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ALBERTSONS The chain’s Own Brands team hopes to reach 30% market penetration in the next few years — if the last year is any indication, they should get there

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Kate has been an integral part of the E & J Gallo Private Label team since 2016. She has continued to show great leadership while pushing the business forward. Join us in congratulating Kate on her hard work and dedication.

Choice and experience. With a world-class portfolio-85 years in the making, only Gallo gives you both. Call a customer development account manager. Š2020 Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery, Modesto, CA. All rights reserved.

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Editor’s Note


Industry News




Dispatches: Store Brands in the Wild

20 20 Cover Story: Retailer of the Year

28 Top Women

in Store Brands WISE and Store Brands honor nine inspirational, exceptional leaders in the store brands industry.

Albertsons’ Own Brands team gets recognized for a huge 2020.

38 Getting Saucy

Manufacturers of dips, seasonings, dressings and sauces are breaking out with innovative flavors.



Store Brands (ISSN-0190-9851; USPS # 0488-370) is published 9x a year by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscriptions: One year, $110; two years, $200. One year, Canada $130; two years, $235 One year, foreign $150; two years, $285. One year single US,$14; one year, 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 Deerfield, 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

RAMP UP OR GET LEFT BEHIND COMPANIES THAT INVEST TO STRENGTHEN PRIVATE BRANDS CAN WIN WITH CONSUMERS LOOKING FOR VALUE AND QUALITY AT A STRESSFUL TIME Pivot. It seems to be just about the hottest word in the English language these days. Everyone is trying to pivot to get themselves into a better position to both survive the COVID-19 pandemic and be in the right place when the current crisis ends and the world gets back to some semblance of normalcy. The world of private label and store brands is not immune to the current crisis. In some cases, private label and store brand sales have sharply increased, providing a financial cushion to both retailers and suppliers. On the Seth Mendelson Publisher/ other hand, the store brand category is suffering the same Editor-in-Chief problems — whether logistical or financial — as national brands at mass retail. Frankly, that is old news. Now we have to focus on how you are going to pivot to stay ahead of the curve with the industry and with a consumer who is still looking for more value and better quality during one of the craziest times of their lives. Retailers will have to take the right steps to show their consumers that they have their best interThe opportunity ests at hand. Keeping products in stock is at the top of is front and center the list along with all of the safety issues. Giving those shoppers a choice of product, based on for suppliers in this need, quality and price also will play a big role in mainfield to gain even taining and developing customer loyalty. greater market Of course, that is where private label and store share during the brands come into play. The opportunity is front pandemic and right and center for suppliers in this field to gain even greater market share during the pandemic and right after it ends. after it ends. It will require some work, though, and that means the necessary research and development needed to create the right product for each and every category. It means having the best possible quality and the right packaging to catch the consumer’s eye. And, finally, it means working with each retailer to develop price points that will encourage shoppers to try the product and still maintain enough profits for both the retailer and the vendor. Bottom line: Now is not the time to get lazy and go cheap. To the contrary, it is time to put money into store brands so that you are able to, yes, pivot to each and every opportunity that comes up over the next 12 months. You ready? 6

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October 2020

8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Seth Mendelson (973) 650-0263,

EDITORIAL Managing Editor David Salazar (212) 756-5114, Executive Editor Dan Ochwat (773) 992-4416,

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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 Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several 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.

10/9/20 3:23 PM

E Cup is a b tt r up ®




Smart: Wh n it m s t sustainability, l ss is m r A cleaner and greener future is impor tant to you and your consumers, which is why we’re dedicated to helping you get there. Our new EcoCup pod has been redesigned with sustainability in mind, featuring a new polypropylene cup, less lidding material, and a unique filter that doesn’t have to be discarded before placing the cup in the recycling bin. ®

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10/12/20 1:48 PM

Walmart Debuts Modern Own Brand Apparel

Walmart has a new fashion brand — Free Assembly, a modern, stylish line being sold at a value, according to the retailer. The clothing line was two years in the making. Over the last few years, Walmart has broadened its store brand fashion items, rolling out more than 1,000 apparel brands online and recently forming a partnership with online resale business thredUP. The company has other store brand clothing under the labels Time and Tru, Terra & Sky, Wonder Nation and George. The new line is a step forward in Walmart’s efforts to be taken seriously as a fashion destination, Denise Incandela, senior vice president of women’s group, elevated and online brands at Walmart said in a blog post. “Now we’re doubling-down to offer customers something they couldn’t find at Walmart before — a fashion essentials-inspired brand for both men and women created by our in-house design team,” Incandela said. Alongside the launch announcement, Walmart’s blog also featured a conversation between Incandela and Dwight Fenton, who led the creation of Free Assembly, Fenton underscored Incandela’s message. “We’re committed to making Walmart a fashion destination — no matter the customer’s style or budget,” Fenton said, noting that Free Assembly complements the retailer’s existing private brand clothing lines. “The company has been focused on meeting that need for customers by launching new elevated fashion brands, whether that’s a denim-focused brand like Sofia Jeans by Sofia Vergara or more fashion-forward pieces that can be found in Scoop. What’s been missing is a brand that offers modern essentials. So, we set out to build that brand. Free Assembly rounds out our portfolio to offer customers something they didn’t have before — elevated, modern essentials for both men and women at incredible prices.” The Free Assembly line focuses on simple designs that can be layered and are versatile. The fall collection includes 30 items for women and 25 for men, priced between $9-$45. “With Free Assembly, we have a vision to create a new kind of brand that would entice any fashion shopper. So, we’ve built an in-house fashion design team with decades of experience designing for modern American brands known for mass appeal,” Incandela said. 8

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Mount Franklin Expands Candy Operation Mount Franklin Foods has opened a new candy manufacturing facility that will add 130 million lbs. of capacity in soft non-chocolate candy for the branded, contract and private label manufacturer. The 220,000-square-foot facility is now open in San Jeronimo, Mexico, a port of entry in Chihuahua, across the U.S. border from Santa Teresa, N.M., and the company’s headquarters in El Paso, Texas. It first broke ground in February 2019. Mount Franklin also recently acquired the Arro food processing business for bake mix, powdered beverages, ingredients for cereals, trail mix and nut categories, joining its candy, mints, nut products, gummies, jellies, fruit snacks and snack mixes for private label and several brands, including Sunrise Confections, which will be supported by the new facility. The first line will open this month with the second production line being fully operational by the second quarter of 2021. The facility is expected to bring more than 300 new jobs to the community. “The additional capacity at this facility allows for continued growth and helps ensure we remain the trusted resource for quality candy and fruit snack products in the retail and co-manufacturing markets,” said Enrique Grajeda, president and CEO of Mount Franklin Foods. The facility also will house a packaging line, serving a wide variety of bag sizes and final packaging configurations, as well as esearch and development teams to support further product innovation, the company said.

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Massimo Zanetti Beverage Delivers with 97% Average Case Fill Rate. 2020 may go down in history as the year of supply chain disruption, but Massimo Zanetti Beverage is proud to have maintained open channels and continues to operate efficiently in our “new normal.” Thank you to our supply chain management team, production team and to all of our customers for continuing to deliver our quality private label brands to coffee lovers across the nation. Together, we serve excellence.


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10/12/20 1:48 PM

Target Launches Good & Gather Signature

As Target CEO Brian Cornell said during the company’s second quarter earnings call, the Good & Gather “flagship” brand is entering its third and final phase, adding 600 items to bring the store brand total to more than 2,000. Target has released new information on those 600 products and it includes a new Good & Gather Signature line.

Target said Good & Gather is the No. 1-selling food brand at the retailer, earning more than $1 billion in sales, and the new items will debut in stores and online during the fall. New items include a black-label Good & Gather Signature line of premium food and beverage products like pastas, pizzas and coffee. The premium version of the store brand

Online Grocery Sales to Reach $250B by 2025

A new shopper survey from Mercatus and Incisiv expects sales of groceries online to account for 21.5% of total grocery sales by 2025, an estimate of $250 billion. The study — “eGrocery’s New Reality: The Pandemic’s Lasting Impact on U.S. Grocery Shopping Behavior” — looks at how the success of e-commerce grocery could expand out over the next five years. The study suggests that the estimated reach of $250 billion would be a 60% increase compared to pre-pandemic estimates. Driving some of this expected e-commerce growth, Mercatus and Incisiv learned that 40% of online shoppers 10

