Brian Sharoff Discusses Private Brand

This week the International Supermarket News features this interview conducted by Chloe Pitts with Brian Sharoff, President of the Private Label Manufacturers Association.

What are the aims of the PLMA?
The main aims of the association are to help member manufacturers and retailers to meet and work together to develop quality private label products for consumers.

What have been the main activities of the association over the past year?
The main activities of PLMA over the past year have been quite diverse and successful. These include the publication of the annual Yearbook, participation in the International Sourincg Fair in Shanghai for those companies interested in the Asian market, the recent Roundtable conference in Istanbul, as well as our monthly E-Scanner newsletter.

What can visitors expect from PLMA’s  ‘World of Private Label’ trade show in May?
Visitors can expect to see the largest assortment of private label products of any show in the world. We estimate more than 20,000 different products for supermarkets and hypermarkets will be on display.

What are the main challenges facing the private label industry?
The main challenge is how well manufacturers and retailers can work together to meet the ever-growing demand for private label by consumers.

What is the future of private label?
The future is excellent as more and more retailers recognize that private label allows them to achieve differentiation from their competitors and loyalty from consumers.

How has private label fared during the economic downturn?
Private label has enjoyed tremendous popularity over the past 2 years as more and more consumers found that retailer brands delivered the sane quality but at lower prices than A-brands.

Why is it that Europe, and specifically the UK, has accepted private label to a greater extent than the rest of the world?
There is a direct relationship between the success of private label and the penetration of supermarkets. Those countries where consumers overwhelming shop in supermarkets have the highest market share for private label.  As supermarket penetration expands in places like China, India, Latin America and the Mideast, private label share will go up as well.

In recent years, private label has seen impressive market share gains. Is this evidence of a permanent attitude change for the consumer?
Yes, I think it is a permanent change for consumers and it is based on improved product quality and assortment.

How has private label shaken off its reputation as being the ‘inferior’ alternative?
Yes, it has shaken off the reputation among consumers who regularly use private label. Among those who are committed and sworn A-brand users, nothing will ever alter their loyalty to their favorite brands. Fortunately, this is an ever-dwindling percentage and may be down to 10-12% of shoppers nowadays.

Are there particular sectors in which private label is particularly successful/ unsuccessful?
At this point, prepared, microwavable foods seem to be a great growth area. Health and wellness may be another growth area with substantial potential.

Is it possible to imagine a future without brands?
No and there is no reason for that to happen. Well-known brands are important to many consumers and the competition of private label and well-known brands keeps everyone striving to do the best possible job for the consumer.

Could it be possible that retailers themselves are becoming the new brands?
This has been the case for the past 10-15 years as retailers brand their stores, brand their products and brand their image.

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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.