Anthony Aloia, corporate vice president, PLMA
From its inception in 2006 it was inevitable the day would come when the Private Label Hall of Fame would welcome the induction of Brian Sharoff, the man known to the industry throughout the world as Mr. Private Label.
His induction so soon after his passing, and as this year’s only honoree is, I believe, most appropriate. Brian’s powerful vision and leadership, often displayed through wit and humor, took a fledgling industry and association in 1980 and built it into a worldwide trade organization characterized by the growth and influence of its members and their retail partners.
His accomplishments will be felt by generations of consumers to come, and for the many fortunate to know him personally and professionally, his influence will endure a lifetime. There are so many reasons Brian had an outsized impact on the industry and the people he encountered. One less heralded was his thirst for learning and teaching. Whether behind the podium teaching private label history at PLMA’s Executive Education Program in Philadelphia or lecturing on private label around the world to eager suppliers in Athens, he truly enjoyed talking about store brands.
Spreading the good news about store brands was a passion. Brian spearheaded the launch of PLMA’s video news channel PLMA Live!, and later PLMALive.eu, to provide information and insights as directly and as widely as possible to all who are involved in the industry. The creation of PLMA’s Idea Supermarket at the trade shows here and abroad taught the industry to learn from itself by displaying the year’s best product ideation, merchandising and packaging ideas.
Whether meeting in his office, in a conference room, or the PLMA booth in Chicago, he inspired members and retailers alike to innovate and then share the experiences of their successful private label programs. His love of travel and discovering new foods and cultures were sources for much of his inspiration. Sharing a table with Brian over Lebanese Tabbouleh or Chinese Dim Sum or Kansas City BBQ ribs was just as often an education itself to dispel pre-conceived biases consumers might have about more exotic fare.
Brian Sharoff’s most unshakable conviction was that innovative, high-quality products are the keys to private label success, and that store brand manufacturers are able to innovate quicker and better than their branded counterparts.
Clay Dockery, CEO, Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA
Leadership. Vision. Compassion. There are many attributes to describe Brian Sharoff, but these three always stood out to me. His leadership was evident in the constant engagement that he had with all stakeholders in the private label industry. His staff was extremely loyal to him and he was extremely loyal to his staff.
From Brian’s appointment as president to his passing, the private label industry underwent dramatic changes. Brian not only kept up with the torrid pace of change, but he had the uncanny ability to see what was around the corner. He was always willing to explore and invest in what he saw coming, but with recognition that it had to benefit the membership of the association.
It is not an overstatement to say that PLMA was an extension of Brian’s family. His stewardship of the association was exceptional. Brian’s wit and intellect is sorely missed.
Private Label Hall of Fame member Mark Husson, research analyst, Cedar Rock Capital and former retailer, Marks & Spencer and Tesco PLC
My recollection of Brian is of a man who absorbed information like a sponge. He was especially interested in what was happening in markets outside of the United States and that attitude drove private label marketers to such successes elsewhere. He was convinced that the destiny of U.S. private brands was to take share, but he knew that this was only going to happen if producers focused on improving product’s relative quality and performance. At the same time, he was drumming into people the need to switch from a production mindset to one that was marketing-driven with the consumer at the center. All the evidence points to his success in this endeavor. He was quite a guy.
Neil Stern, CEO, Good Food Holdings and former senior partner, Ebeltoft Group, McMillan Doolittle
Brian had a towering intellect and the impeccable timing of a Vaudeville comedian. He commanded a room and his outsized impact on the private label industry and retail in general is undeniable.
But I would also be remiss not to mention that he didn’t suffer fools lightly.
I have had the great opportunity to be on the faculty of PLMA Executive Education programs for over a decade as well as a frequent speaker at PLMA events. My small task: describe the state of the overall retail industry, consumer changes, trends in the retail industry and what will happen moving forward. And of course, provide a global angle as well.
I always had the sense (who am I kidding, I knew) that Brian was more of an expert on these very issues than I was. But I had better slides! We had great discussions and arguments on where the industry was headed, and Brian, not surprisingly had a wealth of knowledge that was unmatched from a global perspective. My favorite recurring argument was on the subject of millennials. Inevitably, an unsuspecting speaker at a PLMA event would make a throwaway comment on the “importance” of the millennial customer. Brian would be ready to pounce. Why are they a more important demographic than Gen X? Where’s your data to support this? I think he purchased the rights to American Demographics just to be armed with more material for debate.
