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Wakefern's Wholesome Pantry organic brand was one of more than 50 retailer private label brands recognized by PLMA.

PLMA names Salute to Excellence Award winners

More than 50 store-brand products honored for innovation

A host of grocery retailers were recognized for superior store-brand products with the announcement of the 2018 Salute to Excellence Awards from the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA).

PLMA said a panel of judges evaluated more than 500 new private brands food and nonfood products. In the end, they chose 53 products — 38 food and 15 nonfood items — for awards.

“What is really amazing is how good retailers have become in spotting trends and developing new products,” Brian Sharoff, president of New York-based PLMA, said in a statement.

In the grocery category, PLMA noted, some of the winning products have unusual flavor combinations, such as Metro’s Irresistibles Green Tea and White Chocolaty ice cream bar and Albertsons Cos.’ Signature Select Chipotle Craft Beer BBQ Sauce. Others illustrate current consumer trends, including Aldi’s Earth Grown Quinoa Crunch Veggie Burger, Sobeys’ Compliments Naturally Simple Ancient Grain Steel Cut Oatmeal, Walmart’s Great Value Ciabatta Pizza Crusts and 7-Eleven’s 7-Select Go! Smart Clean & Green Cold Pressed Organic Juice.

Retailers, too, have rolled out innovative, distinctive products with an international and multicultural flavor, according to PLMA. Those winners included Earth Fare’s Himalayan Pink Salt Kettle Chips, Wegmans’ Pasilla Pepper Adobo Bold Roasted Chili Paste, Kroger’s HemisFares Cornicabra Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Wakefern’s Shop Rite Trading Company Imported Artichoke Hearts from Peru and Lidl’s Preferred Selection British Vintage Cheddar Cheese.

Nonfood product winners featuring atypical ingredients, PLMA said, were Trader Joe’s Cucumber Avocado Body Butter and Lavender Tea Tree Scent Liquid Dish Soap as well as Thrive Market’s Coconut Sunscreen Lip Balm, Liquid Lavender Laundry Detergent and Bamboo+Recycled Bath Tissue.

Walgreens won an award in the personal care and wellness category for its C.Y.O Eyeshadow Palette Rainbow Warrior Colors, while fellow drug store operator CVS Health was recognized in the health care category for its Pro Strength Kinesiology Tape.

Other retailers winning awards included BJ’s Wholesale Club, Ahold Delhaize USA, Costco Wholesale, Hy-Vee, Southeastern Grocers, H-E-B, and Target.

According to Sharoff, this year’s winning products reflect the sea change in private label, as supermarkets no longer just serve up commodity products that imitate national brands.

“Ten years ago, all you heard were complaints from national brands about how private label was nothing more than copycats,” he explained. “Now it is the retailers and their store-brands suppliers who are pioneering and leading the way.”

For the PLMA Salute to Excellence Awards, retailers and wholesalers in the United States, Canada and Latin America were asked to submit new store-brand products for review. A panel of industry professionals (including Supermarket News Editor-in-Chief Becky Schilling) and consumers judged the items for innovation based on trends in the category, the markets where the retailers operate and what their competitors offer. The products also were evaluated for concept, taste, texture, smell, packaging and presentation, and value for the money.

All the winning products will be showcased at PLMA’s 2018 Private Label Trade Show, scheduled for Nov. 11 to 13 at the Rosemont Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., near Chicago. More than 11,000 attendees — including buyers, visitors and exhibitor staff — are expected, PLMA said.

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