So much is happening with Giant Eagle's store brands that the retailer could fill up a magazine with all the news.
And that's exactly what it's done.
G is a new in-store/online publication aimed at building awareness of and interest in the Giant Eagle, Market District and Nature's Basket private labels.
“This new publication is intended to show you ways that Giant Eagle's own brands can both simplify and enrich your life,” Giant Eagle's president and chief executive officer, David Shapira, writes in the April premier issue.
G will be published four to six times a year, with each issue featuring eight to 12 pages. The next issue will come out in August.
“G is an opportunity to talk about Giant Eagle's brands in terms of the unique features and benefits designed to meet our customers' needs,” Giant Eagle's “own-brand” senior director, Patrick Cox, told SN. “The newsletter format allows us to build the brand through product description and benefits, whereas other, more traditional formats may limit the messaging to aspects such as price promotion.”
The magazine includes recipes, new product news and pricing information. For instance, a recipe for a cooked ham glaze features Giant Eagle-brand brown sugar and maraschino cherries.
“We can frame our product messaging using recipes, shopping lists and other ways that provide our customers a unique value,” said Cox.
What's unique about the publication is that it not only discusses private labels, but also how they are tested before they hit the shelves.
Giant Eagle's sensory evaluation manager, Sara Poynor, writes a column about Market District's “foodie panel.”
“Week after week, this panel meticulously tastes dozens of delicious new Market District products under development to ensure they're as mouth-watering and high-quality — if not more — as other brands and gourmet varieties,” Poynor, a registered dietitian, states in the inaugural column.
She goes on to describe how Giant Eagle also gathers the opinions of 100 shoppers before a product is launched.
“What this all means for you is, no matter which of our products you're thinking of trying, you can be certain it's going to taste pretty great,” Poynor writes.
Affordability is also emphasized. Giant Eagle's natural/organic director, Kathy Collins, stresses to G's readers that Nature's Basket products are priced 10% to 20% lower than other natural and organic brands.
“Not only will you be eating smarter and healthier for less, you can do it at your own convenience with one trip to Giant Eagle,” Collins states.
G is a valuable tool for differentiating Giant Eagle's brands from national brands and other retailer private labels, said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill., which released a study last year called “Center Store Renewal: Leveraging Private Label to Drive Growth.”
Wisner said G is unique, in that few other U.S. retailers have a magazine devoted exclusively to private labels. One exception is private-label-dominant retailer Trader Joe's, whose “Fearless Flyer” is filled with store-brand news.
“G helps Giant Eagle create a much deeper, more loyal bond with its customers,” Wisner said. “It's a way for Giant Eagle to romance its products.”
Wisner research has shown that the majority of consumers view private label as all the same, regardless of the retailer that sells it. But as retailers launch truly unique and differentiated store brands, they need to let their consumers know about it.
“If you're going to invest in private label, you need to invest in the marketing tools, too,” Wisner said. “Simply putting private labels on the shelves is not enough. You've got to promote it.”
An increasing number of retailers are doing just that. Last month, Target teamed with a television personality to help drive home the importance of its private labels.
Andrew Zimmern, best known for Travel Channel's “Bizarre Foods” show, serves as the SuperTarget Meal Adventure Guide. In this capacity, Zimmern will provide shoppers with tips on developing easy meals for their families.
The suggestions, which will be provided on cards found in-store and online at target.com , will feature many of Target's Archer Farms brand products.
“With his expertise, our guests will now have the opportunity to try new recipes that they may not have thought of before,” said Target's merchandising senior vice president, Greg Duppler.
Richmond, Va.-based Ukrop's Super Markets also recently emphasized the unique ways its private-label products can be used in recipes by holding a recipe contest surrounding its Joe's Market specialty private label. Shoppers who submitted a dinner idea featuring two Joe's Market products were eligible to win a trip to the North Carolina coast. Joe's Market is an upscale line of products that include artichoke with red pepper pasta sauce and cilantro and key lime cocktail sauce.
A Ukrop's official declined to comment on the contest, which ended May 3.
Another way retailers are building excitement in private label is through satisfaction guarantees. Charlotte, N.C.-based Harris Teeter, for instance, is so confident that shoppers will enjoy its private labels that it offers a double-your-money-back guarantee on all Harris Teeter Rancher, Harris Teeter Reserve Angus Beef, Harris Teeter Farmers Market, Harris Teeter Fishermans Market and Harris Teeter Fresh Foods Market deli/bakery items.
“If you are not completely satisfied with any of these items, simply return it to any of our stores … we will happily refund double your money back,” Harris Teeter says.
The retailer's store brands are also the focus of its Together In Education program. Running from August to May every year, the program contributes a portion of the sales of all Harris Teeter private-label products to the school of the shopper's choice.
Last year, Harris Teeter added in-store pharmacies to the program. Any prescription that a participating TIE customer fills at any of over 90 Harris Teeter Pharmacies will earn a percentage for the TIE program.
Meanwhile, Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop relies heavily on in-store displays as a tool for promoting private label.
“We sell the most private label when we provide a competitive price point plus offer secondary placement in the store and/or ad space,” spokesman Robert Keane told SN.
So along with ads, Stop & Shop uses endcaps and front-end displays to better compete with national brands.
Among its top-performing promotions that drove private-label share: a case of water on sale for $3.99 on an endcap display; and cranberry juice, 64 ounces, 2 for $4, on a front-end display. The chain has also had success with ads that feature assorted private-label products at 10 for $10.
Keane said private-label share continues to grow, and predicts the store brands will do even better this year as the weak economy makes consumers more price-sensitive. “In today's tough economic climate, private label will continue to thrive,” he said.
Responding to national brands that are using various promotional tools to compete with private label, Stop & Shop says it wants to be just as promotionally aggressive with private label as the national brands are with their products.
“We are committed to using the same diligent and analytical approach [as the national brands] when promoting our private-label brands,” Keane said.
“Our private-label brands are the best advertising vehicles we have. They drive customer loyalty and differentiate us from competing stores in our marketplace.”