PLMA's Private Label Trade Show Comes to a Close

PLMA’s 2013 Private Label Trade Show was the biggest yet, buzzing with visitors and exhibitors reinforcing a lot of the trends we’ve all heard about throughout the year.

The show opened with an exceptionally good speech this year from Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, who spoke at the Salute to Excellence Breakfast Monday morning. Rauch spoke about how “culture eats strategy,” or in other words, how culture is what makes companies. As retailers scramble to differentiate themselves from competition across channels, in-stores and online, Rauch’s point that “culture is the one thing that can’t be copied” seems more meaningful now than ever.  He also made the point that risk will only come out from a culture of trust. For anyone who’s ever shopped in a Trader Joe’s and experienced some of the best customer service there is out there, you can imagine that Rauch is correct.

Out on the show floor convenience ruled the day. While this trend has been around for a while, it was obvious that companies are investing time and research into how to improve and broaden the appeal of their convenience items. While private label k-cups are racing into retail stores, making quick coffee brewing more economically feasible to the masses, Massimo Zanetti was showing Single Serving Pods, a more sustainable option offering 37% less packaging and a better extraction of coffee. Bay Valley Foods expanded its coffee cup offerings into hot tea, iced tea, cocoa, and a chai tea latte, which I found tasted creamy with just the right spiciness.

New, more convenient ways of packaging standard food stood out, such as Seneca Foods’ new 4-oz. vegetable cups in four-cup packs for individual snacks, or Jyoti Natural Foods’ organic black beans in water offered in BPA-free pouches instead of your standard can. Bay Valley also offered a new Marsala sauce in a pouch for quick meals that only require adding a protein, a trend seen throughout retail stores today. For baby foods in pouch packaging Andros Foods was the booth to see. Still, other products took on new shapes themselves, such as “rolled” tortilla chips from Snak King, a deviation from your standard chip shape.

Items that let people still feel like they’re cooking, without spending too much precious time where also prevalent throughout the floor. Baking mixes could be found from companies like Bektrom Foods Inc. and for even less time spent in the kitchen, I found break-and-bake cookies at English Bay Batter. Caputo had new fresh mozzarella slices, for quick sandwich assembly.

Spicy and regional flavors were taking over products at the show as well. Red Gold offered a new Jalapeño ketchup for example, while Mizkan Americas showed a new Southwest mustard.

Skipping the cooking altogether, Simplot Retail offered a new line of on trend coffee shop breakfast sandwiches and a new pretzel burger.  And for shoppers who can’t even make it to the store? Online shopper Freshdirect is launching two new private label brands/ Just Freshdirect will offer 20 new products over the next couple of weeks, including fresh organic eggs grown and packed at the Alderfer family farm, while Cloud 9 will offer good value on household goods, such as toilet paper, trash bags, paper towels, and sandwich bags.

The show offered plenty of solutions for time-starved shoppers, whether they were value items or premium products. I hope if you attended the show you made it home safe and find some time to relax this weekend. Stayed tuned to for the January issue where we will offer a more in-depth post show review. 

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