Research, “Value”, Collaboration – So What?

grocery-shoppingAn interesting new report from Information Resources Inc. (IRI) presents “new” numbers on “private label” – although there are some nuggets of interest here, I continue to be disappointed by research and analysis from the major players concerning retailer owned brands. As these brands continue to grow and evolve  lumping them into one private label  “value” category creates a shallow and myopic analysis that denies the richness of the Private Brand landscape.

The average American grocer owns and manages between 12 and 20 brands each of which have different brand positionings, business goals and consumer targets – meaningful research would discover how these brands are working, if they are engaging customers and ultimately if they are truly creating differentiation and customer loyalty. Meaningful insight would bring thought capital about the new breed of lifestyle and solution focused Private Brands like Ology from Walgreens and Simply Balanced from Target that are building meaningful propositions across numerous categories that are virtually impossible for a manufacturer or “ national brand” to duplicate.

The press release is below:

New IRI Report Finds Opportunity for Private Label and National Brand Marketers to Combine Strengths for Mutual Growth
About one year ago, Information Resources Inc. (IRI) predicted that private label in the United States had hit a proverbial glass ceiling. This prediction has proven true, at least at the macro level, according to the latest IRI Times & Trends, “Private Label and National Brands: Paving the Path for Growth Together.” Both private label and national brands’ shares of sales remained unchanged during the past year, with private label share of dollar sales inching up slightly, largely due to above-average price inflation within the private label sector. But, the report goes on to illustrate that consumers’ “new normal” puts value in the crosshairs of every purchase decision and paves new roads of opportunity for private label and national brand CPG marketers.

“While some industry experts believe private label has ‘had its day,’ IRI believes that private label and national brand marketers can enjoy mutual growth by not simply co-existing, but rather evolving and working together to serve the full spectrum of consumers’ needs and wants,” says Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, IRI. “Of course, consumers are shopping conservatively and looking for money-saving options, so they have embraced private label. However, national brands remain critical. In this environment, manufacturers and retailers must work together to provide a balanced assortment of national and private label solutions, targeted at the store level, to offer the best overarching value.”

Channel Trends
Private label share is highest in the grocery channel, at 21.9 percent of unit sales and 18.2 percent of dollar sales. Grocery also enjoys the strongest level of private label penetration, by far, at 96.9 percent. Despite the fact that the private label landscape has become more crowded and more competitive, grocers have done a commendable job of protecting share.

In addition, private label performance within the drug channel has been quite strong during the last year. Unit share grew one full point, to 17.6 percent, while dollar share climbed less sharply, to 16.9 percent. Though private label share inched up slightly in the convenience channel during the same time period, it remains well below industry average, at 2.4 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. Private label’s strength across the drug and convenience channels is attributable to a number of factors, including retailer efforts to broaden and enhance private label programs.

The club channel is demonstrating the strongest private label share growth—growth that is occurring across both heavy and light purchasers of private label products. This growth brought the channel nearly $1.4 billion more in private label sales from heavy and light buyers in 2013 compared with 2010.

Category Trends
Private label share of volume increased across five of the 10 largest private label categories during the past three years. These categories are viewed as “staple” categories, since consumers tend to see little differentiation between private label and national brand options in these categories. Combined, share victories brought more than $2.6 billion to private label marketers’ top lines during the past year alone.

National brands are also demonstrating strength in important private label categories. During the same period, national brand marketers gained ground in the remaining top five private label categories, increasing the revenue they generate in these categories by a combined total of more than $1.7 billion across IRI’s multi-outlet geography. The biggest win for national brands is evidenced in the vitamins category, where volume share climbed 6.9 points since 2010.

In the coming months and years, consumers will continue to look to both national brands and private label solutions to find the best value for their money. To deliver, savvy marketers from both sides will focus on one or more of the following growth strategies: deepening penetration, fracturing concentration and strengthening of price and promotion strategies.

“Private label is clearly here to stay,” adds Viamari. “For private label to prosper, it is critical for private label marketers to understand the role of their brands in relation to competing national brands. And, national and private brand marketers must step up their collaborative focus, directing their efforts to retailer/manufacturer partners that ‘best fit’ their strategic goals and objectives. This type of strategic collaborative marketing partnership will increase sales and strengthen customer loyalty by getting the right products to the right place at the right time, with a targeted value proposition.”

To download the report, visit:

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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.