PL Buyer: Which is Your Private Label Food Retailer of the Year?

Discussion
Nov 09, 2010
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By
John N. Frank, Editorial Director, PLBuyer

There’s no question that private label food sales have benefited
from the recession and that private label is likely to hold onto some of the
market share it gained this year, even after the recession (finally) is just
a distant memory.

That said: which retailer working the food category has led
the way in making private label truly a part of its overall marketing and sales
strategy rather than just a nice-to-have additional income stream? If you had
to pick a private label retailer of the year, which would it be?

How about Walgreens
which, although not a traditional food retailer, has been expanding its food
offerings while also rolling out its acquired (Duane Reade) Delish line across
the country?

Should the honor go to one of the supermarket 800-pound gorillas
such as Kroger, Safeway or Ahold, which continue honing their private label
strategies or perhaps Supervalu, which has been working to increase private
label as a percentage of its overall sales? And then there’s Wegmans, which
always seems to be everyone’s favorite supermarket when it comes to innovation
and customer service. Has it done enough with private label to merit recognition
on that front as well? What about Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods?

Turning away
from traditional food retailers again, what about Family Dollar, which is increasing
food offerings and extending its Family Gourmet private label line?  And then
there’s Costco, which is driving hard to up its private label sales. Which
retailer stands out from that crowd? If you could vote for only one, which
would upcoming it be and why? Your responses will figure into our selection
of the PLBuyer “Food Retailer of the Year.”

Discussion Questions: If you had to single out a private label food retailer
of the year, which would it be? Would you say this was a particularly hard or
easy year to make a selection?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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23 Comments on "PL Buyer: Which is Your Private Label Food Retailer of the Year?"


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David Livingston
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I would have to go with Aldi. Their sales per square foot continues to rise and they have had substantial growth over the past couple of years. Their quality is among the best. Some of the plain vanilla chains have introduced two levels of private label with one being low quality in order to try to come close in price to Aldi, but not only failing to compete on price, the chains have failed to compete on quality.

Save-A-Lot would be a close second, but their sales per square foot lags far behind Aldi. Obviously the consumer prefers Aldi.

Trader Joe’s is the no brainer when it comes to sales per square foot selling private label. If they had more stores in more markets, they would be my pick.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
10 years 6 months ago

2010 was a great year for private label and I am confident everything retailers learned in 2010 will help them achieve success in the coming year. Walmart learned early this year that you can’t cut assortment to 1 or 2 national brands and Private Label. It does not work. A mix of national brands and private label is necessary to satisfy the all important shopper. This should give national brands some comfort. As long as they continue to innovate and produce great brands, shoppers will flock to their products.

Ahold would be on the top of my list this year with regards to PL growth, creativity and marketing. Overall if you did not grow PL in 2010 as a retailer you were doing something incredibly wrong and should quickly reevaluate your entire approach.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 6 months ago

I would single out Publix, a big regional grocer in the Southeast. Their PL is of equal (and sometimes superior) quality to the equivalent national brands. Their packaging is stylish and professional. Most importantly, their objective is to offer a good alternative, not just a low-price margin-builder.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 6 months ago

There are several excellent private label retailers that are potent today: Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Publix, Wegmans, etc. Private label is on the ascendancy not just because of the current recession but also because of the general and consistent high quality in PL products and packaging.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 6 months ago

Trader Joe’s continues to surprise and delight, while offering value across a range of products. Many others are doing a great job–Wegmans, Publix, Costco, Aldi, Loblaws, and Safeway and it will continue as shoppers discover the growing number of products that meet their needs. Retailers’ investment in private brand will continue to pay off in continued growth.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I will vote for Trader Joe’s too, because it drives the entire TJ business model, and has created a fanatical base of TJ bigots who visit every week for unique treats like soy snacks. Yum!

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I can’t say I’m a grocery expert, so I decided to determine my vote differently. I went into the kitchen and opened the cabinets and freezer/fridge. It’s Trader Joe’s in a landslide!

I also agree that you have to consider them since they’ve built an extremely successful business based on the private label.

Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

There are wonderful private label manufacturers out there–and they get better every year. If I were rating the candidates on a ten point scale, against certain criteria (innovation, penetration into buyers’ baskets, fastest to market, best quality, etc) I would feel more comfortable in suggesting where these players fall.

For example, Kirkland still rocks Costco. But that’s my bias–Kirkland fills a need gap in my buying pattern. In the organic category, I think Whole Foods may have given way to Safeway, in terms of bringing down barriers to purchase. Trader Joe’s wins in the retailer cult category, hands down. Publix wins best regional PL producer. Walmart wins on sheer penetration (Ole Roy dog food). It would be interesting to see the category entries for different retailers go head-to-head. For example, gourmet entries for desserts or lowest priced toilet paper, or something like that.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Hard to pick a clear cut leader with some great retailers doing well in different formats. Kroger, Wegmans, Publix in conventional, Aldi and Save-A-Lot in value and Trader Joe’s for innovation.

