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Following The Buzz

2014 Begins in a Most Convenient Way

January 2, 2014

As 2014 unfolds, we will begin to see if predicted private label trends continue to gain ground as expected, or peter out over the year. Last year’s PLMA’s 2013 Private Label Trade Show was the biggest yet, buzzing with exhibitors reinforcing a lot of the trends we expected.

Perhaps one particular trend that cannot be overlooked is culture, whether we’re talking ethnic food trends, bilingual packaging or the culture of an entire company. The show opened with a speech from Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s. He 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. Anyone who’s ever shopped at a Trader Joe’s and experienced some of the best customer service there is out there can see that Rauch is correct.

As online grocers and retailers pick up speed, we see how they take their culture online.

“We have ways to speak to customers digitally that others don’t,” said Emma Fuerst Frelinghuysen, senior director, private brands for FreshDirect, in a conversation at PLMA.

New York–based FreshDirect has launched two new private label brands, Just FreshDirect and Cloud 9, bringing more private label competition to retailers in the metro New York and Philadelphia area (for more information, see the Dairy Category Insights article). At time of press, there were rumors that Amazon may be adding a line of private label food products and may weave them into its recently launched grocery delivery service, AmazonFresh, based on a report in AllThingsD on several Amazon job listings seeking managers and higher-level executives for its private label business. It wouldn’t be a surprise move by the online retailer, which already sells private label items such as keyboards, batteries and bathroom towels.

Beyond the growth of convenient grocery delivery services, the PLMA show floor was proof that convenience products will rule 2014 in other ways, as well.

While private label K-cups are racing into retail stores, and suppliers are looking to make them more sustainable, shoppers can also expect to see expanded coffee cup offerings into hot tea, iced tea, cocoa and chai tea.

More convenient ways of packaging standard food also stood out, such as 4-oz. vegetable cups for individual snacks, beans in water offered in BPA-free pouches instead of a standard can, and sauce pouches for quick meals.

 As we enter 2014, think of how your company can utilize private label products and services to develop a pleasant culture of convenience. This may drive shoppers into your store trip after trip. 

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