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The people, brands, and innovations driving growth across private label



High value new products and an increased focus on sustainability enhance the private label marketplace. 2024

Sales of private label products across numerous categories saw strong growth in 2023, and retailers and suppliers alike are working to keep that momentum going. With consumer expectations for store brand products perhaps higher than ever, the pressure is on to bring to market high value products that meet the demands of today’s shoppers who are seeking quality and value.

The honorees in Store Brands 2024 Game Changers played a role in continuing to raise the bar in the world of private label. From the work of the six individuals honored this year to the products and programs developed by retailers and suppliers, the quality of store brand products now on the shelves are driving sales and giving shoppers additional choices at retail.

COVER STORY l March 2024 l Store Brands 3


JENNY APPLEGATE IS seen by colleagues as an innovative and creative strategic thinker adept at building strong relationships with key marketing executives across Topco’s membership. The senior director of Brand & Integrated Marketing Solutions, she has served as a key figure in developing and bringing Topco’s own brands to market. Working to expand the focus of the company’s private label assortment, Applegate is credited with driving new marketing partnerships and creating new promotional opportunities in television, movies, and radio.

Using a strategic approach to selling Topco and its offerings, she was able to attract and build partnerships with key national players who traditionally looked only to CPG’s and national brands for marketing opportunities This includes working with The Drew Barrymore Show, DreamWorks, Dr. Suess, and Nashville’s New Year’s Eve celebration, to name a few.

This approach has expanded the reach of Topco Own Brands beyond the traditional in-store and online shopper conversation, establishing new avenues for creating consumer interest, trust, and loyalty.The result has been significant for Topco’s members and its shoppers, as Topco brands and products take their place at center stage in the national spotlight.

Applegate’s efforts to put Topco’s own brands in the national spotlight has increased their profile and made them recognizable to a vast audience beyond its member stores. The marketing partnerships have built deeper connections and stronger social and emotional bonds with current member store shoppers, and incited interest, purchase intent, and trial from new shoppers who had not previously frequented Topco’s member stores.

Working to expand the focus of the company’s private label assortment, Jenny Applegate is credited with driving new marketing partnerships and creating new promotional opportunities in television, movies, and radio.


Director of Marketing & Brand Communication


THOSE WHO WORK with Kate Favrow at Associated Wholesale Grocers know how busy she’s been in recent months.

Project 1 was her efforts leading a refresh of product packaging for AWG’s Best Choice own brand in an effort to make the products stand out on store shelves. This effort is nearing the halfway point of a brand redesign that includes more than 3,000 items.

Additionally, Favrow has been instrumental in building new websites for AWG’s own brands, along with digital and in-store marketing programs focused on driving shoppers to the private label products stocked by independent grocers.

At AWG, Favrow leads a strong cross-functional team across all departments and hundreds of supplier partners to bring new products and strong packaging design to life. She helps build marketing programs that are turn-key and cost neutral or very low cost for independent grocery retailers to implement.

Beyond AWG, Favrow also lends her expertise to industry-wide issues and is a member of the the Private Brands task force at FMI - The Food Industry Association. She has also leveraged her connections with universities with strong business programs to help marketing and analytics students think about how they leverage real-world solutions to develop marketing programs and analytics to present ideas and case studies for solving independent grocers’ real-world challenges.

Kate Favrow leads a strong crossfunctional team across all departments and hundreds of supplier partners to bring new products and strong packaging design to life. She helps build marketing programs that are turnkey and cost neutral or very low cost for independent grocery retailers to implement.

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Senior Vice President, General Merchandise Manager


SINCE JOINING DOLLAR General in 2003, Brian Hartshorn has held a number of roles of increasing responsibility for the discount retailer. In his current role as senior vice president and general merchandise manager, he has oversight of consumables that includes private brands such as Clover Valley, Sweet Smiles, and Good & Smart.

In 2023, Hartshorn and his team were instrumental in carrying out the expansion of Clover Valley, a key component of Dollar General’s “Food First” initiative. The store brand’s expanded assortment includes more than 100 items featuring sauces, condiments, entrees, sides, snacks, and more at affordable prices.

Notably, Hartshorn and his team developed Clover Valley Milk products and through the continual addition of cold storage facilities Dollar General has transitioned nearly all its milk to private brand. This allows the retailer to bring additional affordability to customers, and also provides greater profitability for the company. In addition to milk, Hartshorn and his team have developed additional private brand items including cheeses, eggs, boxed dinners, deli and more.