My dark horse candidate is Target with the great look of their packaging and the new Pfresh stores.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I enjoyed Doug’s method of determining his choice for Private label Retailer of the Year. We do not have Trader Joe’s anywhere close enough for me to use that same method. But I was recently at my son’s home in Baltimore; and was part of a conversation where the name constantly repeated was Trader Joe’s. So that is my unscientific method of nominating Trader Joe’s.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Criteria I would be judging on include: 1 – A minimum of 1% increase in sales mix for private label. 2 – Excellence in packaging, not copying. 3 – A minimum of 1/3 new unique items. 4 – Proven repeat consumer purchasing.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 6 months ago

Since there is no Trader Joe’s close, I would have to say that Kroger does a good job, especially on the staples, such as butter, bread, milk, yogurt, cheese.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I’d say Trader Joe’s because of the exceptional quality, but I hesitate to consider their products private label in the same way we think of traditional grocers – –I think of them as a specialty store (selling great stuff at a great price).

Publix would be my choice; they have a high quality product (much better than Kroger, another choice here in Atlanta), a wide-ranging selection, and consistent, good looking packaging.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

My approach to this request is from a shopper point of view, as is my custom. I too opened my pantry and took a look around. My vote goes to Meijer for their private label Organics line. The packaging is nice, and stands out on the shelf. And the price points are reasonable. But one reason Meijer gets my vote is because the nutrition values of their Organics line are outstanding. The products are generally way lower in sodium, saturated fat, etc. I’ve been reading labels more often over the last six months, basing purchase decisions on more facts vs. perception.

But the main reason that Meijer Organics gets my vote is that the food consistently tastes good.

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Publix, by a nose. Trader Joe’s in second, Aldi third. But a very tough one to call!

Justin Time
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I consider myself a private label expert because I eat the stuff.

That said, I would first choose Great A&P for their Food Emporium Trading Company premium line, America’s Choice as their middle line, Food Basics and Home Basics as their bargain entry line, and for specialty Own Brands, Via Roma authentic Italian food products, GreenWay organics, Hartford Reserve premium coffees, bakery and deli entries, Preferred Pet food and pet care products, Live Better for quality OTC health care products at amazing money saving price points, and of course, Jane Parker traditional fruitcake offerings.

Second would be Aldi. You just can’t beat their L’oven Fresh bakery bread line baked by Maple Leaf, their high quality preserves and jellies, soups, pasta products, baking ingredients, frozen entrees, juices, ice cream and laundry and cleaning products. Equivalent name brand quality at a fraction of the price.

Third would have to be the Walgreens Delish line. A high quality, stylish packaged line that has added even more credibility to Walgreens’ fine private label line.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Trader Joe’s #1, followed by Publix.

We seem to have some kind of consensus here, just a debate between #1 and #2.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 6 months ago

This is a P.S. to my earlier comments. I just came from a Super Target which made me realized that I hadn’t mentioned Target and Archer Farms. What an oversight. Forgive me, Super Target!

Trader Joe’s is an excellent private label retailer and deserves kudos. On the other hand, Super Target has a broader variety of both national brands and private label. And the innovative creations of their PL products and packaging are sophisticated and ahead of the curve. While I have deep loyalty to Kroger’s successful and sustaining PL program, Super Target could easily get my vote as the most creative Private Label Retailer of the Year.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Well it’s not food, but has PL Buyer considered recognizing Lowe’s home centers? Its PL Kobalt tools line is extensive and of excellent quality. Its line of home lighting products, Portfolio, is another standout in my experience.

While we’re thinking about hard lines, we might also want to consider Sears/Kmart, which extended distribution of its iconic Craftsman tools line to Ace Hardware this year.

In the potent potables category, I’d nominate Costco for its Kirkland-branded spirits (I favor the Anejo Tequila, but don’t usually buy the Vodka) and particularly its attractively priced French champagne (which is excellent, despite the anti-prestige label).

Lee Peterson
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

That’s a tough one with Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Target all being very strong players. But in terms of sheer power, visual connection and permission to compete with anyone, I’d have to go with Loblaw out of Toronto for in-house brand winners. Clearly, President’s Choice, no name and Joe Fresh could operate outside of the confines of the Loblaw stores and on their own. The clarity of offer, price positioning and breadth of offer are unsurpassed here in the U.S. Very nicely done!

Aakash Pahwa
Guest
Aakash Pahwa
10 years 6 months ago

Amazing that H-E-B never got a mention. An industry leader with about 33% to 36% of sales coming from private label, excellent quality, and loyal customer base H-E-B keeps churning out new and better private label offerings across categories year after year.

Their multi-tiered private label program that includes labels like HCF (Hill Country Fare), H-E-B & Central Market is deeply rooted in the South Texan grocery baskets and gradually expanding.

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
10 years 6 months ago

I’ll take the opposite view and definitely rule out Safeway. They have inundated our local Dominick’s with so many products it all looks like junk. Too much may be the answer to lowering quality perception. They may as well go back to the black & white labels.

Ron Margulis
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Wakefern/ShopRite has done a great job with their store brand this past year, taking advantage of the challenges facing Pathmark and A&P. The packaging and assortment has improved, but most importantly the quality is close to national brand standards. Full disclosure: My father and grandfather were members of the Wakefern coop.

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