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Private-label_hot_entrees-Quick_&_Easy_brand.jpg Russell Redman
PLMA said grocery stores have become more competitive with restaurant takeout than ever before, including through private-label prepared foods.

PLMA annual trade show to put spotlight on foodservice

Demand for affordable, restaurant-style meals expected to rise as pandemic recedes

With the COVID-19 pandemic easing and online grocery still booming, the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) plans to highlight foodservice at its annual Private Label Trade Show.

PLMA announced this week that the 2021 Private Label Trade Show, to be held in-person on Nov. 14 to 16 in Chicago, will feature expanded participation by foodservice suppliers across food, nonfood and beverage categories. Overall, the event is expected to draw more than 2,000 exhibitors and over 5,000 visitors.

Grocery stores have become more competitive with restaurant takeout than ever before, PLMA said, citing a spike in demand for prepackaged, ready-to-eat prepared foods, more convenient snacks and meals to go as many consumers tire of the months of cooking at home during the pandemic. At the same time, the New York-based association noted, a surge of in-app and online ordering for home delivery and curbside pickup have blurred the lines between retail grocery, convenience and restaurant channels.

According to PLMA Vice President Anthony Aloia, all signs are pointing to growth in private-label foodservice as more Americans get vaccinated and the incidence of COVID-19 recedes.

“Consumers have become more accustomed to finding freshly made, restaurant-style meals in supermarkets — whether prepared by in-store bakery, deli and meat departments, or brought in from a ghost kitchen or commissary — which are sold at extremely reasonable prices under the retailer’s own brands,” Aloia explained.


Private brands can capitalize on a spike in demand for prepackaged, grab-and-go foods, according to PLMA.


Representatives from some the nation’s largest foodservice and restaurant suppliers — such as Sysco, US Foods, Aramark and McLane, among other — will on the show floor at this year’s event along with buyers from major grocery retail chains, PLMA said. These foodservice distributors and wholesalers offer highly developed brand programs, ranging from value labels in food, nonfood and takeout packaging to proprietary labels in such categories as coffee blends, farm-raised meat and produce, craft cheese, artisan bakery, sustainably sourced seafood and ethnic fare, including Italian, Latin and Asian specialty foods, the association said.

Last year, the top 20 private-brand categories by dollar volume included frozen prepared foods at $2.3 billion (with an 11.1% market share), deli prepared foods at $2.2 billion (with a 38.7% share) and grocery prepared foods at $2 billion (with a 12% share), according to the 2021 PLMA Yearbook. By unit volume, grocery prepared foods (1.3 billion, with a 13.1% share) and frozen prepared foods (763.7 million, with a 12.9% share) were among the top 20 private-label categories.

Many “best in class” retail chains already have expanded their convenience-focused food offerings for prepared, kitchen and table-ready meals, either packaged for online pickup or delivery or for grab-and-go from stores, according to PLMA. Retailers simultaneously have rolled out new mobile purchasing, shop-from-home and last-mile delivery options to make it easier for customers to get prepared foods. In addition, grocery retailers have latched onto restaurant food trends, including farm-fresh and locally sourced ingredients, better-for-you fare (natural, organic and minimally processed foods), more options for special diets (plant-based, vegetarian and vegan) and international cuisine.

After climbing to over 50% of total U.S. food spending in recent years, foodservice market share plunged to a low of 30% in April 2020 while retail food spending soared to a 70% share, according to the FMI-The Food Industry Association’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2021 study. Through March 2021, that has shrunk to a 12% gap in favor of food retail, with restaurants’ monthly revenue still 17% below earlier levels, FMI reported.

“As the pendulum swings back towards normalcy in months ahead, restaurants — whether fast food, takeout fast-casual or fine dining — are sure to feel pressured to engage the challenge posed by all this expansion of foodservice at retail. Expect them to fight to woo their customers back,” PLMA stated. “Ordering convenience and delivery will be among the battle lines for fast food and takeout. Less crowding, touchless payments and visible sanitation will no doubt continue to matter for in-dining experiences. But coinciding with the additional expense for such improvements and a possible rise in labor costs, we can also expect to see more aggressive promotions and lower prices. Taken together, these likelihoods are sure to make all manner of private-label products from foodservice suppliers increasingly attractive to restauranteurs from a margin perspective.”

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