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surveyed are likely or very likely to continue to buy online, and that 43% of respondents have shopped online in the last 6 months. Additionally, 26% of online respondents have shopped online at their preferred grocer, and 62% of respondents are shopping online due to COVID-19 concerns. It’s a perfect storm for online shopping now and the numbers could continue as the shoppers gain more comfort with the technology. However, the study did also learn that 78% of all shoppers still prefer to visit a brick-and-mortar grocery store either to shop in-store or for curbside pickup, so shoppers still

will run 60 products deep, focusing on hand-crafted quality and flavor. Other new products teased by the retailer include jalapeno avocado hummus, frozen zucchini spirals, bitesized everything crackers, meatless burgers and more. The new products will run across dairy, coffee, deli, bread and baking, snacks, produce, beverage, meal essentials, and frozen foods, demonstrating a pretty in-depth addition to the brand’s assortment. Good & Gather first launched in September with 650 products and this final phase cements a pretty impressive first year for the store brand. “Food plays such an important role in our guests’ lives,” said Stephanie Lundquist, Target executive vice president and president of food and beverage. “And now, as guests are eating and cooking at home — and appreciating good value — more than ever, Good & Gather’s delicious, highquality assortment and affordable price continues to set Target apart, while helping our guests discover the joy of food every day. And they’re going to love what we’re serving up this fall.”

have love for the physical space. “With close to 60,000 respondents across the U.S., we analyzed more than 48 million data points and found that shoppers are highly satisfied and loyal to their preferred grocery store, but this loyalty does not extend to the online channel,” said Amar Mokha, COO and benchmarking lead, Incisiv. “While the adoption rate of online grocery has increased significantly, grocers need to improve pickup and delivery slot availability, promotion and coupon availability, and product substitutions to improve customer loyalty online.” In a demographic look the study found that older shoppers are gravitating to online shopping. Groups 45 years and older have made the most dramatic shifts to online shopping with 46% adopting a new method like curbside and 35% ordering groceries online for the first time.

10/9/20 4:16 PM

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Amazon Adds Sustainable Stamp of Approval Amazon is making it easier to find sustainably produced and more compactsized products on its site, stamping items with a “Climate Pledge Friendly” badge and dedicating a page to brands that are certified to match this pledge. The new section includes Amazon own brands and national brands in such categories as grocery, household items, fashion and beauty products, personal electronics, and more. To earn the badge and placement on the page, Amazon has partnered with various third-party organizations to certify a product. For example, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is a nonprofit focused on products that support a circular economy and if that organization has found products that fit its certification it will get the Climate Pledge Friendly designation. “Cradle to Cradle certification provides a framework for product optimization based on the principles of de12

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signing with safe and healthy materials, using clean renewable energy and water, celebrating diversity, and eliminating the concept of waste,” said William McDonough, co-founder of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. “We love that Amazon is making it simple for customers to find sustainable products. Amazon’s new program will expand our reach and enable us to empower more brands to deliver safer and more sustainable products for the circular economy.” Another way to earn a Climate Pledge Friendly badge is by Amazon recognizing products that are in more efficient packaging. Amazon deems them “Compact by Design,” and some of the items may not look very different but they are packages that are more efficient to ship which significantly reduces carbon emissions. In all, there are around 18 different certifications that can get products

a badge. Some Amazon own brands found in the new dedicated section include Happy Belly foods, Amazon Elements vitamins and more. National brands also are working closely with Amazon on its certified products, including Mrs. Meyer’s and Unilever’s Seventh Generation brand. Mrs. Meyers created a multi-surface concentrate that is Climate Pledge Friendly and Compact by Design-certified, offering a 32-oz. bottle of concentrated solutions that can make 16 gallons of cleaning product. Seventh Generation created a Compact by Design-certified super-concentrated laundry detergent that uses 60% less plastic and 50% less water than the standard 100-oz. laundry bottle. “Climate Pledge Friendly is a simple way for customers to discover more sustainable products that help preserve the natural world,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “With 18 external certification programs and our own Compact by Design certification, we’re incentivizing selling partners to create sustainable products that help protect the planet for future generations.”

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Sales of Kroger Private Selection, Simple Truth Up 17% Kroger’s Our Brands and its digital business saw big gains in the second quarter, as COVID-19 continues to impact grocery sales, with more households eating from home across breakfast, lunch and dinner. CEO Rodney McMullen said during the recent Kroger earnings call that its premium store brand Private Selection saw a sales increase of 17% during the period, Simple Truth sales were up 20%, and store brand larger pack sizes were up by 50% as customers looked to stock up more. McMullen said its private brands are a major driver for the retailer, benefitting from shoppers looking to eat more at home and looking to eat healthier. He also highlighted a third-party study that the retailer commissioned, which named Simple Truth “the most loved” natural and organic brand in the United States, leading the study on strength of brand and willingness to recommend. The store brands helped Kroger overall see same-store sales (sans fuel) grow by 14.6% for the quarter ended Aug. 15. Total company sales in the second quarter reached $30.5 billion, compared to $28.2 billion for the same period a year ago. During the call, McMullen said the company has seen a trend for customers rediscovering its passion for cooking at home and they’re more aspirational around eating healthy foods. He said with kids mostly doing school at home, families are looking to cook breakfast at home and lunch for their children. With many offices still managing workfrom-home situations, consumers are eating more at home, too. He said they see this trend continuing. Another key highlight for the quarter was a huge leap in digital,

Kroger’s digital sales are up

registering a rise in digital sales by 127%. McMullen said even before the coronavirus, the company’s digital business was a tailwind. Kroger’s digital infrastructure for delivery and pickup had been put in place a few years ago and it now serves 98% of its customers today.

year over year

Our results continue to show that Kroger is a trusted brand and our customers choose to shop with us because they value the product quality and freshness, convenience, and digital offerings that we provide. R o dney McMull en , K r o ger C E O

“Customers are at the center of everything we do and, as a result, we are growing market share. Kroger’s strong digital business is a key contributor to this growth, as the investments made to expand our digital ecosystem are resonating with customers,” McMullen said. “Our results continue to show that Kroger is a trusted brand and our customers choose to shop with us because they value the product quality and freshness, convenience, and digital offerings that we provide.” Adding to its digital profits, Kroger said it expects to see more growth from its Kroger Ship third-party seller marketplace and its Home Chef deliverable meals, which had an “incred-

ible quarter” in sales and profits, per Gary Millerchip, Kroger CFO, during the call. Overall, Kroger said the second quarter results were better than predicted. “We delivered extremely strong results in the second quarter and expect to deliver consistently attractive total shareholder returns,” McMullen said. “We are more certain than ever that the strategic choices and investments made through Restock Kroger to execute against our competitive moats — Fresh, Our Brands, Personalization and Seamless — have positioned Kroger to meet the moment, especially as customers are rediscovering their passion for food at home.”

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PRIVATE BRAND OPPORTUNITIES IN FOOD Collette Perozzi, director of category management and private label, ADM


ising economic concerns as a result of COVID-19 are prompting shifts in consumer shopping behavior — shifts that provide growth opportunities for private labels. According to ADM OutsideVoice research, value-based shopping is experiencing a resurgence. This includes growing demand for basic pantry staples, increased traffic to value retailers and trade-offs to private labels. The research shows that 41% of consumers say they will continue to buy “more” or “much more” private label products post-COVID-19. This comes on the heels of favorable pre-pandemic perceptions that elevated the status of private labels to more closely compete with brand names. OutsideVoice research found that 75% of consumers said private labels have improved their quality in recent years, while 73% felt private labels provided better value for money, and 63% felt private label products are as good as brand-name products. Private label product developers can expect to see continued growth in the coming months and years if they strike the right balance of value and quality. One way to seize this opportunity is by differentiating private label goods with


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added health and wellness benefits. The pandemic has only heightened consumer interest in proactively supporting aspects of wellness like mental health and immune function. ADM OutsideVoice research found that 77% of consumers will make attempts to stay healthy in the future and 30% are willing to pay more for products with ingredients that target health and wellness. Here are three ways product developers can give private label products an edge: Pre-, Pro- and Postbiotics The pandemic has elevated consumer awareness of the microbiome and its impact on health and wellness. This provides fertile ground for food and beverage innovation with prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics. Postbiotics are non-viable microbes or their metabolites that may have similar benefits to probiotics but can be used in a wider array of food and beverage applications. One opportunity is an element like ADM’s HT-BPL1, one of the first commercially available postbiotics. It targets healthy weight management and is uniquely tolerant to high-heat applications and other harsh processing conditions. With HT-BPL1, the comfort foods consumers seek, like baked goods and snacks, can provide func-

tional health and wellness benefits, giving them permissible indulgences. There are many microbiome solutions to choose from depending on the application, but research shows consumers cite efficacy as a product feature influencing their willingness to pay a premium price. Dietary Fiber The wide-ranging benefits of dietary fiber are well established, yet most Americans don’t get enough in their diets. Long known to be important for weight management and heart and metabolic health, prebiotic fiber is also important to promoting a healthy microbiome. And, according to ADM OutsideVoice research, fiber is the ingredient consumers are most interested in adding to their diets. A soluble fiber ingredient also makes it easy to increase prebiotic fiber in a variety of applications, from baked goods to beverages and more, without sacrificing taste, aroma or texture. Because only minimal formulation adjustments are required, these are ideal solutions to accelerate product development. Functional Botanicals Chamomile, known for its calming effect, and green tea, recognized for its positive support of heart health and weight management, are examples of on-trend functional botanicals. Tropical fruit extracts that are sources of vitamin C are also gaining in popularity for their role in supporting immune function. Regardless of the health and wellness benefit, the addition of botanicals can lend an overall wellness halo to private label products, because they are perceived as naturally derived. The increase of value-driven purchases and consumers’ interest in supporting their health and wellness through positive changes to their diets holds great potential for private labels. Whether that means reformulating an existing product or introducing new products, differentiating private labels by increasing their value is key to future success. SB