As consumers continue facing macroeconomic pressures, the velocity in which private brands are sought out by shoppers is gaining additional momentum. As a result, Dollar General continues to listen to customer insights and innovate new products. Hartshorn and his team continually strive to add new items to the retailer’s private brand portfolio, bring to market broader meal solutions, and help shoppers build a more complete basket to feed their family.


Vice President of Design, Collaborations and Omni Experience PETCO

JENNIFER KOVACS IS at the forefront of Petco’s own brand innovation. In her role as vice president of Design, Collaboration and Omni Experience, Kovacs is credited by colleagues as using her experience with trendspotting and immersing herself in the lifestyle of customers. This has allowed her and her team to innovate and evolve Petco owned brands based on the ever-changing needs of shoppers.

Lauded as an expert when it comes to broader fashion and pet industry trends, Kovacs’ leadership has helped Petco continue to grow and differentiate itself by prioritizing owned brand innovation that evolves with the shifting needs of pets and pet parents.

Kovacs has been a leader in expanding Reddy, Petco’s lifestyle and fashion brand, which offers quality, functional and sustainably made products for dogs and cats. Using customer insights and data, Kovacs and her team have curated new collections such as Reddy Kitchen, a line of mealtime solutions made specifically for pets. This new line represents how Kovacs is continually working to address the needs of pet parents.

Responding to the evolution of pet nutrition in recent years, Kovacs and her team identified specific unmet needs when developing Reddy Kitchen. The result was a new line of multifunctional kitchenware products that include items for pet food storage, food preparation, mealtime and cleanup.

She is also credited with developing the EveryYay brand, which blends style and function for products ranging from dog and cat beds and bowls to dog crates and cat furniture. Other proprietary brands developed under her watch include YOULY and Leaps & Bounds.

Brian Hartshorn and his team developed Clover Valley Milk products and through the continual addition of cold storage facilities Dollar General has transitioned nearly all its milk to private brand. This allows the retailer to bring additional affordability to customers.

Using customer insights and data, Jennifer Kovacs and her team have curated new collections such as Reddy Kitchen, a line of mealtime solutions made specifically for pets. This new line represents how Kovacs is continually working to address the needs of pet parents.

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IT’S BEEN A busy past couple of years at Garcoa and the leadership of Gregory Rubin, the company’s CEO, is cited as having a significant impact on the company’s growth over that time. Championing a culture of creativity and forwardthinking, Garcoa’s teams are embracing new ideas and technologies that are helping the company expand its business.

Among the bigger changes pushed for by Rubin has been his approach to supply chain. Recognizing the inefficiencies and challenges within the company’s existing supply chain processes, he implemented a series of initiatives that revolutionized the way Garcoa operates, leading to unprecedented growth for the company.

Among his key contributions was the implementation

Recognizing the inefficiencies and challenges within the company’s existing supply chain processes, Gregory Rubin implemented a series of initiatives that revolutionized the way Garcoa operates, leading to unprecedented growth for the company.

of KPIs to enhance supply chain visibility and efficiency. He introduced advanced data analytics that provided realtime insights into inventory levels, demand forecasting, and production cycles. This not only streamlined the company’s operations but also enabled Garcoa to make data-driven decisions, reducing waste and optimizing resource allocation.

Additionally, Rubin spearheaded strategic partnerships with key suppliers and logistics providers. By fostering strong collaborative relationships, he ensured a more agile and responsive supply chain. This proactive approach allows the company to navigate disruptions with greater resilience, maintain consistent product availability, and meet customer demands in a highly competitive market.


AS THE FOUNDER of Millpress Imports, Tim Balshi is credited with developing a private label program for independent grocers that gives improved access to super premium extra virgin olive oil. Committed to improved sourcing, low minimums, and premium packaging, Balshi’s efforts served to open the world of upscale private label products to retailers of all sizes.

Low minimums and favorable payment terms means any grocer can participate in a category that previously was reserved for retailers capable of purchasing full containers of olive oil at a time. This helps cash flow and provides a


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Tim Balshi is credited with developing a private label program for indepdent grocers that gives improved access to super premium extra virgin olive oil.

fresher option for customers. The ability to carry a superpremium, healthier fat at a reasonable price at a time of significant price increases allows customers to stay engaged with extra virgin olive oil as opposed to having to settle for a less healthy fat option.

