Observations from ECRM: Everyone Sells to Trader Joe's
I'm finishing up my third day at ECRM's private brands food conference here in Dallas, an amazing event that gives suppliers 20 minutes to pitch their products to retailers. If you've never been to one of these, I'd tell you it most resembles the first day of high school when you're running around trying to find your next room, learning about new subjects and hoping you remember enough to find your way around the next day. Here, it's all about hoping you make sales. Suppliers set up their wares in rooms throughout the hotel and buyers run from place to place, limited to either 10 minutes or 20 minutes in each room.
I've been visiting suppliers, accompanying our ad sales folks, discussing why our editorial product is the most innovative, most informative covering the world of private label.
My observations about the event:
There are a slew of non-U.S.-based suppliers here all trying to grab a slice of the U.S. private label market. In a market like private label where price counts for almost everything, I would guess lower-cost foreign producers would have a built-in advantage in capturing market share, if they can produce the desired quality products.
Everyone wants to say they sell to Trader Joe's, Costco, Aldi and Walmart, in that order. It's amazing to me that Trader Joe could have so many suppliers but obviously selling to Trader Joe's is the gold medal of the private label supplier Olympics.
Food suppliers are really hoping that the Nutrition Keys front-of-package labeling system unveiled by the industry earlier this year will keep the government from mandating a new front-of-package system. As one of our PLBuyer roundtable participants summed it up, the food industry would like to be list everything that's good in a product on the package while the government wants them to list everything that's bad or harmful in the product.
Food safety is a complex issue that processors need to spend a lot of time worrying about even if they don't talk about it publicly. The food safety panel which ended the sessions at the show covered complex topics about plant certification, worries about radiation from Japan impacting food suppliers, genetically modified raw ingredients – it was the most involved discussion of the meeting.
A fascinating few days.