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Supermarkets Keen on Private Label Meals

The Private Label Manufacturing Association show opened this weekend, but the adjoining hotels were a flurry of activity well before that as buyers and manufacturers met to discuss opportunities. Several retailers I had contacted in the past were seeking me out to expand their private label horizons. Here's a bit of what I experienced.

A handful of companies were entering the private label arena and simply wanted help sourcing "low-hanging fruit" items, such as pantry staples and basic dairy and frozen items; others had well-established private label programs and were looking for my guidance in terms of expanding their value-added items as well as the potential development of unique, signature items which would allow them to set a price point with no NBE (national brand equivalent) reference point... translating into higher margins with no competition to price against.

This is where retailers seek out reliable suppliers of innovative products that will resonate with their customer base.

Most retailers stated more or less the same thing, regardless of the stage of development of their programs: We want simple, healthy meal solution options, whether we're talking about commodities or value-added products.

Customers seem to be cooking more and eating out less, so many retailers wanted to offer straightforward products complete with recipes and serving suggestions. The retailers I spoke with seemed to have less interest in fully-prepared meals, but instead wanted to give their customers alternatives to these items by offering the necessary ingredients to create flavorful, healthy meals with little fuss.

Although consumers are cutting back on dining out, the experience of fine eating is one that retailers can capitalize upon by offering high-quality ingredients at decent prices.

The message is loud and clear: Customers appreciate value and have come to understand that store brands can be just as good as or even better than their national brand counterpart. So, what's on your shelves?