Can Private Brand Lead Trends?

A Bahn Mi Sandwich

National brands have traditional led retailers in innovation and new product development, however as Private Brands continue to develop and grow it is essential that they find their space in the innovation continuum. Retailers must realize that if they are going to truly move beyond the also ran strategy of fast following innovation and product development are the keys to differentiation.

The Culinary Trend Mapping Report: a bi-monthly journal from the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) – presents many opportunities for Private Brand Managers to take the lead and instead of just following. The themes of the report include Back to the Basics, Artisan Upgrades, Healthful Eating, and Regional and Global Flavor Adventure.

Culinary Trend Mapping Report pinpointed trends that shaped the food landscape and fueled foodie passions in 2010, using CCD’s signature five–stage Trend Mapping technique, where Stage 1 represents the emerging trend phase in fine dining or regional restaurants, while Stage 5 represents full “trickle down” to mainstream grocery store shelves and quick-service restaurants. Looking back, the following are 10 of the top food trends for 2010:

The question for you and your colleagues is, “Are these relevant to my customers and how quick can I put a test in market?”

Gourmet-On-The-Go (Stage 1): Street food was on fire this year, made by cooks and chefs of all stripes. One notable subset was fine-dining chefs serving upgraded street food either in restaurants or from refurbished carts and taco trucks, while foodie entrepreneurs made specialized, high-quality cuisine available on the go.

“Fine Fast” Sandwich Shops (Stage 1): These gourmet sandwich shops took the art of sandwich-making seriously. They were often helmed by fine-dining chefs and featured high-quality, artisan and locally sourced ingredients, as well as a wide range of house made condiments and toppings.

Boutique Booze (Stage 2): Boutique booze was all the rage in 2010, from bars that specialize in a single type of liquor to festivals that celebrate spirits made by independent producers. Local liquor outlets have benefitted from newly flexible blue laws and the legalization of liquor tastings in stores and at factories, as well as the growing consumer enthusiasm for all things handmade and artisan.

Condiments, Preserved Foods & Heirloom Produce (Stage 2): A rising number of passionate people took food back to its roots, literally. They grew produce from heirloom seeds, revived the art of home canning and made condiments and preserved products of all kinds. This resulted in new thriving DIY communities as this new wave of artisans found outlets for their products at craft and farmers markets, online and at specialty retail stores.

Parisian Macarons (Stage 2): This delicious and multi-hued Parisian pastry, composed of two ground-almond meringue cookies bound with buttercream, ganache or jam filling, is like an couture Oreo—light and tasty, satisfying, and adaptable to variations. Perhaps trying to take on the supremacy of the cupcake, macarons were found this year in a wealth of high-end bakeries and gourmet-food retailers—and became a staple of food photography.

Bahn Mi & Bao (Stage 2): Bao (a Taiwanese pork-based sandwich, served on a white flour bun) and banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich featuring grilled meat or pâté served on French bread) perfectly marry the novel with the familiar, appealing to consumers who love sandwiches but are searching for flavor adventure. Both bao and banh mi made waves in 2010 in urban centers like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, as well on the street from a myriad of street food trucks and carts.

Butchery (Stage 3): Butchers stole the headlines this year, acting as unexpected emissaries of the heritage meat and artisan trends that came together to renew popular demand for hand-cut meat. With the upsurge in production and consumption of high-quality meat, young and aspiring foodies flocked to butchery demonstrations, ready to get their hands bloody (literally) to feel closer to the sources of their food.

Agave Nectar (Stage 3): Agave nectar became the much-talked-about sweetener in 2010, stealing a bit of Stevia’s thunder. No wonder: it fits well with consumer desires for a plant-based sweetener, its low glycemic index maintains blood sugar levels, and because it is sweeter than sugar, consumers can use less of it. A syrup that can be easily added to products ranging from beverages to baked goods to sauces to confections, agave nectar has demonstrated its versatility in the 300+ agave-bearing products already on the market and available in retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Eggs All Day (Stage 4): More than ever, the egg is being placed front and center as a food that is inexpensive, healthful (protein-rich or low-fat if only egg whites), and adaptable, whether for a sandwich or wrap, to accompany a salad, on a pizza, mixed with pasta…and the list goes on. Though reinventing the egg might seem like reinventing the wheel, many Stage 4 women’s magazines have innovated on breakfast’s most basic food to generate new ideas for home chefs.

Better Burgers (Stage 5): Building better burgers became a nationwide obsession in 2010, whether it meant adding exotic toppings, using grass-fed and locally sourced beef, or finding the perfect bun. Many fine dining restaurants have added dressed up versions on their menus while chain restaurants responded to customer demand for better quality meat by using Angus and Kobe-style American Wagyu beef for their burgers.

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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.