PL Buyer: Is Everything All White?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt from a current article from Private Label Buyer, presented here for discussion.
When it comes to private label packaging, white is the new white. White is also the new black, and the new yellow.
In short, white is everywhere on new private label packages. Retailer after retailer has been rolling out new lines and new products in packaging that is either all white, predominately white or includes white accent areas. The trend has become so pronounced that some are concerned private label may be entering a new generic era, a time when all private label packaging is so similar that consumers feel no particular brand affinity for one retailer’s offering compared with how they feel about national brands.
Not only packaging, but naming of new private label is echoing a certain sameness as well, adds one industry watcher.
“We are on the precipice of entering a new age of generics — Essential Everyday [Supervalu], My Essentials [Delhaize] — there’s no personality to these brands,” complained Christopher Durham, creator of the mypbrand.com blog and a member of PLBuyer’s editorial advisory board.
Others, however, point out that there is method behind the white wave sweeping over private label packaging.
“You’re seeing more and more white, I think, because it’s recognizable,” said Todd Maute, senior vice president/partner with New York design firm CBX Retail, and a judge for PLBuyer’s Design Excellence Awards. “It just merchandises better.”
Paula Rosenblum, managing partner with RSR Research, agreed.
“Retailers believe consumers are more price sensitive than ever, so they [retailers] are going to try to focus on more value messages than ever,” and white says value.
Walmart with its Great Value private label redesign in 2009 and Publix with its Publix brand in 2003 generally get kudos as the originators of the white movement. When they did it, it was novel.
Walmart’s Great Value went from “being somewhat invisible to screaming on the shelf,” recalled Maute. Ironically, now, Walmart is bringing more colors into the Great Value line.
Indeed, some retailers are using colors to stand out from the white movement. “Use of vivid color continues to be a critical design element for us,” Mary Rachide, divisional vice president for private brand at Family Dollar, told PLBuyer. “Despite the whitening trend across many other retailers, and in our national brand equivalent quality products, leveraging the Family equity is critical to helping our shoppers connect the product back to Family Dollar.”
Still, experts expect to see more white packaging before there’s less.
“A certain amount of it is ‘oh, isn’t that sheik. Isn’t that contemporary,'” commented Jonathan Asher, senior vice president at Perception Research Services. “But no matter what you did, to some degree it harkens back to the old generics. You can use white but you have to use it the right way.”
Discussion Questions: Is the trend toward white in private label packaging a positive or negative for brands’ positioning? Is signaling value over attributes such as quality becoming more important for private label brands?