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Top retailers implement plans with a focus on protecting the environment

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It’s a great time to be in the retailer brands business. Consumers are back in charge, looking for new and innovative products that offer on-trend attributes, high quality and great value. Store brands are winning at checkout. Sales increased 7.4% over the first four months of 2022, following a record $200 billion last year. Come to Chicago to expand your business.

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SPECIAL REPORT 32 Rising Stars

Meet the future of the private brands industry

S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y & S T O R E B R A N D S Store Brands speaks with Sam’s Club, Albertsons, Southeastern Grocers and Aldi for an inside look at each retailer’s sustainability efforts.

44 Buyer’s Guide

An overview of key companies

51 Dairy Report

A mid-year look at this important category

54 Social Media

The impact of TikTok on private label brands

57 E-commerce Report New companies testing the digital landscape


Editor’s Note


Industry News

Store Brands (ISSN-0190-9851; USPS # 0488-370) is published monthly, except January, May, July, December by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscriptions: One year, $100; two years, $182. One year, Canada $118; two years, $215 One year, foreign $135; two years, $225. One year, digital $70; two year, $130.Single copies $14 US, Canada & foreign $16. Payable in advance with a bank draft drawn on a US bank in US funds.Single copies $20. Foreign, $85. Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at or (877) 652-5295. Canada Post: Canada returns to be sent to IDS, P.O. Box 456, Niagara Falls, ON, L2E6V2. Periodicals postage rates paid at Chicago, IL and additional mailing offices. Printed in USA. POSTMASTER: send all address changes to Store Brands PO Box 3200 Northbrook, IL 60065-3200. Copyright 2020 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved, including the rights to reproduce in whole or in part. All letters to the editors of this magazine will be treated as having been submitted for publication. The magazine reserves the right to edit and abridge them. The publication is available in microform from University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI, 48106. The contents of this publication can not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for claims and representations. 4

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An EnsembleIQ Publication

THE HUMAN CONNECTION AS TECHNOLOGY RULES, OLD-SCHOOL METHODS OF STAYING IN TOUCH REMAIN AS IMPORTANT AS EVER Through the first 22 years of the 21st century, how we do business has evolved. Adapting to new technologies, how people shop and an unforeseen global health crisis each have tested the norms to which we have grown accustomed. There’s always a new product on the horizon that provides an easier way to get products and services in front of customers. Digital technology has allowed us to communicate more easily and was a saving grace during the pandemic. We could stay in touch and visibly communicate while maintaining a safe distance to protect our health and wellness. As we have returned to some level of normalcy, most of us are doing our daily work with these new technologies at our fingertips. That’s a good thing. But it’s important to remember some of the tools we used before March of 2020. When I embarked on my career in 1994, the art of relationship building was something I wanted to master. During my first job as a reporter covering the Long Island South Shore community of Long Beach, building relationships with local sources and gaining their trust was vital to my success. Those sources provided me with background information about the community, who were the important people and who was pulling the political strings in a community that tied just about everything back to political party politics. Later in my career when covering retail was my focus, relationships were vital and gave me multiple opportunities to break stories and stay a step ahead of the competition. As we know, most retailers are tight-lipped about new collections until the assortment is actually in stores and online. The information I received gave me a head start on my reporting and allowed me to break news about what new product line was hitting the shelves and web pages of retailers. I share some of my background information to stress the importance of business relationships. Most times, there’s no better way to share information or hatch the next great idea than to pick up the smartphone or set up a video call with a long-time industry friend to say “hi” and catch up. Recently, I attended the Velocity Conference in Charlotte, N.C., my first in-person event in three years. It was great to see people, make new connections and also do a bit of brainstorming about future topics for news articles, webinars and forums that Store Brands presents throughout the year. If there’s one thing we can agree upon it’s the speed at which time flies by. That friend who you swear you spoke with last week; it might have been last month. So grab a hold of your smartphone and make a call. You’ll enjoy speaking with your long-time friend and it might also be good for your business.


Store Brands

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8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Publisher, Grocery Group John Schrei (248) 613-8672;

EDITORIAL Associate Publisher/Executive Editor Greg Sleter (631) 988-8747, Associate Editor Zachary Russell (313) 622-1565,

ADVERTISING & SALES National Sales Manager Natalie Filtser (917) 690-3245,

PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART Creative Director Colette Magliaro Advertising/Production Manager Pat Wisser (973) 607-1322,

LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Marie Briganti (914) 309-3378,


REPRINTS, PERMISSIONS AND LICENSING Please contact Wright’s Media at or (877)652-5295

CORPORATE OFFICERS Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Litterick Chief Financial Officer Jane Volland Chief Innovation Officer & Managing Director of Path to Purchase Institute Tanner Van Dusen Chief Human Resources Officer Ann Jadown EVP of Operations Derek Esty Senior Vice President, Content Joe Territo

The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.

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Target, Author Tabitha Brown Partner On New Apparel Collection Target has announced a new partnership with actress and author Tabitha Brown that will include four exclusive, limited-time-only collections that will launch over the next year. The collection, Tabitha Brown for Target, will span apparel, swim and accessories items, home and office, food and kitchenware, entertaining and more. Starting Saturday, June 11, Target guests can shop the first collection of more than 75 apparel, swim and accessories items in-store and online. "At Target, bringing joy to our guests is at the heart of everything we do. Tabitha Brown is known for being a beacon of positivity, making her the perfect partner to help Target continue providing inspirational, inclusive and affordable style for all," said Jill Sando, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Target. "We've had the pleasure of working with Tabitha for a number of years and are thrilled to take our relationship to the next level by partnering with her to introduce new 8

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limited-time collections that we know guests will love." Brown has been an influencer partner at Target for the past two years. She is largely known for her social media presence on TikTok and YouTube, while having a recurring role on Showtime's "The Chi," and co-owning a vegan restaurant. She authored her book "Feeding the Soul" in 2021. The first Tabitha Brown for Target collection features bright hues and bold patterns that are easy to mix and match, in sizes XXS-4X. Items range in price from $10-$44. "As a small-town girl, I grew up with big dreams and now, those dreams have become a reality," said Brown. "Target made me feel seen and created a safe space where I could be my authentic self. To me, joy comes from freedom, and I was free to be myself during this entire design process, which is reflected in the assortment. I hope my collections bring Target guests joy, love and optimism to their everyday lives."

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Walmart Launches New Activewear and Swimwear Collection

Adding to its portfolio, Walmart has released its newest own brand clothing collection that fuses fashion and fitness. Love & Sports is Walmart’s new active and swimwear brand created in partnership with fashion designer Michelle Smith and indoor cycling instructor Stacey Griffith. The inaugural collection features 121 women’s activewear and swim items, priced between $12 and $42. Pieces of the collection include running shorts, sweatshirts, jackets and more featuring bold and bright colors, giving the collection a retro feel. Love & Sports joins other Walmart-exclusive brands such as Free Assembly, Scoop, The Pioneer Woman and more. “Since the pandemic started, activewear has been a high-growth category and an important one for our customers,” said Denise Incandela, EVP of apparel and private brands at Walmart. “In fact, The NPD Group reported that activewear was up 37% in 2021. It was only natural for activewear to be the next step in expanding our elevated brands portfolio, and we’re doing it with a bold, exciting brand that fills a white space for high10

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quality, high-performance activewear and swim without the high price tag." The activewear collection is available online now, and is rolling out to 1,500 Walmart locations. The swim collection will arrive soon after, just in time for summer, featuring strapless one-piece suits, “retrokini” tops and more. Love & Sports collections will drop seasonally, with new additions like footwear and accessories slated to arrive in the fall. The entire Love & Sports collection is universally flattering and available in sizes XS-XXXL for activewear and XS – XXL for swimwear. “Michelle and Stacey collaborated on the development process from start to finish, thoughtfully creating every design around the performance level of an athlete and the emerging fashion trends and colorways in fitness, streetwear and swim,” said Incandela. “The entire collection features elevated details, like moisture-wicking fabrics, plenty of pockets, reflective taping, metal zippers with logos and waistbands that can be rolled down to transition from the current trend of high-waisted bottoms to a trend-forward low-waisted look."

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Petco and PetSmart Both Expand Outdoor Accessories for Dogs Ahead of Summer

and offer protection against the elements for outdoor activities like camping and hiking. Our partnership with Backcountry has allowed us to combine our more than 55 years' worth of expertise in designing pet products with their top-notch experience in all things outdoors for a premier line of pet gear that helps active pets thrive and meets the evolving needs of our customers.” The new products from PetSmart’s Arcadia Trail include a dog shade tent, an inflatable dog bed, an elevated cot, a sleeping bag, a highvisibility life jacket, water-friendly dog toys, and more. Arcadia Trail was launched in 2020 based on customers’ desire to include their pets in outdoor activities. "Pet parents know their summer plans are more fulfilling when they bring their furry friends along on their travels," said Kristin Shane, senior vice president and chief merchandising officer for PetSmart. "Whether you're playing in your backyard or hiking the great outdoors, Arcadia Trail has all the gear and supplies pets and pet parents need to adventure together this summer."

The two largest pet retailers have expanded their selections of outdoor goods for dogs just in time for summer. Petco has partnered with outdoor speciality retailer Backcountry for the pet retailer’s newest line of exclusive gear, while PetSmart has expanded its Arcadia Trails private brand, adding new items. The Backcountry x Petco collection includes accessories and apparel to accommodate dogs of all shapes and sizes. The collection ranges from apparel and accessories such as dog t-shirts, jackets and bandanas, and supplies like collars, harnesses, leashes, flotation devices and toys. The collection also includes travel necessities such as collapsible food and water bowls, foldable crates, and portable sleeping bags and travel mats. “With more pets in homes than ever before and continued interest in shared outdoor experiences, there’s a whole new generation of pet parents eager to explore the outdoors – and bring their pets along for the ride,” said Aaron Weiss, senior vice president of owned brands at Petco. “Our customers are looking for functional solutions, tailored to the changing seasons, that really hold up

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GNC and GCUSA Team for Lemon Cookie-Flavored Own Brand Items Health and wellness retailer GNC has released new own brand products in partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA. The limited-edition flavor is inspired by Girl Scout Lemon Cookies. "Our Girl Scout inspired products have been embraced by our consumers with many instantly gravitating toward their favorite flavors," said Kevin Maloberti, VP of merchandising at GNC. "Finding groundbreaking


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products that deliver on performance doesn't mean sacrificing flavor. Our Girl Scout product portfolio continues to flourish, and we see our new Lemon flavor as an on-trend extension of the brand momentum surrounding our existing products." The three GNC Girl Scout Lemon products, GNC AMP Wheybolic Whey Protein, GNC Total Lean Layered Lean Bar and GNC Total Lean Lean Shake

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25 are available now at GNC stores and online. The new cookie-inspired flavors were available for purchase as part of GNC’s May buy-one-getone sale. GNC has greatly expanded its exclusive product portfolio in recent months. “Innovation and resilience are essential to success, but particularly on new wellness journeys. We believe this is core to what we do and a huge part of why we believe in our relationship with GNC," said Brian Crawford, VP of licensing at Girl Scouts of the USA. "Introducing Girl Scout Lemon is helping us continue to share our mission with new audiences, in a unique way. GSUSA is proud to work together with GNC to help build a better world."