Additionally, Balshi developed a training program designed to create category knowledge experts and ambassadors. The impact of the training program is two-fold. Not only does the training lift the entire private label program, it also serves to lift the category in general with a deeper knowledge for the in-store associates.



For nearly three years, Dollar General has been expanding its healthcare offerings with the goal of meeting the needs of its shoppers while also establishing the discounter as a destination for health products. That effort included the launch of its OhGood! assortment in late 2022.

The OhGood! line of gummy vitamins supplies nutrients that help make maintaining an everyday wellness routine and receiving daily nutrition easy and affordable. The entire line is priced between $5 and $7 and includes products made with clean ingredients, natural flavors while being non-GMO and gluten free. Additionally, select products within the line are vegan or vegetarian.

According to Albert Wu, Dollar General’s chief medical officer, vitamins and supplements can be beneficial for many customers, particularly those with certain medical conditions or dietary restrictions. The gummy format provides an option that may promote adherence to a daily regimen. Ultimately, in addition to improving health, these products make it easier for consumers to stay on budget while prioritizing their wellness goals.

Jackie LI, Dollar General’s senior vice president of private brands and global sourcing, said OhGood! delivers a high-quality gummy supplement but is also convenient and accessible. Recently, the company’s research indicated that Dollar General offers a price advantage over most food and drug retailers, with prices that are competitive with even the largest discount retailers, further driving home DG’s mission of Serving Others.


G.S. Gelato has spearheaded advancement in the non-dairy ice cream segment, catering to the evolving preferences of consumers worldwide. With 66% of global consumers interested in ice cream products where ingredients such as sugar are reduced or removed completely, G.S. Gelato’s commitment to innovation has been vital to new product development that meet the specific needs of consumers.

By offering keto-friendly, no sugar added flavors that replicate the taste and texture of real gelato, the company said it has addressed this demand while aligning with trends in the industry. Its dedication to providing guilt-free indulgence is further underscored by the fact that “No Added Sugar” is the leading sugar-related claim, with 55.3% of new food and beverage launches featuring this claim in 2022.

G.S. Gelato’s products not only meet this growing consumer demand but also offer a diverse range of flavors and utilize dairy alternative bases such as peanut milk and pecan milk.

Additionally, the company’s collaborative approach with private label retailers demonstrates its commitment to partnership and excellence, G.S. Gelato officials said. This allows the company to work with retailers and meet consumer needs while also maintaining high standards of taste and quality. l March 2024 l Store Brands 9
Dollar General’s OhGood! line of gummy vitamin supplements. G.S. Gelato has developed new products that offer healthier alternatives to traditional gelato.




Private label collections have been no stranger to the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEX), and its 3 Paces Athletic Apparel is the latest successful addition to the NEX roster of own brands.

The assortment of athletic apparel for the family offering an affordable price is designed with the military family in mind. Sold alongside a host of well-known national athletic apparel brands, 3 Paces offers a new dimension to the NEX’s athletic assortment with quality, value, and performance top of mind, officials with the retailer said.

Designed based on patron feedback that a value oriented performance brand was missing from the NEX assortment, military families want quality athletic apparel that keeps up with their lives. Using industry and patron input on what was most needed, NEX selected a manufacturing partner that could offer the best quality product, performance and design at values essential to ensuring that military families can stay within their budgets.

NEX worked with an outside agency to develop the brand positioning and marketing for 3 Paces, which was inspired by the first steps an individual takes towards a healthier lifestyle, the act of counting to three before taking action, and the three paces in between you and the sailor in front of you during a march.

The product line’s launch included an in-store pop up shop and a virtual 5K race that allowed families who may be separated by deployment the chance to participate together. This brand joins an already robust collection of private brands developed by the Navy Exchange to better serve the demanding needs of patrons. These private labels include Eight Bells (men’s apparel), Yarn & Sea (women’s apparel), Liberty & Valor (children’s apparel), Wanderlings (infant apparel), Because by Navy Star (jewelry), and Harbor Home (home products).


With the goal of providing its shoppers affordable, clean label products, Southeastern Grocers launched its Know & Love private label. The curated selection prioritizes value and great taste, offering products across a wide range of food, beverage and household categories that are free from nearly 100 undesirable ingredients, such as certified color additives, partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose.

This new, exclusive store brand assortment offers customers a wide variety of affordable, clean label products made with ingredients customers “know” to create the everyday products they’ll “love”. SEG’s Know & Love products guarantees lower everyday prices, saving customers 20% on average compared to national brands.

