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Ahold Delhaize USA eyes ‘cleaner’ private brands

Artificial and other ingredients to be phased out by 2025

The next several years will see Ahold Delhaize USA adopting a distinctly “better for you” policy with its private brands.

Retail Business Services (RBS), the company’s services subsidiary, said Wednesday it plans to make its portfolio of private label products “cleaner and more natural” through the removal of synthetic colors, MSGs and high-fructose corn syrup as well as artificial flavors, preservatives and sweeteners by 2025.

Salisbury, N.C.-based RBS provides private brand products to Ahold Delhaize’s Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Giant/Martin’s, Food Lion and Hannaford supermarket chains — comprising more than 2,100 stores in 23 states — and its online grocery service Peapod.

The company’s roster of food and nonfood private labels includes Nature’s Promise, Taste of Inspirations, CareOne, Smart Living, Always My Baby, Etos, Companion, Limited Time Originals, Guaranteed Value and Cha-Ching, as well as the retail banners’ store brands.

“We’re extremely proud to make this commitment and deliver cleaner, more transparent and more nutritious private brand products, while preserving the great value, taste and quality consumers expect and deserve on these items,” Juan De Paoli, senior vice president of private brands for Retail Business Services, said in a statement. “At our core, we are about making it easier for everyday shoppers to buy better, and this initiative does just that.”

Going forward, RBS also will look to cut down on salt and sugar in its private brands and produce more allergen-free products, as well as bolster its guidelines for Nature’s Promise, Ahold Delhaize’s “free-from” and organic brand. The company, too, said it will promote transparency and sustainable chemistry practices used in products and packaging and “dramatically reduce” plastic and packaging waste.

“There is a growing trend toward health being an equal — if not a more important — value in food purchase decisions, and private brands have the opportunity to address this call. Better-for-you brands that promote balanced eating with wholesome, tasty ingredients will take a prominent role on supermarket shelves, in freezer cases, in fresh departments and throughout the pharmacy,” the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) said in its “Delivering Health & Wellness With Private Brands” report, released last week. “However, along with healthy attributes, consumers’ expectations of private brand products have intensified, and they don’t just want to know about the ingredients in a product but where it was made and if sustainable and/or ethical practices were used in production.”

The FMI report noted that retailers and suppliers are embracing “clean labels” — products with fewer and more recognizable ingredients with an absence of perceived negatives, such as artificial ingredients, chemicals and preservatives — to help differentiate private labels from national brands, deliver better-for-you items and build consumer trust.

“Shoppers are counting on food retailers, along with their private brands, to be a trusted partner in health and wellness,” according to Sue Borra,  chief health and wellness officer for FMI. “Today’s consumers are seeking out products that deliver key health-and-wellness attributes, and private brands are poised to deliver on consumers’ personal quests for well-being. All the trends point to the fact that companies that embrace health and wellness as a core competency within their own brands will be successful in the future.”

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