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o one was prepared for the sudden influx of online grocery shopping this year. Since March, U.S. online grocery sales have grown steadily as consumers continue to pursue safe ways to get essential goods. While grocers responded to COVID-19 by increasing operational efficiencies to better meet the dramatic increase of online shopping, it also became evident that retailers needed to do more. One key issue for grocers has been the resulting new pricing paradigm, which comes from high-variable costs related to online orders. Compared to in-store, online shopping costs more for the retailer to fulfill. From picking, packing and staging to getting the right order to the shopper, there’s a lot of required time, labor and resources needed. Because of these cost considerations, the online grocery pricing strategy must be reevaluated. To be successful, grocers should align their digital pricing with how shoppers consider choices. They must also embrace a new pricing model that leverages an integrated online approach. HOW TO ALIGN PRICING WITH PURCHASE BEHAVIOR? A customer shopping for groceries in

the store is usually on a different mission than someone shopping online. On average, the in-store shopper usually picks up five items or less in what is characterized as a “quick trip,” running an errand to get what he or she needs at the moment. On the other hand, the online shopper predominantly places orders for a “stock up” trip, adding 30 or more items to the cart — enough ingredients to make several planned meals for the week. These differing methods of shopping also means that shoppers’ pricing sensitivity can vary. While in-store shoppers are likely looking for the best bang for their buck, online shoppers tend to value preference over price and are willing to pay a premium for speed, convenience, and these days, safety. Giving shoppers choices will ensure an improved grocery shopping experience that caters to their personal preference, where they can evaluate the trade-offs for themselves. Private label brands are another significant growth area where grocers can offer lower prices, compete with brand names and increase shopper loyalty. Many consumers see private label products as a substitute for multinational brands. As online grocery shopping continues to grow, private label offerings will likely open new opportunities as consumers try to offset the cost of online shopping with more affordable products.

WHAT IS AN ONLINE INTEGRATED APPROACH? In a traditional framework, grocers build a pricing strategy by selecting the market, identifying competitors, building a basket of the most popular products, and evaluating the right in-store prices and deals that will capture the most sales and profit. An online integrated approach follows this same outline but for ecommerce. The digital landscape, for example, differs when it comes to setting digital shelf prices and how it compares to markup competitors. Grocers must adopt a unified and seamless outlook that considers all these elements to create a strong online presence. This approach is also affected by the third-party delivery services that a retailer supports. According to Brick Meets Click, shoppers pay 12% more in total when using the third-party service as opposed to the retailer’s service on a basket of 30 commonly purchased products. And shoppers are beginning to take notice, ultimately paying for shopping charges, fees for delivery or pickup, and tips. To accommodate, grocers are making changes to own more of the digital experience. For example, Texas-based grocer H-E-B is starting to replace Instacart shoppers with its own employees for in-store picking, continuing to serve shoppers through a more profitable model for the retailer. IT’S TIME FOR GROCERS TO ADAPT THEIR ONLINE GROCERY PRICING STRATEGY With the continual rise of online orders, retailers must find ways to improve the profitability of their e-commerce platform by leveraging an integrated approach that supports today’s new realities. A sound strategy is one that allows retailers to re-examine assumptions about pricing and affords them the opportunity to offer a differentiated online shopping experience, which in the end, will place them well ahead of the competition. SB

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EVERGREEN OFFERS PACKAGING SOLUTIONS DeWitt Clark, vice president North American Packaging for Evergreen Packaging, talked with Store Brands about his company and the sustainability issue impacting the world today.

Store Brands: Tell us about your company. DeWitt Clark: Evergreen Packaging manufactures fiberbased liquid packaging solutions that are both sustainable and recyclable. Our customers’ name brand products can be found in millions of refrigerators across North America. Led by our PlantCarton package, Evergreen Packaging is a marketplace leader. Our solutions also include spout closures and filling equipment. SB: What makes it unique? DeWitt Clark: The size and scope of our operations make Evergreen Packaging a global leader in paper packaging solutions designed to deliver product freshness, brand distinction and supply chain assurance. Our reliability is unsurpassed because we begin with responsibly sourced fiber, operate our own paper mills and carton converting facilities across the U.S. and in other parts of the world, and even manufacture most of the carton filling machines used around the world. SB: Sustainability is a big issue in packaging today. How are you addressing this issue? DeWitt Clark: With our focus on PlantCarton packaging solutions, over 70% of every PlantCarton package is made with a renewable resource, paper, made with trees grown in forests where responsible forestry practices are used, the overall rate of growth exceeds removal, and environmental impacts are minimized. About 55% of the energy used to make the paper in PlantCarton packaging comes from biomass. And, cartons are recyclable. We think it


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is important to continue to invest in recycling initiatives across the country. Brands that package their products in PlantCarton packaging can take advantage of this great sustainability story. Furthermore, through responsible sourcing, our cartons support responsible forest management. Forest certifications help ensure that the soils, water quality, wildlife, threatened and endangered species, special areas, social rights, and biodiversity are protected for the long-term to not only provide fiber for today but sustainable forests for future generations. We ensure that our customers have this high level of supply chain assurance by holding certifications under three international organizations. In order to maintain these certifications, we must follow strict program standards and undergo annual audits. We also work directly with landowners to increase certified forests. SB: What is your pitch to retailers? DeWitt Clark: Consumers are increasingly focused on more sustainable and healthy products. This is being driven by Millennials and younger generations, according to research we recently published, “How Millennials Will Change Packaging Forever,” available at []. PlantCarton packages are a natural fit to meet these expectations. And, Evergreen Packaging offers a proven solution that makes sustainable packaging a reality today. SB: What advice do you have for retailers as they build their private label/store brands business? DeWitt Clark: Be sure to optimize on-pack communications regarding renewability and recyclability. Consumers are looking for retailers and brands that are authentically placing a priority on sustainability, so be sure to give consumers more information about their packaging’s sustainability story. SB: What is in store for the future? DeWitt Clark: Evergreen Packaging is interested in working with retailers to collaborate on the specific opportunities they identify and how we can optimize our products to meet those needs. We are continuing to work on ways to improve the sustainability of PlantCarton packaging even more. SB

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Sustainable packaging starts here. The PlantCarton® product line is made from over 70% renewable material, paper, made from trees grown in forests where the overall rate of forest growth exceeds


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WHAT’S INSIDE COUNTS Private brands can — and should — deliver on consumer ingredient demands

Bart Elling, business development manager foodservice, private label, Ingredion


ow more than ever, consumers are making changes in the foods and beverages they choose to buy. But formulating, developing, producing, and quickly bringing private label products to market that meet or exceed consumer expectations while maintaining margins can be challenging. How can retailers and manufacturers create consumer-preferred private label foods and beverages that deliver on the promise of product quality and texture? Whether you’re a retailer or manufacturer, partnering with an ingredient solutions provider can help set you up to win with consumers. Look for partners that can bring product development, a broad ingredient portfolio, and consumer insights together to deliver appeal that matters to consumers: Adding plant protein, reducing sugar and creating a clean label. NAVIGATING THE NEW PLANT-BASED WORLD Plant-based proteins are transforming foods and beverages and are led by a growing range of sustainably sourced ingredients created from peas, lentils, chickpeas and faba beans. Packing nutrition, versatile functionality and clean label appeal, these fast-rising pulse pro18

