Tops’ Rethinks Its Private Brands

Charles Lewis/Buffalo News

Williamsville, New York-based grocer Tops has set itself the ambitious task of reinventing its eponymous Private Brand Tops. The move comes after the retailer conducted customer research on it’s Private Brand packaging and discovered that customers were less than impressed. As a part of the changes Tops has followed the traditional merchandising focused tiers strategy and rolled out Tops Premium

The story unfolds in an article from the Buffalo, New York daily newspaper The Buffalo News:

“The way it was packaged didn’t match the product’s quality,” said Katie McKenna, Tops spokeswoman. “The perception was that it was lower quality and cheap. And something being a good value and being ‘cheap’ are two very different things.”

The change affects all 2,400 Tops – from trail mix, butter and oatmeal to trash bags, toilet paper and plastic wrap. Products started hitting shelves in June and will continue to roll out over the next 2½ years.

Tops’ private label overhaul is the grocer’s first high-profile change since several top executives bought the company from a private equity firm in December. Most of the new packaging shows a close-up photo of the product in front of a wide, solid-colored band displaying the product’s name and description. At the top are photographs or artwork that depict either some of the product’s ingredients or a scene meant to “evoke a time and place,” McKenna said.

For example, Tops brand Classic Trail Mix displays a picture of a mountainside, while its Hidden Veggie Penne Rigate depicts a basket of fresh vegetables.

The rollout will include new flavors and varieties of existing products, such as its new cheddar and horseradish potato chips, and the launch of new products, such as Tops’ ice cream sandwich, fruit ice bar and sundae cup frozen novelties.

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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.