Safeway Launches \”Open Nature\”

\"\"Safeway is rolling out the new natural foods Private Brand, Open Nature. The first 100% natural Open Nature products are in the fresh poultry category, and include fresh boneless/skinless chicken breasts and a line of 12 ounce packages of chicken sausage, in a variety of flavor combinations.

Open Nature as a brand fits in the fuzzy space between its O Organics brand and its Eating Right healthy food Private Brand. From a portfolio perspective the positioning certainly protects its O Organic brands while still presenting a “better for you” option, however building a brand on the shifting sands of “Natural” may prove problematic in the long run. Customers rarely understand the supposed benefits of Organic even with its relatively strict regulation; the unregulated term Natural means little or nothing to the average shopper. This feels more like an effort to protect O Organics than a great brand positioning.

\"\"Safeway does however present a definition of \”100% natural\” on the labels of its new Open Nature poultry products. That definition includes:

  • Raised without antibiotics
  • No added hormones
  • All vegetarian fed
  • No artificial ingredients
  • Minimally processed

Keeping \’Open Nature\’ and \’100% natural\’ honest

According to commentary on the blog: Fresh & Easy Buzz:

In its private brand development and marketing department at corporate headquarters in Pleasanton, California, Safeway Stores\’ marketers and merchandisers working on the brands noted above talk often about appealing to what\’s also referred to as the \”in me, on me, around me\” consumer. These are folks, basically the same cohort as the LOHAS consumers, who care to a very significant degree about the types of foods they eat, the kinds of products they use on their bodies, the social and environmental issues surrounding how foods and non-food packaged goods are made, and how those combined factors or variables integrate with the communities they live in.

Safeway\’s fast-growing organic and locally-grown produce program, along with its across the board sustainability programs, are also targeted from a marketing positioning perspective to these LOHAS, \”ethical\” or \”in me, on me, around me\” consumers, who on a mass scale are the bread and butter customers of Whole Foods Market, Inc., for example.

As part of Safeway\’s LOHAS consumer-targeted private brand portfolio, brand \’Open Nature\’ fits a niche between \’O Organics\’ and \’Eating Right.\’ \’O\’ Organics hits both the organic and natural attributes; \’Eating Right\’ the healthy foods\’ hot button and; by virtue of that attribute also the natural foods hot button in most cases. \’Open Nature\’ focuses on the natural-foods-but-not-organic segment, which allows for a lower price point than the \’O Organics\’ brand items but still appeals to many aspects of the LOHAS consumer\’s values.

For example, Safeway currently has the \’Open Nature\’ \”100% natural\” boneless/skinless chicken breasts on promotion in its western U.S. stores, for $4.49 per pound. In contrast, when it runs its \’O Organics\’ organic boneless/skinless chicken breasts on ad, the promotional price-point is usually $5.99 pound, at the lowest end. Not all of the LOHAS-typed consumers can afford to pay $5.99 a pound for organic chicken breasts. But perhaps many of them can afford to pay $4.49 for the \’Open Source\’ \”100% natural\” version, trading off the organic attribute for the price savings, while still satisfying many of their values and needs.

Expect to see Safeway roll-out additional \’Open Nature\’ brand items, first in the fresh poultry and meat categories, but also in other product categories, throughout 2011.

Also expect to see the grocer add numerous new items to its other LOHAS consumer-focused brands – \’O Organics,\’ which with sales of over a $1 billion annually is the highest-grossing organic foods brand in the U.S., \’Eating Right,\’ and \’In-Kind\’ – throughout this year.

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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.