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Albertsons_O_Organics_groceries.jpg Albertsons
Amid the pandemic, private label proved to be a growth driver at Albertsons, with sales of the O Organics organic product line and Open Nature free-from line climbing faster than the overall business, up 31% and 28%, respectively.

At Albertsons, innovation and diversity bring success to Own Brands

Retail giant’s private brand leadership team shares its strategies during PLMA Live! panel session

With one of the largest and most robust private brand portfolios in the grocery industry, Albertsons’ Own Brands encompasses nine powerful brands, 12,000 items across 500 categories and 650 supplier partners. Not to mention the nearly 2,300 stores they serve, along with e-commerce.

Keeping that all together and focusing on growth is Albertsons’ Own Brands leadership team, headed by Chad Coester, senior vice president Own Brands, and including Nancy Cota, vice president, innovation & brand management; Beto Galvan, vice president, innovation & product management; Alice Chan, vice president, sales & marketing; and Don Davidson, vice president, strategic sourcing.

The team gathered on Tuesday during a panel session at PLMA Live! Private Label Week to discuss what makes Albertsons’ Own Brands such a success, and how suppliers can better work with the Boise, Idaho-based grocer on innovation and new products.

PLMAPLMA Albertsons panel.png

Joining Suzanne Caputo of PLMA were Albertsons’ Own Brands leadership team, headed by Chad Coester, senior vice president Own Brands, and including Nancy Cota, vice president, innovation & brand management; Beto Galvan, vice president, innovation & product management; Alice Chan, vice president, sales & marketing; and Don Davidson, vice president, strategic sourcing.

“Everything is around the shopper and the customer, the end user,” said Coester. “We’ve been on this journey for a while, but with the infusion of talent that we've added over the last 12 months, this journey is expedited. And we're excited for that. We think that will fuel our continuous growth. We act like a CPG company inside of this $60 billion retailer with powerhouse brands. We have nine brands that we're extremely proud of. We act and utilize those brands across the entire store, and then it's all built on quality. Quality is everything. The second sale is so much more important than the first sale.”

Coester said Albertsons looks to surprise and delight its shoppers with on-trend innovation and blend that into the strength of its current brand portfolio. “It all comes to life with our 650 supplier partners,” he said. “I mean, they are truly partners. We’ve seen that more so now than ever as we've worked through the pandemic together and enhance to serve our communities. I'm pretty proud of the relationship that we have with our supplier community. And I think that relationship will continue to help us be successful going forward.”

Diversity plays a key role in the success of Albertsons’ Own Brands and the company as a whole, said Coester. “I think it all starts with the leadership team. We have a belief at Albertsons Cos. and Own Brands that we have embedded, into our culture, that diversity of thought leadership and team is so important to really be able to serve the communities that our 2,300 stores are in. And you can hear from the team today, we have a diverse background experience, gender, ethnicity. We're excited to bring this all together and really work on customer-centric solutions. We think that's a strength and we absolutely believe in it. We've really embedded diversity into our go-forward culture and strategy and know this is a point of difference for our Own Brands.”

Working with partners

The Own Brands team offered suggestions for manufacturers looking to work with Albertsons.

“The end goal is to get on the shelf, get into our baskets and at the register,” said Chan. “The things that you guys can do to help us is one, be flexible with us in the minimum orders that you’re bringing in because we have some smaller divisions and we have some large divisions, right? We want to be able to serve all of our divisions. Pack size flexibility for efficient store packouts, as obviously labor continues to get tighter and tighter. And then if you're offering shippers and ready-pack displays, if you can help us with the minimum orders on those as well, we want to get your product displayed off shelf as much as possible. So having flexibility in the low minimums or the minimums when you do ready shipper displays, then that's very helpful.”

She continued, “The other thing that our best partners do is they lead with insights with everything they do. We're being a lot more consumer centric. So any category insights that you can bring to the table, providing solutions that really help us stay on trend, sharing best practices and how we can drive our business and drive growth within the divisions, we'll absolutely bring that in front of them and also helps really build the case for your items in our stores and in driving more off shelf presence, leaning in on innovation.”

“Innovation is huge for us. If you have new technology, new innovation, new things that you're thinking about, we want you to use Albertsons as a test pilot. We would love to partner with you to really showcase that innovation or that new technology to make selling our innovation easier. If you have a sales team that's out in the marketplace, if you can reinforce some of our promo calendar that we've built with you, some of the off-shelf display pushes of the distribution, and then really continuing again to partner with divisions, to be our eyes and ears on what you're seeing, we want your feedback.”

Also important for new partners is understanding the retailer’s organization and structure, said Davidson. “We're a little different than others,” he said. “We manage our entire business kind of at that local level, which gives us that ability compete there. But that means we've got different price points, different promotions, different assortments at each division. And understanding who to talk to within our organization is really important. We've got a very cross-functional organization. People have mentioned that we act like a CPG. Know who you should work with within our own organization so you can partner correctly. That really kind of helps you be more efficient versus always going to the sales team. And then last but not least, we want people to have a ruthless pursuit of cost improvement. We're constantly trying to take costs out of the system. It allows us to compete against the brands and our competitors. So if you have that approach and you have that mindset, you can be successful with us.”

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