and light bulbs. The full line will be available by May, although select products are on the shelves today.

As for Gold Emblem, the new packaging and products will be available nationwide this month. And although three-quarters of the line kept its recipes and formulas, CVS worked to add and improve on a quarter of those consumables before the launch, Pensa said.

“We use a process that includes both an in-house taste panel and an external third party panel of professional taste-testers,” Pensa said. “We also continually solicit consumer input to ensure that our recipes are meeting their needs. After establishing even higher standards for taste, we identified the opportunity to improve certain products and have spent the past year re-formulating them.”

That might be new flavors for a particular line, as well as making some of the products healthier in their makeup.

“We introduced new ingredient guidelines to exclude MSG and trans fats wherever possible, and put key nutritional information on the front of the packages to enable shoppers to make informed purchase decisions,” Pensa said.

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