The Brands and the Brightest

January 8, 2009
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PL Buyer’s packaging award winners spoke - and we listened - as they divulged their secrets to creating innovative private label packaging.

The growth of private label brands in recent years has paved the way for revolutionary packaging advances, particularly in high-end products and segments.

In our November issue, we presented PL Buyer’s 6th Annual Private Label Packaging Award winners - selected by a panel of packaging gurus, who pared down more than 300 packaging submissions to select 18 award-winning designs.

To gain some insight into how the private label packaging game is changing, we asked our winners how they define innovative packaging and what they’re doing to achieve it.

What follows is a Q&A with representatives from several of the award-winning companies: Robin Miller, director of communications for Jacksonville, Fla.-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.; John Bratta, director of proprietary brands for Warrenville, Ill.-based ampm; Ron Cox, director of marketing for Spartan Stores Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.; Jana O’Leary, spokesperson for Target Corp., Minneapolis; David Yandow, director of private brands for Food Lion LLC; Salisbury, N.C.; Deb Belcourt, corporate sundries buyer for Costco Wholesale Corp., Issaquah, Wash.; Julie Joy, national domestic wine buyer for Cost Plus Inc., Oakland, Calif.; Jacinthe Roy, director of private brands, Uniprix Inc., St-Leonard, Quebec; and Jennifer Oas, private label project manager for The Fresh Market, Greensboro, N.C.


PL Buyer: Why is innovation in packaging important to your private label program?


Oas: Providing innovative packaging shows our consumers that we are committed to creating solutions that help make their lives easier. We try to anticipate their consumption behaviors and work to improve our products and packages in order to make their purchase more satisfying. From a custom spice grinder program to resealable spice bags, many of our products provide ease of use and effective storage solutions that the brands simply don’t offer.


O’Leary: Our guests appreciate convenience, and they’ve come to rely on Target for innovative well-designed and unique products. Plus, innovation is key to building brand awareness for our own brands and cues the premium image of Archer Farms.


Yandow: We have created new brand designs that look more like CPG brands versus the “me too” look that our old design carried.  Functionality is extremely important; we want to be as good as or better than the national brands.


PL Buyer: How does your company define innovative packaging?


Bratta: We know that competing against a national brand can be a very difficult proposition, so anything we can do to reinforce the perception of quality is key to competing successfully. In reality, much of the time we spend much more time with our suppliers working on specific product enhancements, and work internally or with agencies in improving our shelf appeal.


Cox: Innovative packaging brings new and/or improved value to the consumer. This could include packaging that improves current product quality pre- or post-use, provides improved convenience for the consumer, meets a current demand or provides a new value not previously identified.


Miller: We define innovative packaging as any attribute that better serves our customers in the areas of ease of use, storage and transportation of the products to their homes. In addition, we partner with our suppliers to makes changes to the substrate used in manufacturing materials, as new technology becomes available.


Joy: We are looking for packages that relate to the product. If a customer can get a feel for the style of the wine in the bottle just by looking at the label, we have made a connection. In that sense, we also look for attractive and creative labels that our customers love to explore.


PL Buyer: How do you work with your suppliers to create innovative packaging that will appeal to your shoppers?


Joy: We torture them - mostly kidding. We describe in detail our products, ideas, target audience, price points and the message the package should convey. Focusing on current trends in products, packaging and lifestyle, we look at scores of ideas and artwork, and when it is right we know it instantly.


Belcourt: We go back and forth several times with our suppliers or graphics department (either outside or internal) to be sure that we are getting the message across on our packaging. At times our suppliers will do focus groups and share packaging concepts with our members to get feedback. We then take their feedback and make necessary changes, if needed, to be sure that the message is coming across to our members. Also, we have an internal committee that must sign off on our graphics - to find out if there are questions we need to resolve before moving forward.


Miller: We are constantly working with our suppliers to provide a world-class private label program for our customers. This program includes every aspect, from label design and packaging to the product itself. This is simply another way we can build trust and loyalty with shoppers every day.


Roy: For the visual development of our products, we collaborate as much with the manufacturer as we do with the packaging design firm. With the manufacturer, we assess existing packaging and the results obtained. We also measure consumers’ reactions through focus groups. We truly partner with manufacturers in order to make the most of their expertise.

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