Looking for Dairy Products? We can connect you with the right sources

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PROFIT FROM THE APPEAL OF Private Label Pasta Sauces US consumers are passionate about pasta — and about the sauces that top the Italian dishes they create in their home kitchens. Now grocery retailers can tempt customers with their own brand of authentic Italian sauces by partnering with La Doria, Europe’s leading producer of private label pasta sauces and pestos made with the authentic Italian recipes the company has been using since 1937. “We source our supplies such as basil, Parmesan and oil from local suppliers,” says Diodato Ferraioli, La Doria’s Export Sales Director, noting that the ingredients come from areas near the factories where the sauces are produced. “All of our raw materials are processed in our Italian facilities, ensuring our ‘Made in Italy’ guarantee. We are are committed to exporting our values and typical Italian flavors — in particular from Southern Italy — to a broad base of consumers around the world.” PRIMED FOR GROWTH A trifecta of trends makes today an ideal time for US grocery retailers to invest in private label pasta sauces that deliver those typical Italian flavors. First, the pasta sauce market is expected to grow at a rate of 7.0% from 2020 to 2027, with North America dominating the pasta sauce category.1 Second, store brands accounted for a record-breaking $199 billion worth of

dollar sales across all the major retail channels in 2021, with more than 80% of U.S. customers rating private brands as good as or better than equivalent branded products.2 Third, about 71% of Americans perceive Italian products to be of higher quality than those of other countries, and more than 8 out of 10 are willing to pay a higher price for the “Made in Italy” guarantee.3 La Doria can help grocers transform those trends into sales with its extensive portfolio of ready-made sauces. “We have red sauces, white sauces, classic pesto, red or vegan pesto, and sauces with meat or fish,” says Ferraioli, who adds that there is a price point to meet the needs of most any store and any customer. “We are able to compete strongly for all private label lines — value, mainstream and premium.” TRACKING TRENDS Retailers who partner with La Doria have access to some of the newest, most innovative products available in the sauce category. “We are constantly working on product innovation to provide private label solutions in line with consumer trends and the latest market development, which enhances the value of what we offer our end consumers,” Ferraioli explains. “We also invest in research to identify the ingredients needed to create new recipes and variations that meet emerging market needs.”

THE PASTA SAUCE MARKET IS EXPECTED TO GROW AT A RATE OF 7.0% FROM 2020 TO 2027, WITH NORTH AMERICA DOMINATING THE PASTA SAUCE CATEGORY.1 A new line of vegan pesto and a tomato-based sauce with vegetable puree that Ferraioli says “is dedicated to the little ones” — both developed for the English market — are examples of La Doria’s innovative approach. The company’s commitment to quality doesn’t stop with ingredients and recipes; it also extends to production capacity, eliminating some of the supply chain challenges grocers and distributors face today. “La Doria Group owns six production facilities throughout Italy, which makes it possible to produce large volumes of product to meet the needs of even the largest distribution chains. In 2021, we produced 101,000 tons of pasta sauces,” Ferraioli reports. “Our cutting-edge technology ensures highly

competitive prices, economies of scale, and the vertical integration of production with the internal production of cans. We can guarantee a high level of flexibility throughout the production and distribution process — everything from customized recipes to packaging to customer service. All of our products reflect the passion that we bring to our work and our desire to promote the best of Italian traditions and to stand out in terms of quality and excellence.” It is a passion that retailers who create shelf space for their own private label pasta sauces can bring to their customers, too. 1

Data Bridge Market Research, Market Analysis and Insights: Global Pasta Sauce Market


PLMA/IRI3 The Future of Private Brands; DaymonPrivate Brand Intelligence Report 2020



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The Walmart-owned warehouse club makes a major sustainability statement with its Member’s Mark private label BY G R EG S LETE R


ustainability. No longer just a buzzword, it is now a focal point for retailers of all sizes as a growing number of consumers are paying greater attention to issues including climate change, environmental protection, recycling and waste management.


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Although the topic of sustainability has been widely discussed for many years, the issue has gained momentum more recently with local governments across the U.S. driving the conversation. For example, a number of municipalities have prohibited the use of plastic shopping bags and some are going even further.

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COVER STORY In Washington, the state recently passed legislation that by 2025 would eliminate the use of PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that are commonly found in various types of food packaging. The passage of the bill follows a study conducted by ToxicFree Future (TFF), the University of Washington and Indiana University that found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples from 50 mothers living in and around the Seattle region. Additionally, TFF released a study that found PFAS in most products labeled stain and water-resistant. Today, most retailers have put in place a plan of action related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards that govern their behavior as it relates to each of these topics. For the environmental portion, retailers have developed corporate policies that address climate change and other issues related to protecting the planet. The challenge for retailers and product suppliers is to come up to speed with new laws now in place and to stay ahead of future legislation that will impact products sold daily at stores across the country. Store Brands’ special report Earthwise takes a look at the efforts of four leading retailers and the sustainability efforts of each. The report is highlighted by Sam’s Club and its recent announcement about its Member’s Mark private label assortment. With sustainability at the forefront of this effort, officials with the Walmart-owned warehouse club share insight on this initiative and the factors that motivated the change. Additionally, Store Brands spoke with Aldi, Albertsons and Southeastern Grocers to gain insight into the steps each retailer has taken to enhance their sustainability initiatives.

Sam’s Club

In many ways, Walmart or a Walmart-owned division has an impact on the retail world much the way legislation in California eventu-


ally has a nationwide impact. As the nation’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, any initiative put in place by Walmart, or in this case Sam’s Club, often reverberates across the retail landscape. “Any initiative from Walmart is something that anyone would want to keep an eye on,” said Katherine Burkhardt, director of Brand Strategy with Daymon. When Sam’s Club announced its major initiative with its Member’s Mark private label assortment, it caught the attention of many. The brand was launched in 1998 and in 2017 Sam’s Club consolidated its 20 proprietary brands under the Member’s Mark label. Today, the brand can be found in a variety of categories including grocery, health and wellness, baby, apparel, home and furniture products, office and technology. “As we introduce new Member’s Mark items and renovate existing ones, we are making decisions that not only focus on quality, innovation and value, but on the impact we are making on the world around us,” said Prathibha Rajashekhar, senior vice president, Private Brand and Sourcing with Sam’s Club. Saying its customers increasingly were looking for products that offer quality and value and that also were on-trend and offer sustainability qualities, Sam’s Club repositioned Member’s Mark as a “purpose-driven brand.” Since 2020, the retailer said it has launched, renovated and reformed more than 1,200 items.

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COVER STORY As a result, shoppers are citing Member’s Mark products as a key reason for membership renewal. “Our members are our biggest motivation,” said a Sam’s Club spokesperson. “Their expectations for quality, value and sustainability are aligned with our promise to build a better Member’s Mark brand. As we looked at our opportunity, we noticed that many of our Member’s Mark items had sustainability attributes. We then asked ourselves, ‘What would it take to continue to evolve (the brand) in a regenerative way?’” But there was an additional line of thinking. Sam’s Club wanted its private label brand to go beyond sustainability and evolve into a regenerative brand dedicated to placing nature and humanity at the center of its business practices. As part of this effort with Member’s Mark, Sam’s Club aims to incorporate more recyclable, reusable and industrially compostable components into the brand’s items and packaging. Additionally, the retailer also plans to take an active role in reducing the environmental footprint of Member’s Mark items in an effort to participate in Project Gigaton, Walmart’s signature private sector consortium that aims to reduce or avoid one billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In developing the more than 1,200 items over the past two


As we introduce new Member’s Mark items and renovate existing ones, we are making decisions that not only focus on quality, innovation and value, but on the impact we are making on the world around us. — Prathibha Rajashekhar, senior vice president, Private Brand and Sourcing with Sam’s Club.



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COVER STORY years, Sam’s Club officials called it a journey that its members and merchants took together. This meant the team at Sam’s Club needed to be open to real feedback from its shoppers in order to get the products right. At the start of the effort in 2019, the retailer formed its My Member’s Mark Community. The 40,000 members provide feedback on products through the various stages of development, serving as a guide when developing a host of new products and giving Sam’s officials insight on the quality, value, trend and sustainability requirements shoppers demand. Retail industry insiders said the effort by Sam’s Club to bring its customers into the Member’s Mark conversation early on was a smart move and one that likely provided a host of unique insights. Additionally, tapping the voice of consumers also provides Sam’s Club or any retailer sharpening its focus on sustainability the opportunity to understand the different viewpoints on the issue from various generations. “The research we have conducted shows there are differences in what sustainability means to each generation,” said Darren Seifer, industry analyst, Food and Beverage with The NPD Group. “Depending on the group, there are differing viewpoints.” He noted that Gen Z shoppers have greater urgency when it comes to sustainability and are focused on what they see as a climate crisis and the impact of changing weather patterns. Millennials have similar views, but are also focused on buying products that provide what they feel are “great values.” When developing–or in this case redeveloping–a product


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As retailers roll out their sustainability plans, they are also sharing time frames with many targeting 2025. As the plan moves forward, it’s important for retailers to provide regular updates. — Andrew Moberly, senior director, Category Solutions, Daymon

assortment, the challenge retailers continually face is making sure the items are meeting the needs of its shoppers. With sustainability, this challenge is further enhanced as consumers have little patience for buying products that fail to meet their high standards as it pertains to having little or no impact on the environment. While Sam’s Club officials provided minimal insight into how the retailer worked to ensure its revamped Member’s Mark program avoided this potential pothole, the company spokesperson said, “We’ve worked with a variety of internal and external experts to ensue the mindset and targets strike a balance of being ambitious while also being achievable.” As retailers such as Sam’s Club shine a brighter spotlight on sustainability, doing so by overhauling a private label product assortment may be a tactic used by others in the future. “With private label a retailer certainly has more control over the product. They don’t have that same control when it comes to working with national brands,” said Burkhardt. “And investing in their private label products shows a high level of commitment to the issue.” With its new Member’s Mark initiative now in place, the key for Sam’s Club is communication with all its members. The retailer has introduced a new logo and design construct that features a subtle checkmark in an effort to let shoppers know of the brand’s focus on “people and the planet.” The new logo and check will be seen on packaging over the next 18 months. This communication effort is something that should be on-going, said Andrew Moberly, senior director, Category Solutions with Daymon. “As retailers roll out their sustainability plans, they are also sharing time frames with many targeting 2025,” he said. “As the plan moves forward, it’s important for retailers to provide regular updates. It’s information their shoppers want to know and it’s also interesting to watch as the plan progresses.”

