Pivoting from its annual in-person event and conference, the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) will kick off its first major online event for store brands in the U.S. on Monday, Feb. 1, for five days of back-to-back presentations and a virtual exhibit floor featuring more than 700 manufacturers.
“PLMA Live! presents Private Label Week” will be streaming a daily schedule of original on-demand programming covering the latest marketing and consumer research, retail and private brand strategies, insights and analysis, alongside category profiles, product trends and individual interviews with retail winners of PLMA’s Salute to Excellence awards for new and innovative private label products.
In an interview with Supermarket News, PLMA president Peggy Davies and vice president Anthony Aiola talked about how the association overcame the challenges of putting on a virtual event of this size and what attendees can expect to see. (For the full interview, watch the video below.)
“We have more than 700 exhibitors that are participating in the event,” said Aiola. “It's all about featured products. Every single exhibitor will be featuring up to four unique items within their booth space. It’s products, products, products, and we think the industry and our retail partners will find quality exhibitors to work with. The other exciting part of our program is the extensive PLMA Live! video programming that Peggy has done a phenomenal job of putting together.”
“We have over 50 pieces of wide-ranging content and we have a good handful of retail speakers this year,” added Davies, noting that each morning from Feb. 1-5 offers a special keynote presentation by a leading retail executive or industry expert.
Bill Simon, former president & CEO, Walmart U.S. will address private label and the economy; Kroger’s Brad Studer, senior director Our Brands, will discuss the “artful economics” of store brands growth; Albertsons’ Chad Coester SVP Own Brands & Albertsons’ Own Brands Leadership Team will speak on collaboration and innovation; Walgreens’ Andrea Collaro, senior director, Brand Management & Product Development will address the past, present and future of Walgreens owned brands; and Dr. Nada Sanders, professor of supply chain management, Northeastern University will speak on supply chain strategies and survival. On Friday, Feb. 5, PLMALive! will stream a top-level executive panel on the outlook for store brands, featuring Perrigo CEO Murray S. Kessler, TreeHouse Foods CEO Steve Oakland, Vi-Jon CEO Rich Koulouris, and moderated by PLMA’s Tim Simmons.
Pivoting during a crisis
Like so many other events in 2020, the impact of COVID-19 forced PLMA to postpone and rethink its annual trade show, originally scheduled for Chicago in November. Fortunately, the organization has had plenty of experience with pivoting during a crisis, according to Aiola.
“We’ve encountered a bunch of issues over the last decade or so running our trade shows in terms of challenges,” he said. “I think it was 2010, we had the ash cloud in Iceland, which disrupted air travel for quite some time, which occurred during our international event in Amsterdam. We did unfortunately have terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium a few short weeks before our event, again, over in Amsterdam. It made us rethink moving forward that we needed to position the association and provide a format to the industry in case of events as terrorist attacks, environmental issues, or in this case, the COVID pandemic at the moment. And that's how we began the thought process of developing a virtual platform.”
He added, “We were fortunate that we had been looking into this for quite some time. We studied different types of platforms and we we had a pretty clear vision of what we were looking for, which is simplicity of use. We wanted to have a user have an experience that they can come back with and say, you know, that was very simple to use. We wanted it to be simple and include as many folks as we could from around the world because we do have global participation with the entire private label community And I think we've successfully done that.”
That attitude of adaptability during COVID extends to the private label industry as well, noted Davies.
“Particularly because so many of private label brands are experimental for consumers, manufacturers continue to evolve and develop those items in different categories,” she said. “And of course the pandemic didn't stop that. So as our retailers want to continue to experiment with new and different trends, I can firmly say our manufacturers, our members are also right with them, working with their R&D departments, their ingredient suppliers to packaging suppliers, to continue to evolve because everything needs to continue on. We didn't sit on our hands from a private label trade show standpoint, and we know our manufacturer members and our retailers didn't do that either.”