CHICAGO — Retail buyers from across the United States convened in Chicago for the Private Label Manufacturers Association (P.L.M.A.) annual trade show held Nov. 11-13 at the Rosemont Convention Center. A growing number of grocery retailers are turning to innovative store branded products to attract and keep loyal shoppers as competition between brick and mortar and online retailers intensifies.
The trend was most apparent in the P.L.M.A. 2018 Salute to Excellence Awards program, which evaluated more than 500 new store branded food and non-food products. The judges selected 53 products: 38 food and 15 non-food items. Food winners included Wegmans Organic CauliCreme, which is a frozen recipe starter made with organic cauliflower, water and salt. Accolades went to Trader Joe’s for its seasonal Rhubarb and Strawberry Soda, Aldi for its limited-edition Parkview Select Cut natural gourmet sausages and Albertsons for its Signature Select Chipotle Craft Beer BBQ Sauce.
Several winning entries addressed the plant-based food trend, such as Aldi’s Earth Grown Quinoa Crunch Veggie Burger, Sobey’s Compliments Naturally Simple Ancient Grain Steel Cut Oatmeal, and 7-Eleven’s 7-Select Go! Smart Clean and Green Cold Pressed Organic Juice.
Other winning products focused on distinctive ingredients or formulations. The list includes Wegmans Pasilla Pepper Adobo Bold Roasted Chili Paste, Wakefern’s Shop Rite Trading Company Imported Artichoke Hearts from Peru and Lidl’s Preferred Selection British Vintage Cheddar Cheese.
The innovation continued in the three exhibit halls, where more than 2,800 companies showcased products available for private label. Buyers embraced the innovation, as many want to offer more signature items under their house brands. This is because U.S. store-branded product sales have been reported to be growing as much as four times the rate of commercial brands, based on reports from Nielsen and others, with much of the growth coming from sales of newer and more premium product lines, according to the P.L.M.A.
"Ten years ago, all you heard were complaints from national brands about how private label was nothing more than copycats. Now it is the retailers and their store brands suppliers who are pioneering and leading the way.” — Brian Sharoff, P.L.M.A.
This includes imported products. Retailers are moving with haste and resolve to add distinctive products sourced from abroad to their assortments, despite a trade environment that is creating uncertainties for international suppliers, according to the P.L.M.A.
The increase in international exhibitors at the annual trade show has been an ongoing trend and was evident across all food and non-food categories. This year the show featured more than 2,800 exhibitors showcasing products available for export into the United States.
“What is really amazing is how good retailers have become in spotting trends and developing new products,” said Brian Sharoff, president of P.L.M.A. “Ten years ago, all you heard were complaints from national brands about how private label was nothing more than copycats. Now it is the retailers and their store brands suppliers who are pioneering and leading the way.”