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PROMOTING A SUSTAINABLE RECIPE FOR CHANGE Albertsons expands Earth-friendly plans to positively impact the communities it serves BY G R EG S LETE R


s one of the nation’s largest grocers, officials at Albertsons said the company is focused on using its national presence and expertise to drive “proactive change” and “uncover meaningful solutions” pertaining to sustainability. Recently, the company announced its Recipe for Change initiative that focuses on Albertsons long-term Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts. “Albertsons Cos. has made substantial progress driving sustainability practices in our operations, including reducing energy and fuel consumption, implementing recycling programs, and fighting food insecurity in our local neighborhoods,” said Suzanne Long, the company’s chief sustainability and transformation officer. “Recipe for Change is about broadening our existing commitments so we can have an even greater impact.” In an interview with Store Brands, Long shared specifics on Albertsons’ sustainability efforts that include the impact on private label products, how it’s communicating those efforts to its shoppers and the broader corporate ef-


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forts related to energy conservation and waste reduction. STORE BRANDS: When working with product suppliers, what steps has Albertsons taken as it pertains to its sustainability efforts? SUZANNE LONG: One of the key focus areas in our Recipe for Change platform is waste reduction and circularity. We are committed to eliminating food waste going to landfill, reducing the use of plastic, and accelerating our transition to a more circular economy. An example of our efforts in this area is a series of light-weighting initiatives that reduce the amount of plastic we use in products like water bottles and milk jugs. Our teams engineered a gallon jug for our milk plants that uses about 10% less plastic than our previous jug. We also have an innovative partnership in the Pacific Northwest in which we send some of our food waste to a biodigester that creates biogas and soil nutrients for an organic farm. The biogas is then converted to electricity, which powers the onsite plant that packages fruit grown using the soil nutrients. We then sell this produce in our stores. We also want our customers to have options to purchase

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Albertsons has reduced our use of virgin plastic by creating an end-market for recycled plastics, and we include recycled content into our plastic packaging for products such as our O Organics lettuce containers or Open Nature hand soap and laundry detergent. — Suzanne Long, chief sustainability and transformation officer, Albertsons

sustainably sourced products. Examples include our Responsible Choice seafood program and Fair-Trade certified products offered in our stores, including our entire line of O Organics coffee. In addition, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to choose organic products, and our exclusive O Organics line is 100% USDA Certified organic. SB: What steps has Albertsons taken to reduce the use of plastic? SL: Albertsons has reduced our use of virgin plastic by creating an endmarket for recycled plastics, and we include recycled content into our plastic packaging for products such as our O Organics lettuce containers or Open Nature hand soap and laundry detergent. We have similar efforts underway with other products and much more planned for the future. As we move forward, we are refining our plastic and packaging baseline methodology and developing actionable plans to prioritize those packaging materials that don’t meet our requirements and replace them with suitable alternatives. SB: What steps are taken to educate shoppers and get their buy-in to properly dispose of packaging? How are these efforts marketed to shoppers? SL: We strive to continuously improve how we communicate recyclability to

our customers. We are proud to share that by the end of this year, our customers will see standardized recycling communications on our own brands packaging and/or through our Smart Labels and other QR code systems. We have partnered with How2Recycle to leverage their labeling systems across various product categories to improve the reliability and transparency of recyclability claims. This will help customers know how to properly dispose of and recycle our own brand product packaging to help keep plastic out of landfills. SB: Has Albertsons received any feedback or ideas from shoppers or employees related to sustainability? SL: When we refreshed our materiality assessment in 2020, we engaged our customers and various internal stakeholders to learn more about what ESG topics they thought were most important for us to focus on. That feedback is part of what helped us determine our Recipe for Change focus areas. We’ve received a positive response from our associates, customers and vendor partners since announcing our Recipe for Change, and we look forward to sharing progress against our goals. We know this is a growing area of interest and importance for our customers, associates, vendor partners and investors. We hope they will con-

tinue to stay engaged with us and our Recipe for Change progress so we can continue to be informed of topics that are most important to them. SB: From a corporate perspective, what are some of the newest sustainability initiatives being implemented? SL: One of our key commitments is to fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions by 2030 through science-based targets and achieving net zero emissions in our operations by 2040. We have several projects and initiatives already underway, and we’ve developed plans for other longterm strategies. We were one of the first retailers in the country to use utility-grade wind turbines at our distribution center in Tracy, California. The two 1-megawatt Mitsubishi wind turbines make a significant contribution to the power needs of our 1.9 million-square-foot distribution center located on 210 acres. Also, we are purchasing utility-scale renewable energy, which helps to bring new clean energy operations online. We are investing in energy efficiency to reduce our electricity usage in our stores, distribution centers, manufacturing plants, and offices. And our entire private truck fleet is certified by the EPA’s SmartWay program as we work to reduce our carbon footprint and advance supply chain sustainability and freight transportation efficiency.

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HART RECHARGES LAWN & GARDEN Consumers have long used rechargeable power tools to complete various DIY projects around the home. HART, a leader in developing products that feature lithium-ion batteries, continues to expand its assortment. Known for its selection of lawn and garden products, the company recently entered the vacuum cleaner segment. Below, HART talks about its technology and how its products can help retailers meet changing consumer needs.

Store Brands: What role does HART and its products play in providing retailers and ultimately consumers items that are Earth-friendly? HART: HART’s powered products all run off 20-Volt and 40-Volt Lithium-Ion batteries. These interchangeable and rechargeable batteries help reduce waste and gas pollution with zero emissions. SB: States such as California are banning the sale of gas-powered lawn equipment. How can HART help retailers fill this void and offer shoppers products that use rechargeable batteries? HART: HART’s 40-Volt battery system offers gas-like power in its products without the hassle or concern of using actual gas products. The system allows HART to keep the tools lightweight, quieter, and easier to handle without compromising power.

SB: What are some of the advantages rechargeable products offer over traditional gas-powered products? HART: The biggest advantage HART’s lithium-Ion batteries provide over traditional gas-powered products is the low maintenance required for HART’s products. Customers no longer have to worry about mixing gas and oil, dealing with faulty spark plugs, and the physical toll of pulling to start. All HART’s lineup needs is a charged battery and a push of a button to get started. SB: What are some of the new technologies HART has developed that make its products more sustainable and differ from other items on the market? HART: Not only does HART’s Lithium-Ion technology allow for reusable batteries without compromising gas-like power, but HART also offers an Ultra-Quiet technology in several leaf blowers and chainsaws to fight against noise pollution. SB: As with any new technology, marketing is key. How is HART promoting its products to consumers to discuss how these new technologies work and are better for the environment? HART: HART’s primary marketing campaign for the year is teaching customers the benefits of switching from gas to cordless products. Our current “Be FREE” campaign talks about the benefits of being “Gas FREE,” “Cord FREE,” and “Struggle FREE” by switching to HART’s 20-Volt and 40-Volt platforms. We walk through the hassles of maintaining gas tools, the struggle of starting and using gas tools, and the noise pollution that comes along with them. By switching to HART’s cordless platform, you eliminate all these hassles and are able to step into cordless freedom. SB: What new product categories has the company entered into recently? How do these products differ from others on the market? HART: The benefit of HART and the exclusive partnership with Walmart means opportunities to expand our 20Volt lineup into departments that other traditional Home Improvement retailers would not necessarily offer. HART recently launched a line of 20-Volt vacuums with plans to continue to add to that lineup and many more departments. The Walmart shopper can already turn to HART in categories such as sporting goods, camping, lighting, and portable power, with plenty more on the way. This gives HART the ability to be much more than a power tool brand, but a brand with a battery platform that can really power the home. SB

Hart Consumer Products, Inc. 100 Innovation Way Anderson, SC 29621


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Southeastern Grocers meshes input from shoppers and associates to develop and expand environmentally-friendly practices BY G R EG S LETE R


hen developing a plan for tackling the issue of sustainability, officials with Southeastern Grocers said they utilized feedback from shoppers, associates and the communities it serves. And the message the company received was clear. “We heard clearly that sustainable packaging, food waste and emissions were the top areas of importance,” said Dewayne Rabon, chief merchandising officer with Southeastern Grocers (SEG). Today, the company continues working to build a “sustainable future” for years to come, according to Rabon. This includes aligning its goals and objectives with six United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The multi-pronged approach taken by the grocery retailer touches a number of key areas including product packaging, food waste and energy use at its locations. In an interview with Store Brands, Rabon shared what the company is doing now related to sustainability and how SEG will continue the effort going forward.


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STORE BRANDS: What steps has SEG taken to reduce waste from product packaging? DEWAYNE RABON: SEG has committed to increasing the sustainability of own-brand packaging by the end of 2028. As part of this pledge, all owned-brand packaging will eliminate polystyrene, be reusable, recyclable or industrially compostable and all packaging will have an average of 30% post-consumer recycled material. SB: The source of food has become a major discussion point as it pertains to sustainability. How has SEG addressed these concerns? DR: We have increased the sustainability of our own brand line of products through the support of fair labor practices, responsible cocoa sourcing and creation of fiber compostable and biodegradable single-use products. SEG was recently recognized by Store Brands for our commitment to innovating sustainable products and received multiple 2022 Game Changer Awards. We also believe in responsible sourcing and remain focused on working with and supporting local and diverse suppliers. This year, we’re hosting quarterly expos to

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CASE STUDY: SOUTHEASTERN GROCERS We believe in responsible sourcing and remain focused on working with and supporting local and diverse suppliers. This year, we’re hosting quarterly expos to help elevate small businesses and provide our customers with more of the local products they love.