Any conversation I had with Brian ended with my feeling more energized, informed and better prepared to face the challenges ahead. He will be missed.
Private Label Hall of Fame member and co-founder Bob Anderson, former vice president/general merchandise manager, Walmart
To be inducted into the Private Label Hall of Fame several years ago was a great honor for me. Making it special was that the presenter was a good friend, great leader and the president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association, Mr. Brian Sharoff.
On March 18, Brian was inducted into the Private Label Hall of Fame, a well-deserved and overdue honor for a man who loved the industry and all the folks that worked in it. Brian had a special talent in bringing together people from retail and manufacturing to help share best practices and to understand each other’s needs and requirements. He did this, not only here in the U.S., but took it globally as well.
Brian was a mentor to many, a great teacher and listener. He was the face of the PLMA, the go-to person for all of us, and for anyone who was wanting to know anything about private label. I will always remember Brian for his big smile and happy hello and welcome to every one of us at every PLMA event.
I’m thrilled and honored to have Brian join the many other leaders as part of the Hall of Fame. I only wish he could have been here to enjoy it, but knowing Brian, he would smile and say the real thanks goes out to all of us.
Brian will be missed, but hopefully this honor and all his hard work will live on. I think of my friend often when I walk the stores in the United States and know he played a huge role in the development of private label here and around the world. Brian, much like Sam Walton, helped to bring quality products to market at an affordable price for all of us, the proof is in the market share it commands today.
Private Label Hall of Fame member Tom Ewing, former vice president/director national accounts, T. Marzetti and former chairman, PLMA board of directors
Brian Sharoff had a lasting impact on the private label business by fostering the credibility of the industry in the days when the image of private label was embodied by no-name generic items. Brian promoted the growing number of national brand manufacturers who also produced private label products to the trade press to change the perception of many that private label products were made by small packers focused on cheap products. As the industry grew and private label manufacturers consolidated into large conglomerates and even public companies, Brian ensured that the growing sophistication of the manufacturers was covered in the trade press and national media.
His message was that private label products were of equal quality of popular national brands and then he embraced premium private label products and touted their growth to further enhance the reputation of the industry. Brian’s ability to work with the trade press, media, retailers, suppliers and member manufacturers to create the message of equal or better product quality, consumer acceptance, retailer enthusiasm and manufacturer innovation was essential to enhancing the entire private label industry.
Without Brian’s insights, leadership, understanding, and ability to influence others, the private label industry would not have enjoyed the tremendous success we have seen during his tenure.
Jean-Pierre Bonvallet, international business development director, PLMA
Brian Sharoff’s impact on the private label industry has been — and continues to be — great.
First and foremost, Brian was a private label lover. He was totally dedicated to the industry. Second, he was a visionary who was able to predict the positive evolutions of the industry from basic, low-cost generics to premium and genuine retailers’ brands, not only in the various regions in the world but on a global scale. This vision was based on permanent contacts with suppliers and retailers internationally during as well as independent of the major events. Thematic workshops have been organized in the U.S. and in Europe with that purpose.
Brian also cultivated his contacts with the specialized retail press leaders in the key countries. He often sponsored surveys and research on consumer attitudes toward private label starting in 1981. The results were published by PLMA for the members or jointly with press partners to reach a larger audience.
Third, Brian was able to share his vision around the world by expanding tremendously the U.S. show in Chicago with local and foreign exhibitors, in addition to hosting shows and trade missions outside the U.S. to focus on markets for private label on every continent, where retailers and wholesalers could meet suppliers from the world over and improve their understanding of private label trends and innovations from diverse countries.
Brian was also an exceptionally creative individual when it came to developing the tools that could help the industry grow, whether conferences and roundtables, executive education, eScanner and International Scanner newsletters, private label industry yearbooks, Salute to Excellence Awards, New Product Expo, and Idea Supermarket, or PLMA Live!
Last but not least, although Brian was budget conscious, he was continually daring to launch new concepts. But then he would not hesitate to stop the experience if results were not as good as he expected. The development of store brands comes from the efforts and innovations of retailers and their private label suppliers, but nothing would have gone so fast and so widely without the impact of PLMA, whose spirit and right arm was Brian Sharoff.