CHICAGO — With total U.S. sales topping $112 billion last year, private label products continue to outpace national brands. The latest innovations on display at the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s trade show, held Nov. 16-18 in Chicago, underscore a shift in the segment from off-brand to on-trend.
In its 34th year, the annual show drew record attendance with more than 2,400 exhibit booths showcasing tens of thousands of products. Marking the show’s largest number of food exhibitors ever, more than 900 companies highlighted capabilities in frozen and refrigerated prepared foods, ingredients, snacks, gourmet and specialty products. The increase in food exhibitors signals a move among retailers to broaden store brand assortments by adding new categories and more premium products, the P.L.M.A. said.
Healthy ingredients, bold packaging and innovative concepts emerged as common themes among new products from store brands.
Health in focus
Products positioned as organic and natural are sweeping supermarket shelves as consumers seek more options for healthier snacking. Claims on a number of new private label snack foods and meal replacements include whole grains, seeds, a full serving of vegetables, high protein, probiotics and gluten-free attributes, as well as no artificial flavors, preservatives and additives. Examples are CVS/Caremark’s Gold Emblem Abound probiotic trail mix, Aldi’s Simply Nature exotic blend vegetable chips, Target’s Simply Balanced organic seven-seeds and grains rolled tortilla chips, and Rexall’s Be Better gluten-free sweet potato kettle chips.
Store brands going beyond
Store brands are branching out with unique offerings and fresh propositions. Metro introduced indulgent Belgian white chocolate covered raspberries; Fairway market added a guanabana flavored Greek-style yogurt; and Trader Joe’s added a barbecue rub with coffee and garlic.
Colorful graphics and informative copy communicate product information, ingredients and benefits on the packaging of many new private label products. Vegan sausage-style crumbles from Wegmans, for example, are packaged in a resealable pouch featuring an image of the product with several nutritional callouts, such as “made with soy,” “recipe ready” and “low fat.” The packaging for Meijer Naturals bulgur and quinoa blend offers a glimpse of the grains inside.
A fresh approach to innovation
A number of recent launches from retailers present a novel spin on a classic commodity or staple. Trader Joe’s provides a convenient dining-for-one option with its single-portion turkey Bolognese spaghetti sauce, and Aldi offers portion and variety with a quartet of hummus spreads in roasted red pepper, cilantro jalapeño, garlic and classic flavors.
Living on the edgeWith more shoppers gravitating to the grocery store’s perimeter, store brands are landing in the in-store bakery, deli case and produce sections. The shift is seen in such examples as sugar snap peas at Kroger, artisan ciabatta bread at Ahold USA and home-style Italian fresh ravioli at Sobey’s.