— Dewayne Rabon, chief merchandising officer, Southeastern Grocers (SEG).

help elevate small businesses and provide our customers with more of the local products they love. SB: What steps has SEG taken to educate shoppers and get their buyin when it comes to properly disposing of packaging? DR: SEG has partnered with How2Recycle, a standardized labeling system for packaging that clearly communicates recycling instructions to customers based on packaging specifications. How2Recycle takes the guesswork out of recycling and follows guidance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Through this new partnership, we are adding How2Recycle’s label to our own brand product packaging to help educate customers on how to best recycle the packaging and prevent more material from going to the landfill. Additionally, our stores throughout the southeast have easily accessible

recycling bins with clear instructions for proper disposal of plastic film. SB: What steps has SEG taken to reduce the use of single-use plastic shopping bags? DR: We encourage our customers and community members to participate in our Community Bag and Giving Tag program to make a difference in their local communities and help the environment by reducing the use of paper and plastic bags. With each purchase of a reusable community bag featuring an attached giving tag, customers can direct a $1 donation to the nonprofit of their choice. If the customer does not choose a nonprofit to receive the $1 donation within seven days, it will automatically be donated to the

store’s chosen nonprofit of the month. Each month, the store will select a new organization to benefit from the program including education, civic, health and wellness, hunger and disaster relief, veterans and military families as well as belonging, inclusion and diversity organizations serving the local community. SB: How are these efforts marketed to shoppers? DR: We regularly share our sustainability and recycling efforts with our customers through in-store signage, social media and press materials. Customers can easily find our commitments and progress highlighted in our Corporate Social Responsibility Progress Report available on our websites.

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A MULTI-PRONGED APPROACH From packaging to how it sources products, Aldi is focused on all aspects of sustainability BY G R EG S LETE R


ith 2,200 stores across the United States, Aldi is one of the nation’s largest retailers of private label products. In addition to maintaining its vision of offering shoppers quality items at affordable prices, the company is also attuned to the ever-evolving corporate culture radiating across the U.S. when it comes to the issue of sustainability. Recently, Aldi’s CEO Jason Hart penned a letter to customers highlighting the company’s latest initiative; phasing out plastic shopping bags from all its stores by the end of 2023. So far, the grocer has eliminated plastic bags from nearly 500 locations. To discuss Aldi’s total efforts related to sustainability, Joan Kavanaugh, Vice President of National Buying at Aldi U.S., spoke with Store Brands. She touched on a number of issues including the company’s efforts to revamp its packaging, changes to how it sources products and the steps it has taken to include its shoppers in the process. STORE BRAND: What steps has Aldi taken to work with suppliers to ensure packaging is reusable, recyclable and compostable?


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JOAN KAVANAUGH: We’re proud to be taking several steps on this front. As we reported in our Progress Report, 62% of our Aldi-exclusive packaging is now reusable, recyclable or compostable. This is a huge milestone for us and the percentage continues to rise. In addition to removing plastic bags from all our stores by the end of 2023, we have also pledged to use 20% post-consumer recycled content in our plastic packaging by 2025. This means our packaging will include material that has already been recycled, which cuts down on the creation of new plastic packaging, fostering a circular economy for plastics. We’ve also worked closely with the Food Industry Association to develop a sustainable packaging playbook that offers guidance for suppliers to drive progress with packaging in all industries, including grocery. We are a founding member of the U.S. Plastics Pact, working with other retailers to create a path towards a circular economy for plastics in the United States by 2025. In the Pact’s 2020 baseline report, I restated our commitment to be an industry leader in sustainability, particularly when it comes to plastic and packaging reduction. SB: Are there one or two product examples you could

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CASE STUDY: ALDI provide that show this effort with packaging? JK: We introduced new packaging for produce such as mixed bell peppers that uses 44% less plastic, as well as packaging for blueberries and tomatoes that uses 20% less plastic. We also removed Styrofoam from all produce packaging, and more than 99% of our apparel items use cardboard sleeves instead of plastic packaging.

As a shopper, it’s hard to know what product packaging is recyclable. Aldi has made it as simple as possible for shoppers. All Aldi-exclusive food and nonfood everyday items feature an easy-to-locate How2Recycle logo. — Joan Kavanaugh, Aldi

SB: How is the reusable/recyclable/ compostable nature of packaging conveyed to consumers? JK: As a shopper, it’s hard to know what product packaging is recyclable. Aldi has made it as simple as possible for shoppers. All Aldi-exclusive food and nonfood everyday items feature an easy-to-locate How2Recycle logo. SB: Are there any steps taken to encourage consumers to not simply dispose of the products, but reuse or recycle it? JK: One of the goals we announced in 2019 was for all Aldi-exclusive products to be clearly labeled with a How2Recycle logo to promote recycling at home. I’m proud to share that we met this goal, which in turn has helped make recycling at home easier for shoppers. We’ve also developed sustainable Aldi Finds, including reusable straws and reusable sandwich/snack bags to further limit the number of items that are single-use and thrown in the trash. SB: Within categories such as seafood or coffee, has Aldi made any investments with suppliers to ensure the products are sourced or grown sustainably? JK: Absolutely – sustainability in these categories is a priority for us. When it comes to seafood, we’ve partnered with our suppliers to ensure more than 100 of our fresh, chilled and frozen seafood products are certified sustainably sourced by a third party. We also work with the Ocean Disclosure Project to make the origin

of wild-caught seafood visible to our customers. When customers purchase our seafood products, they can rest assured they’ve been sourced responsibly. Additionally, 100% of our Simply Nature-branded coffee products are already certified sustainable and 100% of our Barissimo premium coffee products will be certified sustainable by the end of this year, three years ahead of our original 2025 target. Our partnerships with Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade America and Rainforest Alliance certify select Aldi products are fair trade and sustainably sourced, so customers know they’re buying items that are good for the people in our supply chain and the planet. Purchasing these products

helps farmers and community development projects all over the world, in turn improving their livelihoods and operations, and that’s important to us and our customers. SB: Beyond any in-store or on-package information, is Aldi communicating these changes in a broader marketing strategy? JK: This is exactly why we released our first-ever progress report. As a leader in the grocery industry, it’s important our customers and peers see the progress we’re making toward becoming a more sustainable company, but it’s also vital we show there is still work to be done. We are proud to provide our shoppers with affordable ways to shop sustainably.

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CONSUMER DEMAND FOR SUSTAINABILITY GROWS New surveys show shoppers desire for greater transparency is on the rise B Y Z AC H A R Y R U S S E L L


ustainability is on the minds of more shoppers today and while retailers and product suppliers alike continue to implement or expand their efforts related to this topic, how they respond to consumers’ evolving needs will be vital to future success. A recent report “Transparency in an Evolving Omnichannel World’’ from NielsenIQ and FMI, The Food Industry Association, found that the shopping behaviors of consumers have been rapidly evolving. While COVID-19 has had the greatest impact on how people shop over the past two years, the issue of sustainability is growing and influencing what people are buying. As retailers expand their sustainability efforts, private brands could prove to be a testing ground for many to try new packaging concepts or products that capture the spirit of this growing effort. “We’re seeing a trend in which brands are releasing private label lines that prioritize sustainability in all categories, from beauty to cookware,” said Lizzie Horvitz, CEO & founder of Finch, a digital tool that logs the sustainability attributes of products. “It’s an easy way for brands to test out the desire for sustainability from their consumers.”


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With products that claim to be sustainable, Horvitz noted that consumers want transparency, from how a product is made, what happens after it’s disposed, and everything in between. According to the NielsenIQ/FMI report, most shoppers (72%) consider transparency from brands and manufacturers to be extremely important or important. Gen Z (74%) and Millennial (79%) shoppers are more likely to say it is important that the companies they buy from are transparent compared to the older generations. Additionally, the report found that nearly 69% of shoppers desire more sustainability information about the products they purchase. A further breakdown of the transparency issue as it relates to sustainability shows a growing consumer desire for additional information on several topics. These include how products are produced (26%), how ingredients are sourced (25%), sustainability practices (19%) and value-based information such as animal welfare, fair trade or labor practices (26%). Another study, The Global Sustainability Study 2021 conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners last year, found 85% of people indicated that they have shifted their pur-

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COVER STORY chase behavior towards being more sustainable in the past five years. Globally, sustainability is rated as an important purchase factor for 60% of consumers with 61% in the U.S. saying sustainability is important when buying a new product, while 34% of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for sustainable products or services. “Sustainability is no longer a niche topic but one that has become fully mainstream. Shoppers are increasingly aware of the link between the environment and personal wellbeing, as well as the impact of buying behavior on food and packaging waste and climate change,” said Katherine Burkhardt, Director of Brand Strategy at Daymon, a private brand development firm. “As a result, they are supporting brands and embracing products with an environmental stance.” Private brands are especially well positioned to address consumers’ interest in sustainability. According to Daymon’s proprietary research, one out of two private brand consumers are interested in sustainable sourced/ produced products; yet, according to The Hartman Group’s Sustainability 2021 report, cost is shoppers’ #1 barrier to purchasing sustainable products, she noted. “We see more and more retailers investing in sustainable products and packaging within their private brand programs to deliver a solution for consumers looking for options that are both eco and wallet friendly,” added Burkhardt. “Further, these private brand solutions are an important part of retailers’ efforts towards impacting their corporate sustainability goals. From responsibly-sourced ingredients, to eco-friendly packaging, to entire brands developed with a sustainable mission, retailers are using their private brand programs in varied ways to support their broader ESG goals.”

We’re seeing a trend in which brands are releasing private label lines that prioritize sustainability in all categories, from beauty to cookware. It’s an easy way for brands to test out the desire for sustainability from their consumers. — Lizzie Horvitz, CEO & founder of Finch

72% Shoppers who consider transparency related to sustainability from brands and manufacturers to be extremely important or important*

69% Shoppers who desire more sustainability information about the products they purchase*

* NielsenIQ/FMI

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or the third year, Store Brands is celebrating those under the age of 45 who are rising through the ranks in the world of private label. The past year has proved to be challenging for those in grocery and retail. From rising material costs, inflation, labor shortages and more, manufacturers and retailers alike are adapting to the new, ever-changing landscape. This year’s Rising Stars list gives a glimpse at how figures in private label are pushing forward and continuing to innovate.

