Retailers have gone far beyond the basics with their private label programs, often beating national brands to the punch when it comes to innovating on-trend products.
“What is really amazing is how good retailers have become in spotting trends and developing new products,” said Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association, upon the announcement of PLMA’s 2018 Salute to Excellence Award.
Also, Magid’s Consumer Attitudes Toward Private Label report shows that consumers are more open to trying store brands that do not simply copy national brands with “fake knockoffs” but offer something different.
“Ten years ago, all you heard were complaints from national brands about how private label was nothing more than copycats,” Sharoff said. “Now it is the retailers and their store brands suppliers who are pioneering and leading the way.”
Winsight Grocery Business takes a look at some of the top specialty trends that are helping to advance the success of private label programs.
Store brand frozen pizza has become one of the leading SKUs in grocery, according to PLMA Live, and retailers are having some fun with the category and creating pies that would make anyone say “mamma mia.” For example, Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s satisfies its carb-averse customers with a frozen cauliflower pizza crust for $3.99 and also offers a prebaked crust outside of the frozen aisle for its more time-strapped customers. If a shopper is looking for a fancy store brand pizza, they need look no further than Cincinnati-based The Kroger Co.’s Private Selection line, which offers highbrow flavors such as Tart Flambee With Bacon Lardons, Five Cheese and Marmalade and French Goat Cheese and Marinated vegetables. Also, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer has an array of crust options populating its freezers, including self-rising, thin, wood-fired and stuffed, and options with more Americanized but nevertheless off-the-beaten-path flavors such as Spicy Salami, Chicken Bacon Ranch and BBQ Chicken.
Retailers currently have the largest selection of cheese ever offered, making up 40% of all private label sales, according to PLMA Live, which also advises that attributes such as natural, artisanal and organic are most desired by consumers, followed by specialty, international and vegan. Also, Mexican cheese is among the fastest-growing categories in private label, according to PLMA. These trends are reflected in retailers’ private label offerings. For example, Lakewood, Colo.-based Natural Grocers just launched a line of premium products including organic and 100% grass-fed cheese. Among the most noteworthy offerings is Arlington, Va.-based Lidl’s new Preferred Selection Vintage Cheddar Cheese, which won a PLMA 2018 Salute to Excellence Award. Along with the staples, Kroger has gotten crafty with its cheese selection in offering snack medleys that include items such as cashews and dried fruit paired with cheese and interesting flavors such as its Private Selection Coffee Rubbed Italian Style Hard Cheese and Mango Fire Cheddar Wheel.
Many of today’s shoppers need not make an extra stop at a liquor store to get affordable, high-quality wine because retailers are coming in strong with private label offerings that would satisfy any connoisseur. Costco, Trader Joe’s and Aldi came out on top, according to PLMA’s Excellence Awards review, but retailers such as Encino, Calif.-based Gelson’s and even Walmart are upping their vino game. Gelson’s recently teamed up with Julien Fayard, Wine Spectrum’s Winemaker of the Year, to launch its first rose; it also added its first cabernet sauvignon and a white Rhone “tribute” blend from vintner Doug Margerum to accompany its existing its five Santa Barbara County reds and chardonnay varieties. Walmart launched its Winemakers Selection earlier this year, which includes the wine’s point of origin and a description of suggested food pairings on the back label of each bottle.
As more and more people move to cut gluten, retailers are starting to look for ways to make shopping easier. Perhaps most notably, Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi’s LiveGFree line has gained favor among the gluten-intolerant and gluten-sensitive masses. The completely gluten-free line offers creative offerings such as frozen stuffed sandwiches, quinoa penne and sweet chili brown rice crisps. While Wegmans doesn’t offer an entirely gluten-free line, it has worked products with the attribute into its name brand with sweets such as cookies, cookie mixes and cakes and a number of gluten-free pastas to choose from. Retailers such as Wegmans and Phoenix, Ariz.-based Sprouts Farmers Market are also making it easier for online gluten-free shoppers to navigate the digital aisles with search functions that allow them to search only offerings that do not contain the allergen.
Wordly flavors are one of the biggest trends across grocery, and retailers are excelling at offering fun regional fare. For example, Shoprite’s Trading Co. line won PLMA awards for its Garlic Tandoori Naan and Imported Artichoke Hearts from Peru. Wegmans stood out in the awards for its Pasilla Pepper Adobo Bold Roasted Chili Pasta, and H-E-B won accolades for its Central Market Organic Lemon Italian Soda. Kroger’s Private Selection line offers regional condiments that span in origin from right here in the U.S. to across the world. For example, the line includes Texas BBQ sauce, Memphis BBQ Sauce, Kansas City BBQ sauce, Carolina BBQ sauce and a Kentucky Bourbon Craft BBQ sauce. The retailer offers international flavors such as Korean Black Garlic Kalbi Marinade, Middle Eastern Shawarma Marinade, Moroccan-inspired Harissa and Red Pepper Simmer Sauce and Maafe West African Simmering Sauce.