In Depth with PLMA’s Brian Sharoff

Brian Sharoff - plma

Late last week German retail and FMCG trade magazine Lebensmittel Zeitung published an English language version of a more than 4,500 word interview of PLMA President Brian Sharoff conducted by Mike Dawson. The in depth interview appeared in their German Retail Blog.

Brian Sharoff talks PLMA and retail brands

Mr. Own Label, Brian Sharoff, is delightful company and hasn’t lost either his wry New York humour or his puckish grin over the years.

Sharoff’s long tenure as President at the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) is a true American success story. Under his dynamic and entertaining leadership since 1981, membership has steadily grown from 200 companies to more than 3,500 today. Annual PLMA trade shows in Amsterdam (May) and Chicago (November) have long become a “must” for the retail and FMCG industry.

In the run-up to this year’s fair in Amsterdam on May 19 & 20, Lebensmittel Zeitung wanted to know how this man built the PLMA into the force it is today and why at a very indefatigable 68 he now sees the future in video streaming services?

According to market research company Nielsen, the average own label share of retailer annual revenues in 15 European countries has now reached around 30 percent – the highest it has ever been. Posterity will probably judge that a lot of this advance was attributable to a certain native of Gotham.

Therefore, someone someday is surely going to film “The Brian Sharoff Story”. This would be fitting as, among his many facets, the man is a film buff and now seems intent on putting the PLMA, if not yet on the big screen, at least onto our smartphone displays. Who knows, maybe this blog will serve as inspiration for the movie script?

Finally, Sharoff fans will doubtless forgive that we have tacked on a short interview about “lead-times” held at this year’s Roundtable Conference in Nice.

Mr. Sharoff, many regard you as the Bernie Ecclestone (British business magnate and CEO of Formula One) of private label; others see you as the owner of PLMA…
Neither one, I’m afraid. Under U.S. tax law the PLMA is incorporated is a not-for-profit corporation. We have many such non-profit corporations in America: business organization, universities, foundations, and charities, to name a few.

There is no stock to own, no shareholders, and no profit to divide up. Whatever funds are left over at the end of the year are generally reinvested in the association and its programs.

For the PLMA, it means that we can put on trade shows where manufacturers display their products to retail buyers, but we do not have any commercial interest in those products or the companies that make them.

Some also think of you as the founder of PLMA…
Sorry, but not true again. The PLMA was founded in 1979 by 50-odd member companies who were faced by a number of similar problems at the time. Most of them made some private label and black-and-white generics as well as minor brands that no one had ever heard of. They were therefore looking for a way to tell retailers where to find them.


Previous articleHome Depot Puts Private Brand to the Test
Next articleALDI Advisory Council Promotes Healthy Private Brand Picks
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.