Here are the Rising Stars for 2022:


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DreamPak would like to congratulate

Marley Whitmore of ALDI on being named a Rising Star!

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Senior Account Executive, Simmons Foods Inc.

Senior Category Manager, Topco Associates

Ryan Funa is the Senior Account Executive at Simmons Foods Inc., a company that produces private label prepared chicken products found on grocery shelves, as well as pet food and animal nutrition solutions. Funa assumed his role at Simmons Foods in late 2019, and has since earned praise, being called organized, dependable, action-oriented and dedicated. Funa has shown his high-level leadership abilities both internally at the company and when detailing with retail customers. He has been praised for his customer service when it comes to business partners, offering a service oriented attitude and willingness to share his knowledge and collaborate. Perhaps notably, given the ongoing supply chain challenges impacting the grocery and retail industries, Funa has played a large role in optimizing Simmons Foods’ assortment of products, while navigating the changing environment so that customers are still able to receive quality products.

Katie Jakubowski has spent five years at Topco Associates, serving as Category Manager of Bakery before becoming the Senior Category Manager of Produce in July 2020. In addition to being described as proactive and detail-oriented, Jakubowski’s skill set can be seen in the success of the Basket & Bushel private brand, which was named a 2022 Game Changer by Store Brands. As the Senior Category Manager for Packaged Produce, she and her team developed and launched Basket & Bushel’s line of washed, ready to eat fresh vegetables culminating in a 15-item launch in October 2021, resulting in more than $1 million in sales monthly. Each item in this line is offered in a microwavesafe, micro-perforated bag that allows the product to remain fresher longer (up to 16 days) by reducing the condensation within. This expansion of the brand found at several retailers allowed shoppers to buy fresh veggies at an affordable price without having to worry about spoilage, a critical attribute given the impact of inflation on grocery prices. Jakubowski’s understanding of the produce business and contributions to the development of Topco’s brand make her a 2022 Rising Star.


Owned Brand Commercialization Manager- Snacks, Nuts and Candy, Walgreens Described as having an enthusiastic, entrepreneurial spirit, Auburn Sooter serves as Walgreens’ Owned Brand Commercialization Manager, overseeing the retailer’s assortment of private label snack items. She joined Walgreens in 2019, and assumed her current role in September of 2021, and has quickly earned praise from her supply partners. Previously, Sooter served Walgreens as Merchandising Process Associate Manager and Project Manager of the Retail & Finance Transformation Process. Sooter worked with one supplier in particular to change the packaging size of a key product that led to an increased bottom line for Walgreens. The company, Tropical Nut & Fruit, wanted to change the three own brand chocolate nuts from 10 oz. bags to 5 oz. bags. The company had pitched the idea prior to Sooter’s arrival, but it wasn’t until they collaborated with Sooter that the change was impacted, crediting the Rising Star as open-minded, knowledgeable, engaging and creative. While new to the private label snack category, it’s clear that Sooter’s impact has been felt at Walgreens.


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Senior Director, Global Sourcing and Innovation, Japan, Daymon Worldwide Michelle Aloi started her retail career as a Wegman’s associate responsible for setting planograms and keeping shelves stocked. Through her hard work, she quickly rose through the ranks and decided to move to Daymon as she fell in love with private brands. She supported Wegman’s through a number of different roles focused on growing their brand in the fresh departments. Because of her success as a leader on the Wegman’s account, Aloi was invited to lead the Sourcing team on the newly formed AEON TOPVALU team in Japan. Over the past 6 years, she has continued to grow as she built a private brand sourcing program for one of the world’s best-known retailers. When Aloi took on the challenge to build a new sourcing structure for AEON, she jumped in 200%. She quickly developed strong relationships by spending one-on-one time with key decision makers. She also built a team of sourcing managers from scratch and continues to lead them in developing new sources of supply for AEON from around the world.


who make a difference!

Stephanie Chien Product Management - Deli, Food Service, and Bakery Stephanie leads the Own Brands innovation portfolio for Deli, Food Service and In Store Bakery products. Over the past two years, Stephanie has led her team through many challenging pivots and has optimized the commercialization process by streamlining inputs from a vast cross-functional team. Stephanie is a strong people leader always leading with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in mind. She is very strategic, empowers others and an outstanding trainer developing others. Congratulations to Stephanie for all her contributions to our industry!

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Under 40


Own Brand Lead, Meijer

For the past two years, Brianna Bitzer has played a vital role in further developing Meijer’s private label assortment. Those who work closely with her know she is an expert at her job and many own brand leads within the retailer look to her for her expertise on systems and processes. Among her accomplishments is single-handedly working to implement a full package overhaul for the consumables area at Meijer. She was able to dissect each package design to ensure its products conveyed the value and quality of the Meijer brand to its customers. Key to this was breaking down the components of each package to ensure each was a part of the same brand story. She worked cross functionally with each merchant area, packaging, legal and vendors to align everyone from concept to shipment. Communication is also a strength of Bitzer. Known as a top notch communicator whether in person, on the phone or emailing, she knows how to communicate to any audience and is able to bring everyone along on projects that she is working on. Everything she does is at 110%. Every single day she works to drive business whether it’s assisting the analysts, working with the vendors or comp shopping. A member of the Meijer team since 2014, she joined the retailer as an inventory control analyst. Two years later she was named a product flow specialist and moved to her current position in March of 2020.


Private Brands Business Manager, Casey’s General Stores Creative, innovative, focused and ambitious are a few of the words used to describe Erin Butler, the Private Brands Business Manager of Casey’s General Stores. Butler joined the company in June of 2020 after spending over six years in leadership roles at Kum & Go. Casey’s General Store is known for hot foods like pizza, as well as own brand food and beverage items, which Butler plays a pivotal role in overseeing. Butler’s most recent achievement has been developing the private brand ice cream program at Casey’s. After considering her supplier options, she chose a partner that was flexible to fit her creative vision for the company. Butler developed creative product names, innovative packaging designs and even a proprietary flavor profile variety. The program has exceeded even the supplier’s expectations, and future line expansions are expected to continue the growth of the program, especially with the arrival of summer. Casey’s has expanded its prepared foods and private label products rapidly in recent years, and Butler’s expertise is a large reason why.


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Director, Own Brands; Deli, Foodservice and Bakery, Albertsons At Albertsons, Stephanie Chien leads the innovation portfolio for the company’s deli, foodservice and in-store bakery items that are carried under the Signature Cafe, Signature Reserve, O Organics and Artisan Breads brands. During the past two years, Chien led her team through many challenging pivots in an effort to keep business moving forward. Source of supply and ingredients have been an ongoing challenge in her categories and she has continued to work with supplier partners to deliver new products. In addition to leading the launch of many new items in Albertsons’ selection of private label products, Chien has done the hard work of developing processes to streamline getting projects to shelf. One example is Albertsons’ ReadyMeals that was recently launched. She developed the commercialization process, process flow mapping including inputs from a vast cross-functional team including product development, quality assurance and product management. Chien is a strong people leader always leading with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind. She is very strategic, empowers others and is an outstanding trainer when it comes to developing others.

Congratulations to our Rising Star! Thank you for all you do for SpartanNash and the communities we serve.

KELSEY RUSSELL OwnBrands Product Brand Manager

Kelsey manages some of our largest categories and leads supplier sourcing, promotional planning, product development and marketing efforts. She is a positive team player who utilizes collaboration and strong leadership skills.

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Vice President of Marketing, Yes! Apples


Brand Manager, Harbor Wholesale

Chelsea Garrow is credited for developing Harbor Wholesale’s brand, Mountain Fresh, working tirelessly to create a brand that is on-trend. Mountain Fresh has resonated extremely well with the company’s customers and consumers alike with the premium grab and go products in crowd pleasing varieties. Knowing the consumer and isn’t afraid to try new things, she is constantly innovating to ensure they have the right products available to meet their needs. Mountain Fresh is impacting the way consumers think about convenience stores as well as other on-the-go retail locations. It gives them a new exciting option that can draw additional consumers into their stores. During her tenure as category manager for Harbor Wholesale, she saw an opportunity to create a brand that was meant to satisfy on-the-go consumers looking for premium quality ingredients, satisfying every appetite. She worked on the development of the product line, graphic elements, branding guidelines, and digital presence to create what is now a double-digit growth brand. Garrow is a visionary that sees opportunity, creates excitement within the organization and brings the vision to life.


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Since joining the Yes! Apples team in June 2020, Tenley Fitzgerald has developed the organization from the ground up. Her focus has been implementation of a multipronged strategy of working with retail partners and developing and managing various campaigns via social media, email, public relations, direct marketing, partnerships and sponsorships. Fitzgerald also initiated and led the development of the Yes! Apples e-commerce channel where customers can purchase 9-count boxes of apples directly from the farm. This is the first direct-to-consumer apple brand of its kind. Beyond its ecommerce channel, she seeks out new retailer partners, including regional chains, e-commerce and grocery delivery. She also created and leads Yes! Apples’ partnerships with 1% for the Planet, National Young Farmers Coalition, The Giving Grove, and Cornell Small Farms. Fitzgerald advocates for women in business, especially produce, taking care of and protecting the planet, creating an inclusive food system, and building community and connection through great-tasting apples. Fitzgerald has taken a trade-focused organization and evolved it into an all-things-consumer brand, which continues to grow. Using the power of branding and marketing to connect with consumers and share stories about Yes! Apples grower partners and the highquality apples they produce, her mission is to get consumers excited about apples, help them find and try new varieties, and find new ways to incorporate them into their day-to-day lives. A trait that allows her to stand out is her creativity in developing new ways to reach existing and prospective customers, educating them about New York apples and how they differ in taste versus those grown elsewhere. A New York native who grew up on the shores of Lake Ontario, she brings a unique perspective on apples grown in the rich soil of this region of the Empire State. She is a true advocate for sustainability, leading the charge to reduce plastic in packaging used as well as focusing on highlighting recycling efforts.