Know & Love, which debuted in 2023, also showcases a clean, visually appealing packaging design that aligns with the principles of clean labeling, while also conveying a sense of trust, reliability, and affordability.

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NEX’s 3 Paces line of private label apparel. Southeastern Grocers’ Know & Love private brand hit stores in 2023.



Pick Me Up Provisions from Staples is the first food and beverage private brand to target the B2B space and specifically the breakroom, according to officials with the office superstore. As people around the U.S. are returning to the office, taking moments in the day to recharge has become a critical factor in driving productivity. Many companies recognize breaks with quality food and drinks fuels productivity, but budget constraints often make offering snacks and beverages difficult.

That’s where Pick Me Up Provisions comes in. This brand was launched to complement Staples’ breakroom essentials brand, Perk!, and allow the retailer to offer a broad selection of quality products at a budget friendly price.

Pick Me Up Provisions was developed after Staples identified a void in the industry to provide a total private brand breakroom solution to its B2B customers. Outfitting a breakroom with great beverages and snacks should not be cost prohibitive, company officials said. This was an opportunity for Staples to take a page from traditional grocery and enter into the private brand consumables space in a more meaningful way.

Staples Pick Me Up Provisions food and beverage assortment.




The Fresh Market recognized a need to create a unified look across all of its private label packaging. The specialty fresh food retailer did a complete refresh across its fall/autumn and holiday private label products, resulting in a cohesive store design that set a seasonal mood.

The Fresh Market Creative Team’s task involved establishing a cohesive identity for the grocer’s fall and holiday product lines, ensuring visual consistency across an array of packages, sizes, and materials. In addition, the cohesive design for these seasonals played a huge role in setting a warm, welcoming holiday mood and seasonal decor of its store environments.

Collaborating with a skilled illustrator, the team at The Fresh Market crafted a versatile design system, which not only enhanced the appeal of product packaging but also served as the foundational element for in-store signage, website, and online channels.

This coordinated approach to merchandise packaging across all departments allowed the grocer to achieve a feeling of harmony and style. Ambiance matters, and company officials were pleased to be able to offer a festive backdrop for holiday shopping through the packaging.

Key elements to The Fresh Market’s effort included:

• Established a consistent visual identity across diverse packaging types/sizes/materials, which helped create a more polished, upscale look compared to the piecemeal approach many grocers take.

• By collaborating with an illustrator, a versatile design system was developed that maintained visual harmony across platforms - packaging, in-store displays, website, etc, creating a unique level of coordination.

• The attention to textures, colors and decorative details that evoke seasonal spirit helped the stores feel warmer and more festive. This likely differentiated The Fresh Market as a more enjoyable, decorative backdrop for holiday shopping than a typical grocery store.

• Rather than treating packaging as an afterthought, it was a centerpiece of the ambient store experience. This brought a new level of sophistication and shopping environment to the grocery industry.



Headquartered in West Chester, Ohio, with facilities in India and China, TrueChoicePack’s commitment to sustainability extends to its adoption of home compostable and marine degradable bioplastics with the release of items made from cutting edge Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) materials.

As consumers become increasingly eco-conscious, the demand for packaging that aligns with responsible disposal practices continues to grow. TrueChoicePack’s investment in home compostable bioplastics meets the demand for environmentally friendly alternatives while maintaining the functionality and durability expected in the private label industry.

Recognizing the growing concerns surrounding PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), TrueChoicePack has shifted towards producing PFAS-free products. This initiative not only ensures compliance with emerging regulations but also reflects the company’s dedication to delivering products that prioritize both safety and sustainability.

In addressing the global call for reduced plastic waste, TrueChoicePack has also embraced post-consumer recy-

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The Fresh Market’s seasonal private label products included eye-catching packaging designs.

cled materials. By incorporating recycled content into its packaging, the company actively contributes to the circular economy, minimizing the environmental impact of singleuse plastics.

Some examples of products that TrueChoicePack has introduced over the past several years include:

• PFAS-free Fiber molded products with industry leading grease and soak resistance

• BPI and TUV certified compostable

• Trash Bags with Post Consumer Recycled Content (PCR)

• Cutlery, Straws, and Cups made from Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) bioplastics

• A cutting-edge material that is both home compostable and marine degradable

• Home compostable alternatives to plastic products including fiber molded, bamboo, and birchwood materials.

• Soak resistant, compostable fiber molded meat trays

• Pre-cut parchment paper and aluminum foil sheets

• Cling wrap with built in sliding cutter



Whole Foods Market’s regenerative green lentils.