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teins deliver benefits — without GMO and major allergen concerns. Adding plant-based protein to your private label foods and beverages can help set your brand up for success. But which plant protein to use? Choosing the right plant protein for the right need is instrumental in ensuring just-right taste and texture. Talk with your ingredient provider as requirements vary depending on the application. In baked goods for example, pulse flours (10-20% protein on a dry basis) can replace wheat flour and provide gelation and water holding, while pulse protein concentrates (55-60% protein on a dry basis) bring protein, fiber and micronutrients. Pea protein isolates (80-85% protein on a dry basis) have higher protein levels to help enable “excellent source of protein” claims. ACHIEVING PERFECTION IN REDUCED-SUGAR PRODUCTS Sweetness is a much-loved part of the eating and drinking experience. But many consumers want to cut back on sugar and calories in light of the health and nutrition trend. How can you create the same sweetness and texture experience consumers love in products that contain less sugar and fewer calories? Build an understanding of your consumers’ sweetness preferences. Then, working with your provider

of choice, formulate for just-right sweetness, fewer calories and lower sugar levels. The ingredient solution or system you need — whether low-sugar glucose syrups, stevia leaf sweeteners, allulose, polyols, fruit and vegetable concentrates, and even select fibers to name a few — depends on your application, the functional qualities sugar would have provided, the desired sweetness equivalent and more. Choose a provider with a comprehensive sugar reduction portfolio to help you create reduced-sugar products with the taste, texture and performance your consumers want. CREATING SIMPLER, CLEANER LABELS WITH INGREDIENTS CONSUMERS ACCEPT As a result of a proprietary clean label consumer research program called ATLAS, we’ve learned that consumers want products that are closest to nature and made from ingredients that are understood, expected and authentic. This means they want clean and simple labels with fewer, yet familiar ingredients, free from undesirable additives. But how do you determine which clean label ingredients will perform and are acceptable in specific applications? To choose the right ingredients and the most powerful front-of-pack claims to deliver ideal eating experiences and achieve greater functionality, understand the preferences of your target audience and work with your ingredient provider. Together you can overcome formulation challenges and leverage the most consumer-preferred ingredients for irresistible eating experiences. GET STARTED ON DEVELOPING WHAT’S NEXT By working closely with your ingredient solutions provider, retailers and manufacturers can get to market faster with the high-quality, private label products consumers want, with all the plant protein, reduced sugar and clean label appeal. SB

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5 TRENDS HITTING STORE BRANDS Matt Caldwell, USA vice president of client engagement, Equator Design


s private brands work hard to navigate the twists and turns brought on by COVID-19 — from pandemic pantries to pared-back budgets — there are more twists and turns coming. Although consumer data is still thin on the ground, early signs indicate that there are a number of major shifts underway that can impact private brands significantly. Here are five to watch: B2S AND HOLIDAY Deloitte says U.S. back-to-school spending is expected to reach $28.1 billion, or $529 per student, which edges toward what families spent in 2019, but it’s unclear what’s being bought. One expectation is that spending on electronics could double that of 2017. Purchases of personal health products are expected to rise, too, with an average of $46 spent per student on supplies like sanitizer and wipes. Meanwhile, consumer behavior around our favorite fall holidays will be anything but regular. There will certainly be a drop in party consumables, and trick-or-treat candies and multi-pack sweets could be impacted. But it’s not stopping some big players from coming out swinging. Target, for example, is promoting its own brand lines across school supplies and B2S apparel, while releasing new dorm bedding and decor for kids going off to college. For Halloween, Target also launced a special range of easy-dressing, wheelchair-friendly exclusive

costumes. The moves suggest there are sales to be made for those determined to stake their claim. HEALTH, WELLNESS, SNACKS Reflecting our newfound attentiveness to our own health and wellbeing, supplements and OTC medicine have seen unprecedented popularity as a result of the pandemic. Since the onset of COVID-19, there has been a 28% increase in U.S. use of vitamins and supplements and a 25% increase globally. Meanwhile, OTC drug purchases (cold, flu and pain relievers) rose by 217% from January to March alone. In snacking, U.S. consumers have been all-in during lockdown. Cookie variety pack purchases rose by 20% over last year, while salty snacks such as pretzels and cheese snacks saw a boost of roughly 15% and 12%, respectively. Our estimation is that increased snacking is down to a mix of comfort eating and relying on snacking to boost one’s work-from-home stamina. HIGH-TECH SOLUTIONS E-commerce and click and collect play an undeniable role in our new normal, and though brick-andmortar shops will see many consumers return to their doors, tech will grow ever more central to the way consumers interact with brands. In the U.K., supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has begun trialling a new app-based queueing system that allows customers to queue from the comfort of their car, a nearby café or even at home, meaning they do not have to wait in so-

cially distanced lines outside its stores. But with tech, the great benefit is the increased potential to know more about your consumers. Tech solutions can include real-time inventory management, predictive analytics, AI-powered search, personalization, reviews, recommendations and so on. Retailers equipped to harness these new capabilities can deliver immersive experiences wherever customers are. CONTROVERSIAL BRANDING Public mood is shifting, and there is increasing pressure to rethink food and drink product labels to make them more inclusive. While much of this pressure has been placed on prominent national brands, private brands are also being impacted. Among the food ranges on the receiving end of public scrutiny has been Trader Joe’s, which was the subject of an online petition criticizing how the brand presents its Chinese-, Mexican- and Italian-style offerings, for example, stating that the products perpetuate harmful stereotypes. On a wider scale, the developments are leading some smaller brands to take a proactive approach to spotting and altering any labels which may exoticize non-Western cultures or peoples. BUYING LOCAL Lastly, one of the most interesting impacts brought on by the pandemic is the drive among communities to buy local, and to support domestic farmers and producers. Recent U.K. data from EY’s Future Consumer Index found 26% will pay more for local products, 25% will pay a premium for trusted brands and 24% will pay more for ethical products. Meanwhile, the U.S. wine market is seeing a shift in consumer preference toward domestic varietals. Although many respondents to a recent survey said they have stuck with their existing country of origin repertoire, domestically produced wine has benefited from increased feelings of trust overall. Conversely, Italy and France have lost market share over lockdown. SB

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More than


in sales in fiscal year 2019. More than

12,000 products in all of

Own Brands; 932 launched in 2019. Four brands earned more than


in sales: Signature Select, Signature Cafe, Lucerne, O Organics. More than



Albertsons stores stocking 13 unique store brands.

The chain’s Own Brands team hopes to reach 30% market penetration in the next few years — if the last year is any indication, they should get there BY



round the corridors of Albertsons’ corporate headquarters in Boise, Idaho, the supermarket chain’s Own Brands team is making quite a name for itself. In fact, Albertsons’ Own Brands team, which sits in the Pleasanton, Calif.-based office, has four brands under its umbrella that have amassed $1 billion in sales each. In all, Albertsons Own Brands garnered $12.8 billion in sales in fiscal year 2019, and in a pandemic year, sales could juice that number in 2020. In its first quarter earnings call, the company reported


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that its O Organics sales were up 31%, comparing the periods, and Open Nature was up 28%. The latter could be the latest brand to join that $1 billion club, taking a seat with Signature Select, Signature Cafe, O Organics and the 115-year-old brand Lucerne. Now, Albertsons’ leadership wants to take its store brands division to another level completely. In that Q1 earnings call, Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran said that the company has set a goal to reach 30% market penetration with its store brands within the next few years. This is a jump from its 25.4% own brand penetration in 2019.

10/8/20 4:30 PM




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For its past success, as well as its future plans with store brands, Store Brands is recognizing Albertsons as its 2020 Retailer of the Year. Albertsons’ goals with store brands are high, but there are many reasons to see the chain reaching them. Chad Coester, senior vice president of Own Brands, said that the 30% mark is a nice position in terms of penetration of private brands but also maximizing the retailer’s national CPG partners. “We have an internal vision to truly be the number one reason why our shoppers select to shop at an Albertsons banner. That goal is aspirational but absolutely defined,” he said. To get there, Albertsons is doing it with a mix of innovation via a constant churn of creative store brand products, marketing with an omnichannel strategy that promotes its private brands as well as a national CPG and people (the Own Brands team is about 100 deep). “It’s really our people and their passion behind the brands that make our products come to life,” Coester said. “I think that’s why we’re seeing the success we are. Absolutely, it’s the strategy and the tactics, but it starts with the people.” And, as phenomenal as the numbers and results have been last year and this year, it’s the people that are worth recognizing 22

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with a Retailer of the Year honor because the truth is that for the last few years Albertsons has been a shining example of private brand success — creating entire owned brands that go beyond the staid image of a private label offering. Just ask its most veteran leader, Nancy Cota, who has been with Albertsons for 44 years, 21 of them in store brands. She’s not only witnessed this transformation to brand, but helped drive the evolution for 12 of the Albertsons 13 store brands. “We are no longer private label products,” Cota said. “We are brands. And we’re proud of them, and we want our shoppers to think of them as their own brands,” Cota said. She currently operates as the company’s vice president of innovation and product management, with a focus on fresh areas on the perimeter. To her, the beauty of Albertsons Own Brands is the excitement they bring to every store under the Albertsons umbrella. Banners include Albertsons, Safeway, Jewel Osco, Amigos, Vons, Randalls, ACME, Pavilions, Shaw’s, Star Market, Carrs, Tom Thumb, United Supermarkets, Albertsons Market, Andronico’s, Albertsons Market Street, Market Street, Haggen, United Express and Lucky. Cota said Albertsons has the advantage to launch new products very quickly to stay on top of trends and do so without needing to spend millions of dollars on marketing. “We can be on top of what shoppers are looking for and bring that excitement.” Coester gives the team license to take risks and leaves it to the shopper to respond if a new product is something they want or not. “We rely on data and analytics to make sure our assumptions are correct,” he added. “We can go from concept to launch in-store in 20 weeks.” Jennifer Jesser, vice president of finance and analytics, for the chain, which has stores under 20 banners in 34 states and Washington, D.C., said innovation, data and an omnichannel strategy will help push the company

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Alice Chan, Chad Coestar, Nancy Cota, Beto Galvan, Jennifer Jesser, Elizabeth Strydom and Don Davidson

Who’s Who on Albertsons’ Own Brands Team

Beto Galvan, vice president of innovation and product management � Another recent hire from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay and Quaker divisions, Galvan has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, portfolio management, brand activation and business development in CPG.