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Senior Director of Private Label, Misfits Market Morgan Drummond brings a unique passion for innovation to the world of private label. Her experience as a product developer and food scientist has set her up to successfully balance the art and science of developing products. In 2019, she was recognized for becoming the world’s eighth certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil Savante and uses her knowledge to consistently maintain rigorous quality standards. Drummond managed key categories that were impacted by COVID-19, such as pasta and oil. Working in a challenging environment, she led complex strategies and solved serious supply chain issues. She fought to keep product stocked for her consumers in an unprecedented time. Her “above and beyond” attitude and collaboration skills worked in her favor to be successful and shine during the height of the health crisis. She is lauded as a wonderful mentor and has successfully developed six assistants into category managers Drummond recently joined the Misfits Market team after more than 10 years at Whole Foods. There, she held several key positions including senior category merchant, exclusive brands: meals; and director of sourcing, private label: dairy, frozen, specialty, prepared foods and bakery.

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Manager, Owned Brands, The Fresh Market


Our Brand Senior Category Manager, Kroger Matt Kramer leads a team of private brands category strategy managers that are responsible for product and brand development across a third of the categories in Kroger stores. His leadership has played an integral role in the company’s private brand success. He was instrumental in developing industry leading strategies and growth plans for innovative Simple Truth plant-based products across more than 200 categories. Kramer quickly recognizes business opportunities and drives results through innovation. He is a tremendous influencer in the business, always volunteering to lead initiatives and problem solving across multiple platforms. He consistently and passionately demonstrates leadership across multiple parts of the organization. He inspires his team to stay engaged, motivated and to be highly successful. Kramer has been with Kroger for more than 15 years. He joined the company in 2007 as a category buyer. He has held several positions including analyst, category manager and category strategy manager.


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Ashley Vance has worked tirelessly over the past two years with The Fresh Market’s vendors and distributor partners - leading the charge with the company’s supply chain partners. This has allowed the retailer to maintain proper inventory levels for center store own brand items. She also stepped into a larger role to help manage supply chain issues finding solutions with vendors and distributor partners to help all sides overcome the daily challenges. As a result, the company maintained stock levels on its The Fresh Market brand items when some national brands were out of stock. Her vigilance in talking to vendors and creating a solution that worked for them and The Fresh Market resulted in avoiding a $750,000 revenue shortfall. Vance is known for being tenacious & relentless in getting answers to a pending PO or delay in a PO. She is willing to make phone calls to vendors, the company’s supply chain and distribution partners to find freight solutions or complete a transfer on time for The Fresh Market stores. She is also proactive, working on forecasts, increasing PO’s, and communicating to vendor partners about upcoming promotions for own brand items to get ahead of the need. With several years of experience working with various brands and retailers, Vance joined The Fresh Market in 2018.


National Buying Director,Aldi

Marley Whitmore is described as a merchant who is collaborative, accessible and straightforward. She has a singular focus on bringing the best products to Aldi’s customers and at the best value. Utilizing industry data to quickly make decisions, this technique allows Whitmore to avoid being paralyzed by analysis and get innovative new products to market quickly. She has an understanding of Aldi’s core customer and the factors that motivate each person who enters the grocers’ stores and ultimately makes a purchase. Whitmore joined Aldi in 2014 as a district manager based in Florida. Four years later, she headed Down Under where she served as an area manager for Aldi Stores Australia. In 2020, she returned to the United States taking her current position as the retailer’s national buying director.

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Under 40

Category Manager, Yesway

Supplier partners that work with Dana Renfro have high regard for her ability to drive sales and profits, and applaud her for building strong consumer engagement through her strong rapport for the companies she works with. She is analytical, a strong negotiator, and has proven adept at learning the business. In less than two years, she has grown from being a category associate to category manager, leading one of the most important categories in the industry for the 14th largest convenience store chain in the United States. Renfro has P&L responsibility and oversees all aspects of the packaged beverage category, including pricing, product selection, marketing, promotion, contract negotiation and planograms. She negotiates with supplier partners to drive innovation into Yesway’s cooler sets and delivers increased sales and margin for more than 400 Yesway and Allsup’s stores. She helped lead the development of 20 own-brand SKUs within packaged beverages that generate the highest gross profit in the vault. Yesway has a line of spring, alkaline, vitamin enhanced, and sparkling waters. She also helped develop Allsup’s branded purified water allowing the retailer to have a solid good, better and best approach to an important category. Renfro has delivered a profound impact on Yesway and Allsup’s bottom line. She has driven the successful outcome of multiple projects, and has quickly shown proficiency in a broad range of categories before earning the packaged beverage desk. She helped launch Yesway’s private brand products, elevated the loyalty program to include fuel rewards and incentives, and introduced innovations to the cooler doors in stores across nine states. On top of all of this, she has been able to negotiate major contracts, launch scan-based programs, and deliver consistent sales increases in her categories year over year.

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CEO, Big Dipper Dough Company


Category Manager, Wakefern Serving as Category Manager at Wakefern since April 2021, Kylie Brienza has been praised as an incredible asset to the Own Brands team, and a “Jill of all trades” for her ability to multitask. In her brief time so far in the role, Brienza has amplified Wakefern’s private label presence in several ways. First, she spearheaded a new project management tool for the Own Brands team that will help the Category Managers and cross-functional teams track new product launches. She helped develop a project management tool in Smartsheet that keeps all new product launches on track and has implemented an automated system to minimize the manual updates. Brienza also created a process for buying commodities, such as sugar and wheat, that helps Wakefern act on market changes quickly and analyze the impact. She created a means to show the direct impact of the market price increase or decrease and the impact it will have on the business. Finally, she organized the Own Brand division’s first candy/sweets workshop to develop new private label items. Based on her achievements so far, it’s clear that Brienza is making a name for herself as a Rising Star in private label.


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Austin Groesser is the only CEO on this year’s Rising Stars list, making a name for himself in the Under 30 category as the leader of Big Dipper Dough. The company, co-founded by Groesser and Daniel Fuller in 2015, sells edible and bakeable cookie dough products, and is offered as a white label product that can be found at some of the country’s top retailers under their private label brands. Found at more than 3,000 stores in 40 states, Big Dipper Dough, under Groesser’s leadership, is also in the process of licensing a fast food brand to sell the product at retail, showing no signs of slowing down for the upstart company. Groesser, who graduated high school in 2013, sells, manages, promotes and handles all social media for the company, showing versatility in his role. As Big Dipper Dough continues to expand its reach under private brands, Groesser’s leadership is deserving of recognition.

Hunter Standridge

National Account Manager, Stout Stuff As National Account Manager, Hunter Standridge manages multiple account relationships in the pet care category for Stout Stuff, a company he has spent four years with. In the role, he has excelled working with top retailers on private brand pet items, while earning praise for his attitude and enthusiasm for business and communication savvy. Over the last 18 months, Standridge successfully developed and managed the launch of a line of premium private brand pet grooming items for Walmart. He managed this project from end to end, even powering through the supply chain challenges that many are facing. Total retail sales of this program will translate to $10M+ on an annual basis according to Stout Stuff. Under his management, the Walmart account has tripled. In his work with both Walmart and Tractor Supply Co. managing private brand items, Standridge has proved himself to be an asset for the company, as 2022 expects to be a record year for Stout Stuff’s major accounts.

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OwnBrands Product Brand Manager, SpartanNash Kelsey Russell has been working with SpartanNash’s OwnBrands team for nearly five years, and has quickly risen in the ranks to become the Product Brand Manager, overseeing large categories within the grocery department. She also leads supplier sourcing, promotional planning, product development and marketing efforts for SpartanNash’s private brands, studying how to showcase the products the best possible way, and then executing. Among her achievements, Russell led the efforts to reformulate and improve the Our Family Potato Chip Program and drive loyalty with SpartanNash customers. Since her efforts on this initiative, the company saw a double digit lift in wholesale sales dollars with the chip line, highlighting the robust success of the program under her leadership. Russell helped SpartanNash reach a massive sustainability milestone as well, as her management of the compostable coffee pod business helped save more than 17 tons of plastic from landfills. Russell has been described as a team player who uplifts her coworkers and gives them the support and tools they need to help move the OwnBrands category forward. For these reasons, she is a 2022 Rising Star.


MICHELLE ALOI The rewards of your hard work and dedicated efforts have been outstanding. Congratulations on your brilliant success and achievement.

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Store Brands

June 2020

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Agostoni Chocolate N.A. Inc.

5301 Beethoven Street Suite 170 Los Angeles, CA 90066 213.261.0057


via Montello 72 Pieve di Soligo 31053, Italy +39 0438 980130

Bidor Kwong Heng Sdn. Bhd.

Plot 1919, Kawasan Perindustrian Bidor Perak, 35500 Malaysia +6.012.520.7123

California Milk Advisory Board 2156 W Grant Line Road, Suite 100 Tracy, CA 95377 209.690.8245

501 Prospect St., Unit 111, Lakewood, NJ 08701 | 609.838.1717 | |

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Store Brands


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Global Baby USA

Catania Oils

3 Nemco Way Ayer, MA 01432 978.772.7900 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 60

Confitex Textile Technology 268 Manukau Road Epsom, Auckland, 1023 New Zealand 011.649.282.4163

CleanWell, LLC

1553 Platte St., Suite 310 Denver, CO 80202 877.401.6031


Sudfrica, 110 Jerez de la Frontera, 11408 Spain 34956143302

Delgrosso Foods Inc.

632 Sauce Factory Drive P.O. Box 337 Tipton, PA 16684 800.521.5880

Clint’s Picante Inc.

12 Thornhurst San Antonio, TX 78218 210.274.5986

500 Anne-Laure Pauvert Lane Red Boiling Springs, TN 37150 929.259.1819

Healthy Food Ingredients 4666 Amber Valley Pwky Fargo, ND 58104 844.275.3443

International Spice

501 Prospect St., Unit 111 Lakewood, NJ 08701 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 45

Java Masters International 46956 Liberty Drive Wixom, MI 48393 248.669.1060

Drylock Technologies 3921 N Hastings Way Eau Claire, WI 54703 877.202.4652

Club Coffee

55 Carrier Drive Toronto, ON M9W 5V9 Canada 800-387-4367 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 19


Store Brands

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La Doria S.p.A

Via Nazionale, 320 Angri, SA 84012, Italy


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National Choice Bakery, Twin City Bagel Inc.

