The PLMA’s 2012 Private Label Trade Show once again pushed the boundaries of innovation.
By Elizabeth Louise Hatt and Seth Mendelson
Retailers had a lot to be thankful for this November. It only took one look at the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) 2012 Private Label Trade Show trade floor to know that store brands are still popular.
Sales of private label brands are not slowing down any time soon, say industry observers, as consumers continue to seek value. With cutting-edge flavors, packaging and colors, the latest innovations not only rival the national names but push the boundaries of retail. Here are some of the stand-out products that Grocery Headquarters checked out.
Developing a specialty market
Frozen Specialties is introducing a number of items to the private label marketplace. The Holland, Ohio-based company is launching three SKUs of a French bread pizza line, two SKUs of Dessert Bites and two SKUs of a whole grain pizza line.
According to Pat Koralewski, director of marketing, the French bread line will fill a void in the marketplace “since this is a $150 million category and there is not a lot of private label presence.” The French bread will be available in cheese, pepperoni and supreme versions.
The Dessert Bites are available in apple and cherry. Koralewski says the introduction is an opportunity to bring something new to consumers in the dessert market. “As for the whole grain pizza, we see the consumer becoming much more savvy about ingredients,” he says. “This is designed to fill a hole with consumers who want to enjoy a good pizza without feeling too guilty.” The two SKUs of the whole grain pizza are 4 Cheeses and Roasted Vegetables.
Enhancing the water supply
Officials at Jel Sert think they have a different and profitable angle on the growing liquid water enhancer category. They are introducing 11 SKUs of branded products into the category, including products featuring well-known brand names as Hawaiian Punch, Crush and Wyler’s Light. The products have suggested retail price points in the $2.99 to $3.49 range.
Susie Frausto, vice president of marketing for the West Chicago, Ill.-based company, says it offers a private label alternative that can be developed with retailers to come up with different flavors and options for consumers.
The company has also introduced freezer bars in a number of different flavors including Wyler’s, Arnold Palmer, Jelly Belly and Sunkist. “We just want our retail partners to know that we are their well-rounded resource for these types of products,” Frausto says. “Over the last few years we have developed a broad assortment of products that are quite popular with consumers and designed to build sales and profits for the retailers.”
A pop of color
Global Tissue Group is helping consumers add a designer touch to their kitchens. The new line of colored paper towels is currently sold under the Medford, N.Y.-based company’s Pixel brand.
Global Tissue kicked off the line with black and orange at Halloween time and now has five standard colors—black, orange, red, green and blue. There are another three to five on the way, says Daniel David, executive vice president of operations. “We wanted to bring something innovative and different to the market. The Pixel line not only adds an element of design and color to consumers’ kitchen, but it is also a high-quality premium paper towel.”
The paper towels are available for private label. “At Global Tissue group, we really want to be innovators in the category of paper products, and we have a number of other innovations in the works,” says David.
The cheese case can get crowded with the national brands out there. JVM Sales Corp., doing business as Milano’s Cheese Corp., has the private label answer. The Linden-N.J.-based company has nine SKUs of fresh Italian cheeses packed in 5-ounce containers that are designed to compete with brand names.
“We invested in the 5-ounce container size because we think that is where the category is going. The cheese is fresh so the 5-ounce is an ideal size for consumers to eat fresh and then go back for more,” says Anthony Caliendo, the vice president of sales and marketing. “Retailers all have the brand name containers but few have a private label version. With our packaging technology we can do it cheaply so it pays off for the retailer.”
The three cheeses available are Romano, Parmesan and Asiago, and each come in shredded, grated and shaved varieties. The containers have a suggested retail price of $3.99.
Licensing Works showcased some of its licensed products at the show. Castle Coffee blends, including Morning is Murder from White Coffee Corp., and soon-to-be-released Zorro Caliente Chipotle Margarita, Cocoa and Coffee Drink from McSteven’s, Inc., were some of the items on display.
“We had the chance to meet with retailers and manufacturers one-on-one to discuss how they can differentiate their own store brands by licensing our client’s iconic global brands that have multi-generational appeal and universal name recognition,” said Leslie Levine, owner of Licensing Works.
Some of the brands the Los Angeles-based company focused discussions were Tarzan, Zorro, Tetris, Elmer’s, X-ACTO, Moulin Rouge, Castle and Puppy in my Pocket.
Berner Food & Beverage officials discovered a saucy side effect of its booming drink business. They turned the leftover cream from its coffee drinks into a line of white pasta sauces. The private label sauces come in a number of varieties that include Roasted Garlic, Creamy, Four Cheese and a few light versions.
The company plans to expand the line, says Steve Fay, executive vice president. “There has been a huge response from retailers. Many are interested in growing the line with custom flavors. We are happy to do that.”
The beverage category continues to be a growing area for the Dakota, Ill.-based company. “We continue to innovate our current line and will be moving into some new areas next year. Beverages is about 55% of our business. Our iced lattes alone grew to be three to four times what we expected from them.”
A touch of sweetness
Consumers seem to like a little extra in their water. In the past year Heartland Food Products Group has doubled in size following the introduction of its water enhancers, according to David Rigg, director of marketing for the Carmel, Ind.-based company.
The newest version is geared towards kids. Licensed under the ICEE brand, the water enhancers come in kid-centric flavors such as Geyser Grape, Cherry Cascade, Tropical Splash and Strawberry Kiwi Falls. With 24 servings per package, they have a suggested retail price of $2.99.
Adults are also getting more options, including no-calorie liquid sweeteners that contain Stevia ($3.99 SRP), Sucralose ($2.99), Saccharin ($1.99) or Monk Fruit ($4.99) for on-the-go convenience. In January, the company will begin shipping coffee flavorings in Caramel, French Vanilla and Hazelnut—with the latter two available in caffeinated versions—for $2.99.
“This is the first phase; next will be coffee creamers and lattes,” says Rigg. “We really strive to be a partner and help retailers grow their business, not provide a product.”
Hot out of the oven
Baking just became more fun. Sporting the Mrs. Fields brand, Bektrom Foods’ new bakeware brings a unique twist to the kitchen. The five pieces include a Brookie pan to create brownie/cookie desserts; a Half and Half Pan that allows you to make cupcakes with two flavors, the Cookie Bake pan designed with a built-in cooling rack, a baked goods carrier with adjustable shelves called the Baker’s Sto-N-Go; and the Bake & Fold, a folding baking pan that conserve storage space.
“We are all about finding ways to make things more convenient,” says Aldon Reed Cayley, executive vice president for the Monroe, Mich.-based manufacturer. “These are fresh ideas and go well with the Mrs. Fields product line. We plan to introduce more in the future; we have another 13 or so innovative concepts in the works.”