Alice Chan, vice president of sales and marketing � Chan recently joined the team from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Division, implementing new programs and marketing initiatives to maximize revenue and profit. She has more than 17 years of experience in the CPG industry.

Jennifer Jesser, vice president of finance and analytics � Jesser began her career in the Northern California Division of Safeway in 1992 and since has led teams in multiple functions through accounting, marketing, merchandising, systems and data structures.

Chad Coester, senior vice president � Coester was promoted in September 2019, following his role as general vice president of sales and marketing, Own Brands. Throughout his 25 years with Albertsons, he’s held positions in procurement, e-commerce, and marketing systems and processes.

Elizabeth Strydom, vice president of product development, regulatory affairs and culinary � Strydom owns multiple degrees in food science and has helped engineer a new labelling legislation for the Own Brands portfolio.

Nancy Cota, vice president of innovation and product management � A 2019 inductee into the Private Label Hall of Fame and a winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women Impacting Storebrands’ Excellence, Cota started her career as a Courtesy Clerk in Safeway Stores, working her way through college. She’s been with the company for 44 years in several leadership roles in private brands.

Don Davidson, vice president of strategic sourcing � Davidson has managed various sourcing teams over his 18 years with Albertsons, including both direct goods and indirect materials and services. He now works closely with suppliers and internal stakeholders to improve supply chain efficiencies, remove costs and drive Own Brands sales and profits.

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toward that 30% penetration goal. “We’re going to focus on category and portfolio optimization, making sure that we have the products in the right categories and making sure we’re driving category growth.” Jesser leads an analytics team that studies the shopper and said everything Own Brands does is focused on the shopper. The team knows the shopper today is primarily making her decisions from a mobile phone or digitally, so they’ve doubled down on those tactics. Earlier this year, for example, the company ran store brand promotions through Pinterest. “We want to talk to the shopper throughout her entire journey with us,” she said. “We want to elevate the pre-shop visibility when she’s deciding where to shop. We want to drive purchases in-store through e-commerce with that shopper, and grow her loyalty and her engagement post-shop.”

AN INTERNAL CPG COMPANY One of Albertsons’ greatest points of difference from how other retailers operate could be the fact that its

Own Brands team receives dedicated qualitative and quantitative shopper insights support. “When you put the customer at the center of everything that you do, and when you hear from both an analyticssyndicated household and then the qualitative, we’re speaking to shoppers in small group settings. That’s influencing everything we’re doing from go-to-market, innovation and packaging,” Coester noted. Cota said it is a huge advantage for the team to recognize that everything starts with the shopper and that they can lean on internal teams for insights and not be dependent on external teams or suppliers. “We really look at ourselves as truly a CPG inside of a $60 billion retailer,” Coester added. Operationally, the team is structured with Coester, who has 25 years in at the company, at the helm since September 2019. Cota leads innovation and product management for fresh foods and Beto Galvan leads innovation and product management for the center store. Jesser runs the finance, planning and analytics, a center of

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excellence within the company. Elizabeth Strydom leads the many technical and quality regulatory teams, another center of excellence. Alice Chan oversees sales and marketing, designing the growth strategy, driving visibility of store brands in the banners, and influencing the shopper journey. Don Davidson is the point person for the strategic sourcing, using data and his relationships to find the most unique items and suppliers to delight shoppers. In 2019, the Own Brands team launched 932 products and many more followed in 2020, including a line of 13 new ice cream flavors in July. The innovative flavors under its Signature Select brand ranged from a Cinnamon Churro Ice Cream with Honey Bun Swirl to a Lemon Cheesecake Ice Cream. A line of non-dairy flavors launched under its Open Nature brand, too. Other notable innovative products from the year include the first caffeinated sparkling water under the Signature Select Soleil line, an offering of high-quality wines and Signature Reserve whiskey, and a host of Open Nature freefrom meats, foods, oat milk, paper plates and housewares, bamboo toothbrushes and more. In all, it is a huge arsenal of brands to manage, each with a different identity. However, by comparison to a true national brand, it is the Albertsons lifestyle brands that give it a huge advantage. These brands can be purchased across the store, starting with its Signature Select line that also has Signature Farms, Signature Cafe and premium Signature Reserve offshoots. O Organics and Open Nature are two other thriving lifestyle brands. “A huge portion of our innovation every year falls under those two brands because they can’t be replicated,” Coester said. “They are lifestyle brands that drive full basket shops in our stores. We’re proud of that.” Every brand in the Own Brands group has its own persona and target audience. Like a national brand, the 26

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teams layer in third party data from Mintel, Kantar and others to join their internal work, studying macro and micro trends, consumption trends and even conduct an annual survey of more than 2,000 households to get a temperature of what they’re looking for in products and to reconnect and ensure the brand positioning is spot on.

BRAND AND SUPPLIER LOVE The other brands under the team operate under a mix of strategies, as they are at varying levels of maturity. Safeway banners, for example, have had more time to build trust with shoppers and gain loyalty, whereas new banners have not. The oldest brand in the bunch is Lucerne, a destination product that’s family focused, partnering with hundreds of dairy farms for more than 115 years. The brand covers milk, cheese, yogurt products and more. Waterfront Bistro is a newer brand with restaurant quality seafood that earlier this year earned a “Responsible Choice” logo update on its packaging because the products pass Albertsons’ strict Responsible Seafood Policy, a guarantee that the seafood has been responsibly sourced. Primo Taglio provides high quality deli meats and cheeses. Plated provides a premium meal kit solution. Value Corner reaches the budget-conscious consumers, and debi lilly design is a proud floral shop offering in stores. To make these brands happen, the Own Brands team works with more than 650 suppliers, and Coester joked that he has probably spoken to all of them in the last six months. Like many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge strain on the supply chain and brought partnerships closer together. “Their ability to help us deliver against our shoppers’ needs in this unprecedented time has not gone unnoticed,” he said. “It’s been unbelievable, to be honest with you. I only think that happens because of the commitment and relationships we have built over the years.”

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m t co si p. re Vi hu mo tc arn Keo le

Cota agrees. “I always say, and I always believe that we are nothing without our vendor partnerships and suppliers. We need them as much as they need us.” Albertsons generally has a large vendor summit every two years to have suppliers meet with Own Brands team members and share ideas and collaborate but it had to be postponed and will return in early 2021. With the many trade shows having to cancel altogether or go virtual, the team is still maintaining ways to keep relationships going.

LOOKING AHEAD The pandemic has clearly fueled growth for Albertsons. For the 16 weeks ended June 15, the retailer saw a 276% increase in digital sales to go along with a same-store sales rise of 26.5%. During that period, private brands gained trial from new consumers, and the goal now is to retain those new customers. “Own Brands’ opportunity has always been showcasing high quality at a great value. During these unprecedented times, we have actually seen more trial than ever, which has translated into repeat purchases because people are amazed at the quality,” Coester said. “I don’t believe our portfolio is just a fast follower like private label used to be in the past,” Jesser said. “We really have great innovation out there that you can’t find in a national brand that offers that choice and variety to our consumers.” Shopper insights show that consumers are looking to eat healthier during the pandemic and are looking for preventive care, and that behavior may continue. Albertsons said it would continue to emphasize healthy options and its O Organics and Open Nature brands. The team also expects that its Signature Select line, which can fill a basket across the store, will continue to rise going forward. The executive teams with Sankaran and chief merchandising officer Geoff White, as well as others, believe in Own Brands. Jesser said they’ve named Own Brands as “one of our four strategic initiatives” going forward. “They’re completely standing behind us and driving the brand,” she said. “I think as an Own Brands team, as long as we focus on providing high-quality products and continue to innovate with on-trend products and offer that value to consumers, we’re going to be successful in the future.” Coester acknowledged there has been a lot of work done when Albertsons and Safeway came together and Own Brands worked hard to position the brands as truly brands, moving them from banner brands to agnostic brands that stand on their own. “So we’ve had this work already underfoot, and I believe that’s a major contributor to the results we’re seeing.” To him Own Brands is “an absolute imperative,” he said. “It’s a point of difference in every market we play in. We know that. Our operators and store directors know that. The pride our division teams have for their banners, they also have for these brands.”