Little Big Farm Foods

5 Forbes Road, Suite A Newmarket, NH 03857 603.766.0131

130 Hardman Avenue South South St. Paul, MN 55075 651.206.9280

Nest Fresh Eggs Mold-Rite Plastics

30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2425 Chicago, IL 60602 518.561.1812 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 7

4340 Glencoe St Denver, CO 80216 877.241.8385


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Nutty Gourmet

Season Brand

2288 Geer Road Hughson, CA 95326 209.883.4890

1099 Wall Street West Lyndhurst, NJ 07071 973.681.9000

Superior Pack Group

2 Bailey Farm Road Harriman, NY 10926 845.534.015 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 2

Skjodt-Barrett Foods, Inc.

2395 Lucknow Drive Mississauga, ON L5S 1H9 Canada 877.600.1200 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 49

Pacific Coast Producers Inc. 631 North Cluff Avenue PO Box 1600 Lodi, CA 95240 209.367.8800 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 21

The F.C. Sturtevant Company - D/B/A Columbia SkinCare 3 Choice Road Windsor Locks, CT 06096 914.337.5131

Phillips Gourmet Mushrooms

1011 Kaolin Road Kennett Square, PA 19348 610.925.0520

Snack Innovations

41 Ethel Road West Piscataway, NJ 08854 718.509.9366 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 59

Private Brands Consortium (PBC)

3000 Rene-Levesque Boulevard Suite 330 Montreal, QC H3E 1T9 Canada 514.768.4122 jdagenais@


Store Brands

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TTI Group/Hart Consumer Products 100 Innovation Way Anderson, SC 29621 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 25 Urbani Truffles 10 West End Avenue New York, NY 10023 212.247.8800

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US Alliance Paper 101 Heartland Blvd. Edgewood, NY 11717 631.254.3030 SEE OUR ADVERTISEMENT PAGE 5 Valor Brands LLC 5900 Windward Parkway, Suite 100 Alpharetta, GA 30005 770.346.9250

Venus Wafers Inc. 100 Research Road Hingham, MA 02043 781.740.1002 Warrell Corporation 1250 Slate Hill Road Camp Hill, PA 17011 800.233.7082

Contract Manufacturinκ We supply some of North America’s most trusted brands with Lorem Θ

product development and manufacturinκ expertise. Our Competencies Θnclude:

Baby Food

Spouted Flexible Pouches

Fruit Snacks & Smoothies


Active Nutrition

US Operations

Canadian HQ & Operations Brampton, ON.

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Dressinκs & Condiments

May/June 2022

Lebanon, ΘN.

Store Brands


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The path to purchase has become infinite. We map the journey and give you back control.

Shopper Journey AscendanceTM from EIQ Insights & Innovation shows you how your customers navigate the omnichannel experience and empowers you with a strategic plan to influence behavior. Partner with us to master your view and elevate your performance.

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t’s no secret that more Americans are incorporating plant-based dairy alternatives into their everyday diets. According to data from SPINS, the Plant-Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute, plant-based milk accounted for 16% of all milk sales in 2021, with plant-based cheese, yogurt, creamer, butter and ice cream all increasing in sales. However, this sharing of the market hasn’t stopped dairy from innovating or seeing success. A survey from McKinsey found that three-quarters of dairy leaders reported neutral or improved margins in 2021, a slight increase from 2020. Retailers have added an array of new and unique dairy products to their private brand portfolios in an effort to offer variety in the category and stay competitive.

Q: Give us some background on yourself and Minerva Dairy. What kinds of products does the company create for private label?


industry in 2022 with the continued growth of plantbased dairy products and rising production costs due to inflation?

Producers are often the first hit by tough economic environments. Venae Watts, co-founder of Minerva Dairy, spoke with Store Brands to discuss how America’s oldest family-owned creamery is navigating the current climate.

WATTS: Minerva Dairy produces both cheese and butter to the specifications of our customers. Cheese recipes are created to enhance the performance of cheese as an ingredient at customers’ food manufacturing facilities. Butter recipes are created for private label for the retail space. Q: How would you describe the state of the dairy

WATTS: All food products will have the same inflation challenges, as food will be rising to the consumer in all segments. Non-dairy butters are not new to the

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DAIRY REPORT place, but are in a rebranding phase to capture the eroding market share of margarine. Dairy-based butter will always have an alternative on the shelf, it is now starting to take different forms.

and development of cheese and butter, asking ourselves questions on types of performance and taste variants, and then testing and working those ideas. Looking for a cheese or butter to perform a certain way or taste a certain way? Chances are we have that recipe on file. Limited time offers show up on our website of our favorite flavor infused butters. We don’t keep all the good ones to ourselves. Butter is our love language.

Q: How is Minerva adapting to this

Q: Finally, where do you see the dairy industry heading? WATTS: The dairy industry is continuing to widen the gap in the marketplace between commodity dairy products and specialty, transparent and premium products. There is a consumer for both sectors, and dairy brands will continue to focus on one or the other. It will be harder for commodity products to mask themselves as premium and attempt to upcharge as transparency continues to become easier for the consumer to research.

changing environment?

WATTS: Customer education in both the business-to-business space and retail consumer space is our primary objective. Minerva Dairy places a high importance on research

Mid-Year Report From IDDBA

The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) hosted its annual trade show and industry event in Atlanta, Ga., from June 5-7. Retailers, manufacturers and more discussed the categories and new product advancements. Whitney Atkins, VP of Marketing at IDDBA, spoke with Store Brands and discussed the state of dairy and its impact on private label. Q: How would you describe the state of the dairy industry in 2022 with the continued growth of plant-based dairy products and rising production costs due to inflation?

ATKINS: Right now, soybean prices in the United States are close to record highs. Corn prices are historically high, and wheat prices have been volatile. The war in Ukraine has tightened the global supply of grains in general— wheat, oats, corn, soy. Ukraine and Russia account for 30% of world wheat, and Ukraine alone accounts for about 15% to 16% of world corn exports. We don’t know how much is going to get produced over the next year in Ukraine, so grain markets will remain volatile until more is known. There are also questions about fertilizer availability. Russia is one of the major fertilizer suppliers in the world, and fertilizer prices have, in some cases, doubled since last fall. That also impacts grain production. If there’s a drought this year in the U.S., grain prices will go higher. Until we see relief on the grain price side, we’re going to see a lot of upward price pressure on dairy and eggs because of the feed price environment. There’s another confounding factor—avian influenza. It has been found in several states and is spreading, so we’ve got a potential shortage coming in the egg market, and egg prices are rising. Finally, the high price of oil is far-reaching. So we’ve got a high energy cost environment, and that’s driving up prices.

Q: How is the dairy industry adapting to this changing environment? How has private label been impacted?

ATKINS: For fluid milk, higher prices result in a large drop off in sales. We’ve seen that in the first months of 2022 as inflation has increased. Fluid milk sales 52

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will continue to struggle this year, as they’re going to have a very high-priced environment. Cheese prices have been fairly subdued, but commodity prices for butter, buttermilk powder and whey products have shot up recently. I do think we’ll start seeing some upward price pressure on cheese at retail, if nothing else, because the cheese inside a package is just one thing. The cost of everything else is up: packaging cost, transportation costs, labor costs. Inflation puts pressure across the whole supply chain. But there is a silver lining for retail dairy: As consumers tighten spending, it tends to do fairly well because they’re eating at home more. Private label also does well in times like these. We’ve seen a longer-term trend of increasing private label penetration in many dairy categories over the past 20 to 25 years, as private label has improved to where the quality reaches parity or, for some consumers, is even preferable to branded products. If inflation continues and we hit a recession, we’ll see more consumers shift out of the name brand to pay the lower price for the private label. Compared to fluid milk over the last couple years, we’ve seen relatively higher increases in sales of alternative beverages, such as almond-based and oat-based beverages. Part of that is

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DAIRY REPORT because these alternative beverages started from a small base, plant-based beverages are about 15% of the category now, so the same dollar amount increase in sales would be proportionally larger for alternative beverages than for dairy milk. The increases can look very large, but the sky’s not the limit on these products. I think we’re going to see the non-dairy beverages continue to grow, but not as rapidly. They’ve got a fairly defined consumer base of people who are interested in their marketing claims of being better for you or sustainable and environmentally friendly. When the products are new, they attract a lot of media attention, and people think they’re neat and novel. But as these brands get bigger, they start to attract negative attention, and people dig into the claims more. Q: Where do you see the dairy industry heading moving forward?

ATKINS: In the near future, inflation could limit the appeal of plant-based products, which are usually priced higher than dairy products. You’re always going to have the more well-off people who can afford it no matter what. But outside of that consumer segment, the cost does start to become an issue. CPG companies do not want to increase prices. That’s never popular with customers. There is a lot of pressure on food companies from retailers, as well, who don’t want to be blamed for food cost inflation. We’re going to see a tighter margin environment for CPG companies for a while, because there’s less of an ability to pass cost increases through. There are a few different ways to delay price increases. Some stores are pulling back on promotions. Reformulation is an option for some products, but it’s more of a challenge in an overall inflationary environment. For example, replacing butter with vegetable fat won’t save much money when vegetable fat prices are through the roof. There’s also package resizing. A gallon of milk is a gallon of milk, but other package sizes could change. When we went through high dairy prices in 2014, many yogurt packages went from 6 ounces to 5.3 ounces. An 8-ounce bag of shredded cheese or 8-ounce chunk of cheese could go to 7 ounces, or even 6 ounces for aged cheeses with more value added. Packaging changes are not a short-term solution. They take a while to implement because manufacturers have to work through existing stock, design and order new packaging.

Product Roundup Cheese

Most recently, Sargento Foods, known for its cheese products, acquired Baker Cheese Factory, a St. Cloud, Wisc.-based company that manufactures and sells string cheese under its brand and other private labels. The acquisition expansion gives the branded cheese giant a new private label avenue, with four production facilities in Wisconsin. In February, Michigan-based food solutions company SpartanNash announced a reformulation of cheese for its Our Family brand, the most popular brand found at its banner and independent stores. The Our Family brand of cheese products, including shreds, slices, snack sizes and more, received a new formulation that aimed to improve the taste. The private brand also updated the packaging of the cheeses, featuring bright colors and a clear window to showcase the product.