In 2022, Whole Foods Market increased its commitment to regenerative practices with the launch of its first Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) product, French Green Lentils, the first exclusive-brand ROC product in the market. Following the launch Whole Foods expanded its ROC products with additional offerings including ROC Red Lentils, Dried Mangoes, Tri-Colored Quinoa, Red Quinoa, and White Quinoa – all under the Whole Foods Market brand.

The grocer’s strategic collaboration with suppliers, scientists, organizations, and certifiers demonstrates a proactive approach to address pressing environmental concerns. By actively supporting regenerative farming methods, Whole Foods is playing a pivotal role in promoting soil health and biodiversity.

Regenerative agriculture presents an opportunity for not only sustaining, but also improving agriculture. Whole Foods Market defines regenerative agriculture as holistic farming and grazing management practices that improve soil, enhance biodiversity and increase carbon capture. As part of Whole Foods Market’s commitment to encouraging the expansion of this promising movement, the retailer works with and supports farmers, ranchers, scientists and industry experts.

In July of 2023, Whole Foods released its 2022 Impact Report, which noted the company worked with more than 40 suppliers to review and approve more than 70 certified regenerative products, and on-boarded another 200 that mention regenerative on the label. The company continues to champion regenerative agriculture by sourcing Regenerative Organic Certified products within its own product line.

Whole Foods also developed a Regenerative Agriculture Labeling Policy to help maintain the integrity of the term “regenerative” in the industry and for customers. The policy requires third-party certification or verification to label a product sold at the retailer as regenerative. For noncertified/unverified products making lesser regenerative claims, Whole Foods Market requires the successful completion of an assessment based on Soil Health Principles. l March 2024 l Store Brands 13
PHA Compostable Cutlery Revolutionizing Sustainability: Unveiling Home Compostable Innovations for a Greener Future With increasing regulations and demand for truly sustainable alternatives to single use plastics on the rise, home compostable products offer a promising solution. Thanks to our new advances in bioplastics and manufacturing, TrueChoicePack is proud to showcase our new lineup of home compostable products. A More Sustainable Bioplastic Created through advanced manufacturing processes, PHA offers similar performance to PLA / CPLA with more robust sustainability features. Polyhydroxyalkanoates are both home compostable and marine degradable, whereas PLA / CPLA can only be composted in industrial facilities. Our PHA cutlery, straws, and cups offer the best combination of sustainability and performance! New Product Launch Eco Innovations Marine Degradable Home Compostable CPLA / PLA Alternative Compostable Straws PHA Cups Non-GMO
TrueChoicePack offers products that are said to be compostable and marine degradable.




Whole Foods Market’s Sourced for Good program, originally exclusive to produce and floral, has expanded into the grocery aisle with the inclusion of Whole Foods Market brand coffee blends. This initiative involves collaboration with third-party certifiers to ensure responsible sourcing, making improvements in the lives of farm workers and supporting communities where products are sourced. Whole Foods Market’s commitment to environmental stewardship, worker welfare, and ethical practices in the sourcing process is exemplified through the program’s expansion.

The grocer’s decision to introduce the Sourced for Good seal to 13 distinct blends of its own brand of coffee, previously under the Allegro Coffee Company label, in October of 2023 highlights its dedication to supporting communities where private label products are sourced.

According to the company, its recent initiatives in the coffee industry and rebrand of Whole Foods Market coffee, has addressed the growing consumer demand for ethically

sourced and high-quality coffee. The introduction of the Sourced for Good seal to its Whole Foods Market brand coffee blends and the certification of all single-origin coffees with the Q Coffee mark have singnaled a significant departure from conventional practices in the industry.

All Whole Foods Market brand coffees must be either organic or Non-GMO Project Verified and meet the retailer’s high quality standards for food ingredients. The grocer went a step further by expanding Sourced for Good into the coffee aisle and started with its own private label blends.

Additionally, the inclusion of the Q Coffee mark and a score of 86+ on all Whole Foods Market brand singleorigin coffees further distinguishes Whole Foods Market. This certification from the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) not only guarantees consistent specialty quality but also offers consumers a clear indicator of the exceptional standard maintained by the brand. This emphasis on quality assures customers that they are purchasing a product that goes beyond basic industry standards, and can serve in educating customers on specialty coffee.

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Whole Foods Market’s private label coffee is now part of the grocer’s Sourced for Good program.
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