2009 – Year of the Food Fight?

Delhaize Private Brands
Delhaize Private Brands

2009 appears to be shaping up as the year of the food fight, grocer vs. grocer; national brands vs. retailers on pricing, as witnessed by the recent Delhaize announcement that it would remove some 600 Unilever products due to pricing concerns, and national brands vs. Private Brands.  The consumer stands to gain a great deal through better prices and expanded Private Brand selection.

Both Safeway and Kroger have recently been downgraded by analysts due to the fear of an impending price war.  In a report released in January by Interbrand on the “Most Valuable U.S. Retail Brands 2009” traditional grocers, including Kroger, Safeway and Supervalu, were completely ignored. Interbrand contended that the grocery sector scored low in terms of customer loyalty and brand strength because of their dependence on price based promotions and increasing turns, rather than focusing on the customer experience or product differentiation.  This is difficult for most grocers to hear, but in it’s kernel of truth it has the opportunity to push grocers to become compelling brands.  Instead of constantly pulling the price lever, Private Brand should be at the forefront of this push to differentiation. Grocers must commit not only to consistent quality, but also to consistent branding. The result would certainly be customer loyalty and increased profits.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.