Private Label Buyer
Doug's Drift

Keeping Private Label Ahead of the Curve

May 1, 2014

An instrumental factor in continually driving private label business forward is maintaining the current base of store brand shoppers cultivated through the years, while expanding that base as economic conditions improve. Retailers can accomplish this feat through multiple tactical approaches touching on marketing, merchandising, overall retailer branding (through initiatives like unique in-store foodservice; see page 14), and category innovation from value though national-brand-better (NBB) levels.

Thankfully, innovation is alive and well in private label.

I see evidence of that innovation every time I walk the aisles in stores all across the country—and rather equally at play in spots across every retail channel. I see it in the energy and excitement driving conversations with retailers and suppliers alike. I see it in the select product areas that gained notable to significant traction last year with dollar share gains of 10 percent or more (see page 10).

While targeted innovation at the value and national-brand-equivalent (NBE) product tiers holds significant importance in maintaining and growing shopper demographics, private label can expect the bulk of growth to stem from innovation at the NBB level, the products that stay one step ahead of the curve in today’s marketplace.

Many fine examples from this latter group surfaced at the ECRM Private Brand Foods event in Florida back in April. Ready-to-use smoothie mixes that combine frozen fruits, vegetables and other nutritional ingredients, making creating these increasingly popular drinks a snap. Chocolate-free (but remarkably chocolate-tasting) coffee candy that can use a retailer’s store brand coffee in the formulation. Truly yogurt-covered fruits like raisins and cranberries for snack mixes that can carry probiotic label claims. Completely new takes on the flatbread format that make the products seamlessly portable and handheld suited to both in-store foodservice and the freezer case (and ideally both, opening the door to a natural cross-merchandising opportunity and product sampling). And GMO-free seafood sausages (veggie-cased), burgers and hot dogs that are better than anything I have ever tasted in those ranges before. Period. And this is far from my first rodeo.

Quite often, the linchpin in NBB is still value. While these products clearly occupy a more-premium position, they can typically undercut what shoppers consider standard premium price points, made possible through tight supply-chain logistics, vertical integration, diminished marketing cost inputs and other tactics.

 But the shopper will just see premium, truly unique, delicious products that can save them a few bucks each time around—products that resonate with them and become regular purchases. And that’s a supremely sustainable business proposition.