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TOP WOMEN IN STORE BRANDS Recognizing nine women putting their stamp on the private brand industry




he pandemic may have crashed the celebration, but the importance of the award and reasons to come together and recognize a new, exceptional class of Top Women in Store Brands could not be greater. Since it began, the Top Women in Store Brands recognition has honored women across expertise — supply chain, marketing, corporate services, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and more. Leaders from across all of these positions are the ones who have come together during COVID-19 to ensure that consumers have the products they need. The women selected here were chosen by a panel consisting of representatives from WISE and Store Brands magazine. The categories include six Functional Expertise winners in corporate services; marketing and merchandising; operations; research and development/quality assurance; sales; supply chain/procurement, as well as award winners in Innovation, Lifetime Achievement and a Sparkplug award. Due to the pandemic, the in-person event this year will be replaced by a virtual celebration held Nov. 12 as part of the Women Impacting Storebrand Excellence (WISE) annual meeting.


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C&S Congratulates

JILL DEARING Vi c e P r e s i d e n t , P r i v a t e B r a n d s



At C&S, we play an integral role in serving our country’s most important infrastructure — nourishing our communities. It’s more than a job. It’s a legacy.

c swg. com

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LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD JILL DEARING, VICE PRESIDENT OF PRIVATE BRANDS, C&S WHOLESALE GROCERS A shining example of leadership in the store brand space, Jill Dearing is a leader and mentor, who is committed to her organization, and the growth of private brands. At C&S, Dearing collaborates with sales, merchandising, procurement, category management and the company’s more than 3,500 independent retailers to execute a vibrant multi-brand strategy. She is an immovable piece in the own brands machine, generating new sales opportunities and driving profits. In fact, through her leadership, the private brands business saw sales grow more than 16% over the past year, reversing four years of negative sales growth, and private brands have become a key pillar at the company as it has outpaced sales across the rest of the C&S business. Additionally, Dearing has embedded the importance and value of private brands across the commercial sales organization and equipped the team with the analytics and tools to further maximize sales growth, according to Meg Mitchell, vice president of customer experience at C&S. “Whether she is reading the latest trends in our industry, talking to retailers, listening to suppliers, mentoring employees and/or being active in the community, Jill keeps her finger on the pulse of ‘what’s next’ for the company and this industry,” Mitchell said. And she’s been doing that her whole career. Prior to C&S, she spent 15 years at Supervalu and on the agency side. She’s previously been honored with a Progressive Grocer Top Women in Grocery Award, a PLMA Salute to Excellence Award in Product Innovation three times, and was named one of the Path to Purchase Institute’s 2016 “Who’s Who in Marketing” and is an active member of the St. Louis Retail Design Institute. Kelly Sosa, senior vice president, commercial division, C&S Wholesale Grocers, said Dearing has invigorated private brands at the company. 30

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“She understands the emotional connection, the importance of overall quality, and ultimately the value that must be delivered to the shopper,” Sosa said. “In order to position our brands appropriately in our marketplace Jill spent her first few months in-role traveling the country to understand our retailers, their competition, and our shoppers. She quickly evaluated how we could win in this space based on in-depth field analysis and broader strategic thinking. This approach was key to turning around the growth trajectory of our private brands business within one year of joining the team.” Mitchell agreed. “Jill’s passion for private brands stems from her desire to help our communities,” she said. “As a working mother of two, Jill has always recognized the need for an excellent product that anyone can purchase at a fantastic value. Specifically, in grocery Jill fights for private brands because she believes that every person out there deserves to have high-quality food options for themselves and their families.” This care for communities extends beyond C&S and into philanthropy. Dearing helps create lesson plans and work directly with local schools and teachers in Africa, specifically serving on the mission field in Malawi, a landlocked country on the southeastern side of Africa that has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS. Dearing serves in a region that has a massive number of adolescents who have been orphaned and left without a chance at a secondary education. She is even using her space planning and computer-aided design experience to help draw plans for a new school that’s expected to be built.


LAURA KIND, VICE PRESIDENT OF BRAND STRATEGY, WAKEFERN FOOD Wakefern’s complete transformation of its store brands last year, developing the sleek Bowl & Basket line for foods and the elegant Paperbird line for non-foods was a true example of innovation in the industry. Laura Kind came to Wakefern in December 2018, tasked with streamlining the

10/9/20 3:18 PM

Congratulations for Winning the Innovation Award

Laura Kind Vice President, Brand Strategy

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TOP WOMEN IN STORE BRANDS company’s ShopRite private label into these new brands. Kind oversaw a team of marketing managers devoted to creating the marketing strategy and packaging behind the brands. Following the successful launch, Kind was promoted to vice president of brand strategy at the retailer, now overseeing marketing and brand strategy for all Wakefern banners and brands. Prior to her arrival at Wakefern, Kind spent time in brand development at, Ralph Lauren and Nautica Sleepwear, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s. With experience like that, it is no surprise that the new Wakefern store brands executed an elevated appeal, and Kind couldn’t be prouder. “The opportunity to have been the head creative and marketing leader on this strategic initiative for Wakefern that has been so positively received by our customers makes me very proud,” she said. “We are well on our way to our targeted own brand sales penetration.” In her new overarching role of Wakefern banners — 51 member families operating 354 supermarkets — Kind has a new exciting project underway to lead the in-store and digital experiences for meal solutions and meal planning. A pilot program is set to launch in three ShopRite locations this month. “The concept will provide a seamless digital experience in-store as well as the ability to have meals delivered straight to your door,” she said. “This concept comes to us directly from customer data and feedback that looks to provide not only recipe ideas and easy-to-put-together meals, but also deliver on a [quick-service restaurant]-like experience, but with the freshness and quality that we are able to provide at ShopRite versus true QSR retailers.” Customer data and research also helped drive the innovation of the Bowl & Basket and Paperbird lines, and Kind said it plays a big role in developing innovation. She said a robust data and analytics department that can slice the data to determine shopper behavior is step one. “The innovation happens when you intercept that data, brainstorm, create, brainstorm again, recreate, push the boundaries, activate, analyze and then go back and do it again,” she added. “Innovation is the connective tissue between the data and the customer. It’s the art form where you integrate data with intuition.” Kind added that the dialogue between retailer and customer is more important than ever. “As we say to our customers at ShopRite, and wholeheartedly mean it, we are ‘Helping you get it together, together.’’ 32

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Responsible for the sourcing and supply chain operations for Albertsons’ own brands team, Katherine Chin manages competitive costs for its store brand products, ensures that service levels outperform internal targets and helps the sourcing team scour the world for innovative new products. Additionally, Chin is heading up Albertsons’ commitment to have 100% of its store brand packaging be recyclable, reusable or compostable. She oversees a team of 35 supply chain and sourcing professionals in her department. But it has been working through the supply chain issues of COVID-19 that has her truly proud of her work. “Working through COVID-19 is an experience I’ll never forget,” Chin said. “Our team’s work has been critical in bringing supply to our stores during the extraordinary demand. We had to devise creative solutions to provide what was needed. I was happy to have played a part in what I hope is a once-in-a-lifetime event. While the work was tough, it was extremely satisfying to know that our efforts to secure additional supply actually helped our neighbors put food on the table.” Don Davidson, vice president of strategic sourcing at Albertsons, said Chin was instrumental in quickly identifying the need to establish a different communication protocol to handle the constant change in demand in stores. By the first week of March, Chin set up a command center to be a central point for defining any and all private brand supply issues. “During the past several months, we really came together as a company and helped solve some of the most pressing supply challenges,” Chin said. “Our flexibility with suppliers truly opened up supply options for Albertsons Companies that were absolutely needed to not only solve for supply challenges but also expedite the timing of receiving supply.”

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Krista Daly has been with Marathon Ventures for about 16 years, launching bold products like its artisan nut products and other packaged snacks. “We’ve been on the forefront in terms of creating products that are not only better-for-you but super flavorful and delicious,” she said. “We’re the best at what we do, and I’m very proud to be a key driver of our company’s efforts in promoting our clients’ store brands.”


Marathon is proud of Daly, too. John Larsen, president of the company, managed Daly at a previous employer and invited her to join him at the company. He said she has played the unofficial role of “Chief Innovation Architect” at the company, moving its artisan snack nut line into bold areas with its store brand product. Take, for example, the company’s Everything Bagel Cashews and other nuts that have garnered recognition from Store Brands’ Editors’ Picks, Progressive Grocer’s Editors’ Picks and at the Sweets and Snacks Show in Chicago. Marathon Ventures is based in Bellevue, Neb., and has been operating for more than 100 years. Daly has given the company new life, having previously served in roles that managed product development, public relations and account management, before becoming the director of marketing. Now, she works closely with executive management to put innovation and responsiveness at the center of Marathon’s market strategy, and she


Phyllis Johnson on her WISE Award for her exceptional sales expertise and industry leadership. Thank you, Phyllis, for being a champion of diversity and inclusion, and driving results for our customers!

