Private Label Buyer
Cover Story

Turning Insights Into Action

PLBuyer brings the private label industry back to Chicago for its second annual live conference.

June 4, 2013
PLB360 2013 conference preview

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For the second year in a row, the private label industry will gather in June in Chicago to talk, listen, and learn about the world they live in and the role private label

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PLB360 2013 conference preview

is playing in a variety of ways.

On the heels of a successful debut in 2012, the PLB360 Conference opens June 11 with a store tour of the newest flagship Walgreens store in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. Over the next two days, attendees will visit an opening reception with an address from Todd Hale of Nielsen, they’ll hear insights from the head of private label programs at Sam’s Club and Walgreens, be a part of the unveiling of groundbreaking new research, and get the chance to chat and mingle with other members of the retail and supplier community in private label.

“I enjoy both the opportunity to share my knowledge with others, and also listen to other industry thought leaders,” said Terry Lee, a partner at The Partnering Group and a speaker at both of the PLBuyer conferences.

Where We Came From

The inaugural PLBuyer conference in 2012 was an instant hit. The speaker lineup was the first major success, with the heads of private label at Safeway, Supervalu, Family Dollar, Price Chopper and Longo Brothers Fruit Markets leading the bill.

Their presentations brought the expertise of their companies and their staff to the forefront, allowing attendees to get a good look at the landscape in private label around grocery and dollar stores.

“I enjoyed the conference very much,” said, Jeff LeRoy, then-vice president of sales at Federated Group. “I thought the speakers were very much on task. There were some highly qualified people that spoke on some very industry-appropriate topics, and a lot of good information.”

The setting, with about 140 attendees, also allowed the kind of interaction after presentations that is unusual at many conferences.

“We had somewhat of an intimate setting where we were actually able to speak to the speakers after they spoke,” said Gayle DiMaggio, director of private label brands for Heritage Foods. “And that’s important because you might see them on stage, but you never get a chance to maybe do a 1-on-1, which is probably easier for me than raising your hand and asking a question. So I thought that was invaluable.”

The agenda also included some top analysts and design companies discussing how private label worked in product development, marketing, and merchandising.

“I definitely heard some interesting content around consumers’ attitudes toward store brands, how they’re changing, how they’re evolving, and I’m definitely leaving better informed,” said Joe Ennen, vice president of consumer brands at Safeway.

The show was designed as a place for retailers in private label to be able to gather with other retailers and exchange best practices and ideas, meet with each other in a non-competitive forum, and discuss how to work to push the industry forward.

But Patrick Gallagher, vice president of sales at Tribeca Oven, said suppliers could gain plenty from the show as well.

“This was a great show for manufacturers as well as retailers to get together, share ideas, and share the wisdom on how we can continue to move the private

“This was a great show for manufacturers as well as retailers to get together, share ideas, and share the wisdom on how we can continue to move the private label business forward,” he said.

label business forward,” he said. “Really, it’s not just about connecting with the retailers, but there’s a lot of other fellow manufacturers that are out here that really have great ideas on how to move a brand forward.”

Beyond the agenda itself, the format allowed for attendees to have the time and space to talk, catch up with old friends, make new ones, and find others in private label whom they could talk with about the news of the day.

Whether that was the private label food evaluations, the evening receptions, or the Category Colonel awards presentation, giving attendees the ability to network was a key component of the first PLBuyer conference.

“There was a great opportunity to meet people we’re not doing business with today,” Ennen said. “I got a chance to learn some of the great things that they’re doing with their companies.”

Moving To Today

So as the second conference began forming in the fall, we listened to what we heard from attendees the first time around. And there wasn’t a lot we needed to change. Everyone who answered our post-conference survey said they would recommend the conference to a colleague, which meant we had done much right the first time around.

We went about bringing more to the table this time, and expanding our view of private label. After putting together a speaker lineup heavy on grocery, we went out and got Walgreens and Sam’s Club to be the first speakers for this year’s conference. We brought Lee back to speak on the dollar channel. We put together a convenience store presentation that will feature Kum & Go. And we got Christopher Durham and Perry Seelert to provide a breakdown of their research on Walmart’s private brands.

We brought in Daymon to talk about category management, and FMI and Trace One to discuss traceability and food safety. Truly, this was a broader look at private label, a way to find ideas and trends that stretch across categories and channels and store size. Methods that could apply to anyone working in private label today.

Paul Hunt, the vice president of proprietary brands at Sam’s Club, was an attendee at the first conference and will start Wednesday’s program with a look at the company’s Simply Right program.

“Always networking is important,” he said. “I also look forward to hearing the other speakers. I took away some great ‘nuggets’ last year that helped me communicate more effectively with my merchants last year.”

That was a goal of our theme for 2013 – Turning Insights Into Action. The Insight and Action tracks that we set up for Wednesday’s agenda focus on macro and micro looks at private label, with presentations from top industry firms such as IRI, Mintel, Perception Research Services, and Schawk. In addition, we’ll open the day Wednesday in a joint presentation with Retail Systems Research and IRI on groundbreaking research we’ll unveil to the industry for the first time.

It’s the combination of retailers talking to retailers, of research and data and analysis on the industry presented to the industry, that makes the event stand out.

“(It’s) exposure to new ways of thinking about private brands,” Hunt said. “What’s the latest science, and how are retailers adopting it?”

“(It’s) the latest development and insights in the industry,” Lee added.

And along with the speakers and presentations, there will again be product evaluations, as attendees will sample private label and branded products to give their view on how they perform. The store tour of Walgreens not only provides a glimpse at the chain’s latest direction, but a chance to gather questions to ask Vice President of Retail Brands Moe Alkemade after his presentation on Thursday.

The opening night reception brings attendees together to learn from Hale and Nielsen’s insights, then talk about it over a drink. The top suppliers in the industry will be honored Wednesday night at the Category Colonels award reception, bringing a contest voted on by our readers to the readers in our audience.

 All in all, three days of insights that private label leaders can turn into actions when they return home. That’s the promise of PLB360, the reality that began a year ago that returns in early summer again this year.