Ice cream

In the private label ice cream category, Albertsons added three new flavors to its Signature Select brand ahead of the spring and summer seasons. Monster Cookie, Lactose-Free Vanilla Bean and Lactose-Free Cookies and Cream added a fun new ice cream option, and two flavors for those who are lactose intolerant. Limited-edition flavors, which Albertsons also puts out, didn’t see any slowing in the first half of the year. Texas-based retailer H-E-B released the “Education Heroes” ice cream, which featured icing-flavored ice cream with cake pieces and rainbow sprinkles mixed in. Ten percent of the proceeds from the flavor went to benefit teachers in the state. Publix released several flavors of limited-edition ice cream flavors in February, including unique flavors like Maple Tiramisu, Hazelnut Amaretto Biscotti and New Orleans Caramel Praline just to name a few. The trend of innovative private brand ice cream flavors should continue throughout 2022, and especially in the coming summer months. A recent study from Grand View Research showed that the global ice cream market is steadily growing, expected to reach $114.7 billion by 2030.

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n a few short years, TikTok has quickly become the social media platform where most viral trends are born. The video app’s popularity skyrocketed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to new trends popping up on a daily basis. Cooking trends were and still are among the app’s most popular videos, with salmon rice, baked feta pasta, yogurt toast and bell pepper sandwiches becoming popular meals made at home, according to Clean Eating Mag. “People love food, and food is always on the forefront of what’s trending,” said Hilary Topper, president/CEO of HJMT Public Relations, a blogger/podcaster at, author of “Branding in a Digital World” and adjunct professor at Hofstra University teaching digital media. “People want to see content that is relatable and fun. Since the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people were on their phones scrolling much more often looking for different activities to try while quarantining or working


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from home. TikTok DIY videos help people feel like they can cook and crowdsource fun recipes. People got to have fun testing out these rather simple recipes and feeling like they were part of something much larger than just cooking in the kitchen.” TikTok is already shaping how retailers manage their inventory of own brand products. Liz Tyler, category strategy manager of Our Brands at Sprouts Farmers Market, said that the retailer sees the impact of these viral trends on store shelves. She added that TikTok is making customers hyper-aware of product attributes as well. “We saw the impact at our store when all of a sudden feta is cleared out [for the baked feta pasta trend], and you never know if that trend is going to stay. You have to stay on top of the trends and be able to pivot really quickly,” said Tyler, speaking at the April 27 Store Brands Industry Forum on Consumer Trends. “Another impact of social media and TikTok is that customers don’t take

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your word for it anymore. When we talk about making these [product] claims, we have to ‘show the receipts’ as they say. For a year and a half, everyone was making sourdough bread. Before, sourdough bread was sourdough bread. Now, the customer base has been baking their own, and they want to know ‘what kind of starter are you using, ‘what kinds of enzymes are you using.’ You have to make sure your product is meeting the claims that you’re making.” With the platform allowing for new food trends to take off overnight, retailers are taking notice, leveraging TikTok to promote private brands. America’s largest grocery chain is just one example of this. On the Kroger TikTok account with approximately 500,000 followers, simple, multi-ingredient meals are shown being prepared with an instructional voice-over. The products are featured during the process, showcasing items from Kroger’s private label assortment including the Private Selection and Simple Truth brands. However, the promotion on TikTok doesn’t stop there. Kroger has accounts for both of these private brands, where they further elevate products from the two lines in cooking videos hosted by Chef Mike Floria and Chef Allissa Brockman of Kroger’s culinary team. While most retailers promote private brands themselves on TikTok, Trader Joe’s has the luxury of having their fans promote products for them. Just like on Instagram and Facebook, there are several Trader Joe’s fan pages on TikTok. The largest of which has more than 100,000 followers and promotes the retailer’s assortment of own brand products. As the retailer continuously releases new and unique items, @traderjoeslist keeps fans on TikTok up to date on the newest products.

Kris Jenner acting in a promotional TikTok for her Walmart-exclusive Safely cleaning brand; Chef Mike Floria seen using Kroger’s Simple Truth products to make yogurt toast, a popular viral breakfast item.

TikTok Engagement Keeps Going Up




Facebook 16 h



Instagram 7.9 h WhatsApp 7.8 h

5 2018




Source: Wallaroo

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Retailers need a presence on TikTok because it is one of the most popular sites. It doesn’t only target Gen Z and Millennials, it also targets their parents and grandparents. It would be unwise to ignore a social platform that has such a large and fast-growing user base. If a retailer isn’t on TikTok, they are missing the boat. — Hilary Topper, president/CEO of HJMT Public Relations

Baked feta pasta became a TikTok food trend in early 2021.

Promotional TikTok for Walmart’s latest apparel brand, Love & Sports.

On Walmart’s main TikTok account, the retail giant mainly promotes name brand items, but made the exception to feature Kris Jenner in multiple videos promoting the celebrity matriarch’s Walmart-exclusive Safely cleaning product brand. Walmart did however recently create an account and run sponsored content for one of its newest brands: activewear and swimwear label Love & Sports. The promotional ad content featured models showcasing the bold, neon-centric activewear collection paired with fun, upbeat music. According to data from marketing firm Wallaroo, TikTok has more than 1 billion monthly users, with 138 million of them in the U.S. More than 50% of American TikTok users are under the age of 30, 32.5% of users are between the ages of 10-19, and 29.5% are between the ages of 20-29. The young, heavily Gen Z audience of TikTok uses the app frequently. The same data shows that a user opens the app an average of eight times a day. TikTok keeps the attention of its users far more than any other social media platform, providing a greater opportunity for retailers to capture attention. Wallaroo numbers show that in 2021, TikTok users spent an average of 25.7 hours a month on the app, compared to Facebook (16 hours) and Instagram (7.9 hours).


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The app’s popularity shows no signs of slowing down. While not all retailers use TikTok to promote private brands, it’s clear that they are missing out on a golden opportunity to reach consumers, and not just younger shoppers. “Retailers need a presence on TikTok because it is one of the most popular sites,” said Topper. “It doesn’t only target Gen Z and Millennials, it also targets their parents and grandparents. It would be unwise to ignore a social platform that has such a large and fast-growing user base. If a retailer isn’t on TikTok, they are missing the boat.”

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he presence of private label products continues to grow with new house brands springing up from a variety of independent, digital-leaning companies in the food retailing and delivery space. Philadelphia-based Gopuff, which operates through micro-fulfillment centers in more than 650 U.S. cities, continues to roll out new products under its “Basically” private brand line of bottled water, household essentials and snacks, which was introduced back in January. Misfits Market, a direct-to-consumer online grocer, launched its first private label collection in March. Odds & Ends features coffee, dried fruits, nuts, snacks and more. Prior to shutting down in March due to its Russian financial backing, Buyk, a New York City-based delivery startup, launched a range of private brand items last December that included ice cream, coffee, candy and nuts. Even food companies not known for developing their own brands are expanding business models to gain a foothold in the private brand space. Online meal-kit provider Hello Fresh has added an online market (HelloFresh Market) for U.S. shoppers to purchase add-on private brand, branded pantry items and ready-to-heat foods. Imperfect Foods, the company that built a reputation for delivering misshapen fruits and vegetables at a low cost, has been working to transition from a regional produce-focused delivery service to a national fullservice grocer, including the rollout of private label items.

“As the rapid delivery category continues to expand, and competition in the space increases, developing a private brand will allow them to separate themselves from all retail competitors.” — Aimee Becker, senior vice president, Daymon

STRENGTH IN THE OVERALL MARKET Industry experts attribute this ramping up of private brand activity in the e-commerce sector to the strength of the private label market. According to recent research from Daymon, 89% of consumers trust private brands as much or more than national brands. “As the rapid delivery category continues to expand, and

Gopuff entered the private label sphere in January of this year.

competition in the space increases, developing a private brand will allow them to separate themselves from all retail competitors,” said Aimee Becker, senior vice president of Daymon. Jumping into the e-commerce private brand space may have additional benefits over traditional retail private label, said Becker. “Emerging e-commerce retailers have a clean slate within private brands, serving as an opportunity to be purposeful in the quality and perception of their offerings,” she said. “Starting a new private brand program allows e-commerce retailers to create programs offering the highest quality across categories, while not sacrificing on price.” Jim Wisner, president of Lake Forest, Ill.-based Wisner Marketing Group, said that companies such as Gopuff are poised to steal share from larger retailers, particularly in convenience categories like household supplies. “The question is, are they taking share and volume principally from supermarkets, or are they taking it from gas station convenience stores? I don’t think we know the answer yet,” he said. Specific categories that are ripe for the picking by e-commerce private brands include high-frequency items such as pet food, baby and coffee, said Becker. “Private brands in these categories typically become lost on the traditional shelf as there are many players or strong national brand loyalty,” she explained. “By emphasizing these private brand categories online, e-commerce retailers can utilize their digital real estate to promote their [products’] high quality, while creating loyal consumers who will return regularly specifically for these offerings.” Meanwhile, the large grocery chains continue to invest

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PRIVATE LABEL E-COMMERCE REPORT more in private brand development, although Wisner does not believe that is a direct result of growing outside competition. Kroger’s recent push to promote its private brands through the use of digital coupons is more likely another sign of the overall health of the private label market, he noted. CHANGING THE WAY WE SHOP FOR FOOD The rise of e-commerce private label programs comes as the food industry tries to sort out the ever-evolving shopping behaviors of a post-pandemic world. Various research studies have pointed to a return to pre-pandemic levels of in-store grocery shopping, and recent data suggests a strong preference by online grocery shoppers for in-store and curbside pickup versus delivery and ship-to-home service. A combined analysis of monthly data in 2021 by Brick Meets Click found that the pickup segment grew its share of grocery online sales last year to 45%, up five percentage points when compared to 2020, while delivery’s share remained relatively unchanged at 33% and ship-to-home’s share dropped five percentage points to 22%. At the same time, the overall online food delivery market is exploding, thanks largely to the reconditioning of consumers to order restaurant meals to go from third-party services such as Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. Nearly three-quarters (73.4%) of U.S. consumers consider speed of service an important factor when ordering food delivery, according to

Misfits Market debuted its private snack brand Odds & Ends in March.

Statista, which projects the e-commerce segment of the global online food delivery market to hit $965.8 million in 2024. This has opened the door for companies like Gopuff in the so-called instant needs or ultra-fast delivery category to expand their private brand offerings while meeting the growing demand for faster service. “Instacart’s current business model is a service, centered on shopping at local grocery stores for order fulfillment, which includes retailers’ private brands,” Becker said. “Unless they change their overall strategy to fulfill orders directly, entering into the private label space wouldn’t fit their current strategy.” If Instacart does decide to entire the space, however, “it will be interesting to see how their dynamic with traditional retailers develops,” said Becker.


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