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Kennedy: Store brands grow in popularity

Kennedy: Store brands grow in popularity

Expect to see more store brands at the supermarket this year.

And I don’t mean the dull canned goods of yore carrying the chain’s name. Rather, these products will have premier tiers and evocative names like “Simple Truth,” “Our Family” and “Open Nature.”

“The industry is prioritizing private brands through further commitments to space and SKU allocations," Doug Baker, a vice president at The Food Marketing Institute, wrote this week on the trade group’s food retail blog. "These commitments are very good indicators of category momentum.”

He noted that in recent studies by the group, 58 percent of food retailers surveyed said they plan to increase space allotted for private brands over the next two years, while only 2 percent said they plan to cut back.

“Retailers recognize that private brands drive exclusivity, loyalty and the overall business,” Baker wrote.

IRI, a Chicago company that offers predictive analytics on consumer trends, said its third-quarter survey of shoppers found them turning to store brands not only for price but “because of their positive perceptions of the value.”

According to IRI, 99.9 percent of shoppers – no matter their age or income – buy private brands these days. Some even choose to shop particular retailers based on the store brands.

“Private label is experiencing growth that outpaces that of national brands and has increasing influence on store choice among consumers,” says IRI executive Joan Driggs, who authored an analysis of the quarterly data.

Wakefern Food Corp., the supermarket cooperative that operates the ShopRite chain, just overhauled its private labels – known in the vernacular as “own brands” – by introducing food and household lines called Bowl & Basket and Paperbird.

The company expects to add nearly 3,500 products under the labels over the next 18 months, replacing or integrating existing store brands. The Wholesome Pantry organic line will remain.

In a Supermarket News podcast soon after the introduction, Chris Skyers, Wakefern’s vice president of private brands, said consumer expectations and competitive concerns were behind the launch.

“Shoppers who love us expect us to be on pace with where their needs are,” he said, and more and more consumers are looking “to be delighted by an ‘own brand’ portfolio.”

Wakefern said the new brands will have core and premium tiers – Bowl & Basket canola oil would be considered core, for instance, while avocado oil, known for its “healthy fat profile” and high smoke point, would be a premium offering.

Skyers said the launch is “the boldest step to date to ensure we solidify us as an ‘own brand’ player in the marketplace.”

Store brands are one reason for the success of deep discounters like Aldi, and traditional supermarkets like Price Chopper/Market 32 and Hannaford also have their own private-label lines.

In today’s competitive environment, not to have an “own brand” would be “a strategic miss,” Skyers said.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]

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