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TOP WOMEN IN STORE BRANDS works closely with product development teams to bring new snack ideas to the category. “Not that long ago, store brands leaned super conservative and were more followers versus leaders. That is certainly not the case today,” Daly said. “Store brands are recognizing they are every bit as relevant to consumers, if not more so, than big brands. We’re actually seeing our clients utilize innovation more and more to help differentiate their store brands and boost consumer loyalty. This really drives home the importance of retailers partnering with suppliers who can bring interesting ideas that engage and delight consumers.”


launched in 2019 and, in its first six months, with more than 150 selling objectives, had been deployed across 75 clients and 28 retailers. King’s role has incredible reach and returns. The company’s top five clients as the result of this process saw more than a 50% success rate against their selling initiatives. In her role, King is a great leader, according to Kyle Patterson, vice president, Daymon. He said she is an excellent listener, exceptional with sharing market insights or best practices, a mentor to associates and “embodies characteristics of putting in the time, effort, passion and integrity that propels what store brands associates should strive to demonstrate to continue to propel industry growth and affinity.”



CHRISTINE KING, DIRECTOR OF CLIENT SERVICES, DAYMON At the largest agency dedicated to private brands, Christine King oversees Daymon’s top center-store client portfolio, connecting with top-level manufacturers to develop new business and sales opportunities for them, while doing so working across a wide range of cross-functional teams internally — analytics, creative services and more than 40 embedded teams across many different business units. She helps keep them all together. King has been with Daymon for more than 11 years, actually first recruited by them out of Oklahoma State University. She left briefly to work for Danone Group and large regional retailers before coming back to Daymon in 2013. She said she loves her job because everyone shares the same vision and is dedicated to developing and driving brands. “I love having a voice, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the company gives me the autonomy to innovate solutions tailored to my clients’ needs,” she added. A project that she is proud of leading is an enterprise-wide effort to develop a sales model that tracked and measured Daymon’s activities against key client-selling objectives. It was 34

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Jackie Caplinger came to Whole Foods Market after years spent on the manufacturing side. In fact, it was while attending a supplier discovery event 14 years ago that she learned about the retailer and fell in love with how it presented its core values, quality standards, its multi-stakeholder model, and how it manages supplier relationships. “I was pretty blown away,” she said. “It set me on a personal mission to become part of something that was destined to change the world of food as I knew it.” Caplinger officially joined the retailer in 2007 as a regional quality assurance specialist for the eastern third of North America and Europe. In her role now, she’s responsible for supporting the supplier quality maintenance and improvement efforts across multiple divisions within Whole Foods, a huge challenge as the retailer continues to grow internally and also network with Amazon’s global quality team. She also is managing a group in the age of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

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Caplinger handles it with aplomb. Vincent Orr, senior analyst, for Whole Foods, said she has helped grow and lead the supplier quality group into what could be considered a very new world of compliance. “She built a team of highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals who continue to set the standards for one of the most successful store brands in the country,” he added. Caplinger said Whole Foods is close to implementing a program that will bring all of their local, regional and global suppliers into common data systems, making it easier to review and assess verified Food Safety and Quality programs, a program she’s very proud of. “This has been a wish of mine for many years, and we’re finally reaching the apex of the initiative,” she said. “It’s been a huge undertaking with lots of hurdles along the way, but the team members are absolute troopers and we are seeing that encouraging light at the end of the tunnel.”


PHYLLIS JOHNSON, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF OWN BRANDS, CATALINA USA New to Catalina but not the store brands industry, Phyllis Johnson has more than 25 years of experience working in a variety of own brand positions for various retailers, own brand suppliers and industry organizations. Johnson joined Catalina in February 2019, recruited by Wes Bean, senior vice president, global network. The two had worked together when he was leading own brands at Southeastern Grocers. “He had an exciting vision for own brand growth at Catalina and I wanted to be a part of the journey,” she said. Johnson said she enjoys collaborating across functions to help Catalina’s retail sales teams deliver strategic value to their retail partners. The company uses near real-time analytics and insights to grow its portfolio of more than 25 retailer clients with private brands that account for $52 billion in annual U.S. sales. For Catalina, Johnson helped develop a suite of solutions to help solve own brand challenges for its retail clients — and then no bigger chal-


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TOP WOMEN IN STORE BRANDS lenge than COVID-19 struck. She said the team quickly pivoted to react to how buying patterns shifted during lockdown. “With brand-name supply chains broken, more than 75 million shoppers bought own brands for the first time — creating a decade’s worth of trial in a few weeks,” she said. “Utilizing our unparalleled Buyer Intelligence Database, the team produced several own brand playbooks that addressed specific shopper behaviors during lockdown.” These playbooks provided Catalina’s retail partners with tailored solutions that enabled them to connect to the right shopper with the right own brand message at the right time, Johnson added. “Based on this success, we plan on taking an ongoing consultative role with playbooks tailored to retailer-specific own brand challenges.” Bean himself said Johnson quickly turned retailer private brands into one of the most visible areas of the company. He also lauded her for looking into expanding own brands beyond retailer clients and said she has a great way of drawing in young talent to the field and mentoring them.



KELLI O’NEILL, ASSISTANT CORPORATE TREASURER AND SENIOR DIRECTOR OF FINANCE, TREEHOUSE FOODS Kelli O’Neill has been leading the treasury operations, capital markets activity, supporting the mergers and acquisitions, and working on capital management at TreeHouse Foods, a leader in private label foods. But O’Neill doesn’t stop there. She has pitched in to develop finance and accounting talent, launching a talent development team in the finance department, developed a mentor program at the company and created a Finance Functional Competency Handbook. O’Neill is the essence of a team player. “There is always opportunity to enhance processes, develop talent and make a difference,” she 36

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said. “I have grown in my career by not sitting idle and always taking advantage of opportunities to work in the grey, gain new experiences and drive the business forward.” Nearing nine years with TreeHouse, O’Neill was recruited to the company when it was just shy of $2 billion and helped participate in the company’s pivot to $6 billion. Additionally, she helped see the company’s portfolio optimization return to around $4.5 billion. Her first seven years were in finance roles and then in corporate development and treasury. Talking about a project she’s proud of, O’Neill cited the completion of a high-yield bond offering, extending the company’s debt maturities, reducing out interest expense and providing liquidity for future strategic use. “We launched the bond following strong Q2 results and went to market in late August when there is traditionally very little activity in the market,” she said. “The interest in our bond offering was very strong and we were able to upsize the value of the bonds, while also securing the lowest rates in THS history.” Over the last year especially, O’Neill has taken on several responsibilities at the company, managing debt leverage and making recommendations to the board of directors on refinancing, working with corporate strategy to author the company’s capital allocation strategy that serves as a guiding light as TreeHouse continues to be an industry leader. Possibly, the most important part of her job is helping the executive leadership team navigate through the crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus.


KATHLEEN HELM, SENIOR MANAGER, PRIVATE BRANDS, E&J GALLO WINERY Only in her current private brand position as senior manager since April, Kathleen Helm has sparked the E&J Gallo Winery private brands business by working closely with its retail partners to identify strategic, financially viable opportunities and then helping build fully established private brands from those opportunities.

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A highlight from this year — developing Target’s Rosé Bae. “It’s no secret that consumers love Rosé wine, so we set out to create a brand that speaks to a specific shopper by focusing on what’s trendy in both design and [with] a catchy, playful name,” Helm said. That brand launched around Valentine’s Day and has continued to sell, exceeding expectations throughout the year, she added. Helm has been on Gallo’s private brand team for four years and with the company for more than 10 after being recruited out of the University of San Diego, and it is the retail customer interaction that drives her — a culture set by the company. “At Gallo, we focus a lot on our purpose of serving enjoyment in moments that matter, and that goes beyond just serving but really centers on service leadership to our customers and, ultimately, serving our consumers,” she said. Helm loves interacting with customers and


developing brands. It also doesn’t hurt that “the category is on fire,” she said. Case in point, Gallo represents the secondlargest private brand wine company in the United States and has successfully grown in store brands by more than 40%. Helm has had a hand in launches for Target, Kroger, Aldi and more. She is said to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the entire category and maintain an acute awareness of consumer trends, package design concepts, brand positioning and marketing. Store brand wines may be working to catch traditional wines in CPG, but Helm is certainly helping lead a charge. As Dennis Carr, vice president, private brands, for Gallo, puts it: “Kathleen is a constant professional who tirelessly promotes the value of store brands by helping customers build thoughtful brands that target their own fan base, generating real results.” SB

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any food trends in the United States can be traced back to a hot regional cuisine or the latest health kick. That would explain the recent popularity of such items as dried Sriracha seasoning rubs or elderberry vinaigrettes. But when a retailer or product manufacturer can innovate around a consumer’s sentimental favorite — that can be lightning in a bottle. Trader Joe’s, for example, has throngs of fans raving about its Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, named the “Favorite Overall” product at the retailer during its annual Customer Choice Awards. Trader Joe’s followed up with Everything 38

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But the Elote Seasoning, a blend inspired by the Mexican grilled corn Elote, a popular street food, and builds off the bagel seasoning mix. Aldi recently came out with an Everything But the Bagel seasoning, too, a nod to the product’s popularity. In the branded world, McCormick, based in Baltimore, unveiled an Old Bay branded hot sauce on its website in January and sold out of the product within 24 hours. The company brought a new flavor to a fan favorite and capitalized on sizzling growth in the hot sauce category. Both are examples of companies bringing some innovative heat to the spices, dips and seasonings category, one that is doing especially well. Rising demand for international cuisine is expected

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Rising demand for international cuisine is expected to propel the global hot sauce market to

by the end of 2026, a

6.5% compound annual growth rate from 2019 to propel the global hot sauce market to $3.7 billion by the end of 2026, a 6.5% compound annual growth rate from 2019, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights. Hot sauces with extra kick from ingredients like harissa and gochujang now consistently appear on consumer rankings of top-rated products in the category. Meanwhile, the global spices and seasonings market is expected to grow from about $16 billion in 2018 to $23 billion in 2026, according to the National Seasoning Manufacturers Association. Rising demand for organic seasonings using chilies, garlic and ginger is driving the global market, according to Robert Post, executive director of NSMA. In the U.S., he notes, the most commonly sought spices are pepper, chili, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves. While introducing new multicultural ingredients to an increasingly diverse U.S. population makes sense, experts caution that the tactic works best when the flavor profile rings true. “Within the cooking sauces category, consumer surveys repeatedly show that authenticity of a product is one of the most important attributes. Flavors that resonate as authentic are showing growth rates above category norms,” said Chris Blanford, senior director of marketing at Sandpoint, Idaho-based Litehouse Foods, a private label manufacturer of salad dressings, sauces, dips and other products under brand names including Litehouse, Organicville, Sky Valley, Green Garden and Brite Harbor. Litehouse Foods’ Sky Valley Thai Peanut and Sweet Chili

sauces are among the company’s fastest-selling items in the hot sauce category, according to Blanford. Both are seeing velocities increase compared to previous 12 weeks by at least 25%. “We’ve also seen this growth in salad dressings within the natural channel. Flavors like sesame, tahini and tamari are providing authentic new flavors and incremental sales dollars to the category.” LOOKING PAST THE ‘PANDEMIC PANTRY’ Perhaps not surprisingly, the recent period of adjustment to coronavirus-related restrictions has resulted in a spike in sales of pantry staples, comfort foods, condiments and traditional dips such as ranch dressing. “Growth rates on typically slower selling items [have increased] more the further into the COVID-19 crisis we go, while high-velocity sellers peaked earlier,” Blanford said. “The focus by consumers has been a mix of what is available, as well as multi-use and family favorite flavors.” As an example, he notes that ranch sales have been higher in recent weeks than coleslaw in the refrigerated salad dressing category. Stockpiling, which began to accelerate during the second week of March, also is boosting sales of products such as dried herbs, cooking sauces and salad dressings. According to data from IRI and Spins, the four weeks ended March 23 saw refrigerated salad dressing growth rates above 20%, or 15 points above the preceding six-month growth rate. Dried herbs and sauces saw similar trajectories, both with growth rates above 25%.

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STORE BRANDS l DIPS & SEASONINGS While some of these forces may linger, marketers can get ahead of the curve by focusing on broader, more evergreen consumer trends. For example, the growing demand for ready-to-eat foods and convenience foods has been driving higher sales in the seasoning category, said NSMA’s Post, noting the benefit of using dried herbs as a quick flavor enhancer with little monetary or caloric expense. Using seasonings allows manufacturers to lower salt and sugar content of their products, while providing unique flavors to make a range of foods more appealing and satisfying for consumers, he said. Blanford agrees. “This year you can expect to see us drive the development of products that meet the consumer’s growing demand for better-for-you offerings,” he said. New launches will include a zero grams of added sugar ketchup under Litehouse Foods’ Organicville brand, a line of nonGMO freeze dried herbs under the Green Garden brand and a relaunch of Greek yogurt-based dressings offering lower calories and extra protein under the core Litehouse brand. NEW FORMULATIONS AND FORMATS While flavor experimentation may work well in dips and sauces, it is more challenging in tried-and-true pantry staples like condiments. The ketchup category, for example, has seen very little in the way of organic growth or innovation lately and continues to be dominated by Heinz, which has roughly 50% market share. “Retailers, every cycle, will come back and ask us what flavored ketchup we are working on,” says Renee Hicks, director of private brands at The Fremont Company in Fremont, Ohio. “For most people, ketchup is just ketchup. They don’t want us to mess with it.” When Walmart tried to inject some fun into the category with its promotional Nickelodeon Slime ketchup two summers ago, apparently even kids were not amused by the strange green product. “It did not sell well at all,” Hicks recalled. “Retailers will occasionally do well with smaller sizes or unique flavors on a limited basis, but it’s not enough to move the needle for the category.” Flavored ketchups inspired by international cuisines have increasingly appeared on restaurant menus, but thus far the trend has not spilled over into food service or retail, she added. Meanwhile, private label ketchup manufacturers continue to move away from using corn syrup in formulations and are mainly switching to cane sugar, which is often denoted on packaging as “natural.” The movement began with the introduction of the Heinz Simply brand years ago and has been gradually followed by store brands. “Some major retailers have converted whole portfolios, while others are in the process right now,” said Hicks. Store brands don’t generally widely advertise the shift, though some have introduced a redesigned label with a “made with sugar” ribbon or banner. “The new look tends to bring more attention than the formulation itself. Usually it comes with a sales increase,” said Hicks. Within the next two or 40

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three years, Heinz is expected to transition most or all of its products to the Simply Heinz brand, she added. Other private label manufacturers are looking to strike gold with new packaging formats. In April, Fine Italian Foods introduced Fratelli Mantova Italian Spray Dressing, a single SKU in Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar, at various grocery chains. The first product of its kind, according to the company, it relies on a technology used by most cooking oil sprays. The proprietary bag-on-valve system allows the oil to be atomized without the use of chemicals, additives or emulsifying agents. The spray dressing will be added to Fratelli’s portfolio of 100% natural spray oils used for various cooking techniques and non-stick cooking applications. Fratelli Mantova’s new spray dressing offers a quicker and more efficient way to dress salads, and it also serves as an ideal finishing oil for pizzas and pastas, said Agron Kosova, manager at Fine Italian Foods in Naperville, Ill. “Typically the spray will use 90% less product than a traditional olive oil or oil-based dressing. Being a high-quality oil, consumers will enjoy the quality and flavor just as much.” The demand for new plant-based products and the push toward clean-label packaging will also provide marketers with new opportunities in categories like dips and sauces. Dollar sales of plant-based spreads, dips, sour cream and sauces grew 54% in the past year and 135% over the past two years, according to Spins data analyzed by the Good Foods Institute. Those numbers far exceeded the increases in dairy alternative categories like creamers and yogurt, per GFI. Even seasonings are getting in on the plant-based act. Earlier this year, Trader Joe’s introduced its Vegan Chicken-less Seasoning Salt, a mix of common flavorings used in roast chicken (minus the animal products) inspired by a cooking craze in Australia. Apparently, folks Down Under discovered the seasoning works particularly well when sprinkled over French Fries or fish and chips as an alternative to traditional shaker salts. SB

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How will Walmart’s Free Assembly fit in stores? Walmart’s new modern-looking private brand clothing Free Assembly is all about mixing and layering different items within the line, giving consumers the freedom to assemble a look all their own. It’s a clever idea, one that was two years in the making, and one that has this magazine curious how it will be merchandised in stores. For one, Walmart just announced a redesign that is decidedly easier on the eyes, where a brand like Free Assembly could have some fun. The question is how much fun, especially if it takes on a more flagship role in apparel? Let’s take a look:

All business. From a merchandising standpoint, the retailer’s private brands currently are pretty businesslike and uniform with island tables and rack signage.

The redesign. While the new stores are going to have a more digitally enabled experience, the aesthetics are getting an upgrade, too. Here, the departments show bold, classier signage that all of Walmart’s private brand apparel could stand to gain from — but especially Free Assembly.

Big potential. A recent visit to a Walmart in Skokie, Ill., wowed with more than a third of it dedicated to apparel. Throw in the footwear section, and the retailer clearly sees these categories as important. 42

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Easy shopping. Current private brands George, Terra & Sky, Time and Tru, and Wonder Nation all have a clean and easy-to-shop presentation in stores — definitely a benefit — but there’s clearly room to grow if they want to compete and become destination brands.

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