The media and private brands

Lawrence Aylward
Editor In Chief
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There's more to Lidl than just low prices.

We’re always interested in how the mainstream media reports on the grocery industry, especially regarding private brands.

Last week, The Morning Call, a newspaper and website in Allentown, Pa., that covers Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, reported on the opening of a new Lidl store in the area. The headline of the story was, “12 things to know about Lidl, the Lehigh Valley’s newest supermarket.”

The first few things “to know” emphasize Lidl’s history and how to pronounce the retailer’s name. Then the “to know” list gets into things that makes Lidl different, such as its size. The reporter writes that Lidl is “one of the few new supermarkets in our area that isn’t overwhelming. There are only six aisles, and you can very easily navigate around. … Organizationally the store offers the ability for a shopper to be extremely time-efficient, too.”

Lidl has to love these remarks, as convenience, which has become a big differentiator among grocers, is one of the hallmarks of its existence.

In another “to know” item, the reporter asks “What’s in a name?” She points out that “90% of Lidl’s merchandise is private label. “If you’re not loyal to certain brands, buying store brand or ‘private label’ is a great way to save money. In a lot of instances, a private label product is just as good as a name brand (and sometimes better).”

Not that her view is wrong, it’s just outdated. But we are talking about Lidl, which has been heavily touting its low prices since coming to America nearly two years ago. But more progressive private-branded retailers — Trader Joe’s, The Kroger Co. and Albertsons Companies among them — are pushing many of their private-branded lines as being of quality and value, not just a way to save money.

The reporter concludes by writing, “This is a great store. You’re likely to save time and money.” No doubt that those two attributes are hooks that will bring consumers into the store.

But the shoppers who desire quality products might not be swayed to shop at Lidl. Never once does the reporter mention “quality.” There is also no mention of innovation, another key attribute that retailers are hanging their hats on with private brands these days to differentiate. In fairness to Lidl, it does offer quality products that differentiate.

All in all, it’s a positive review of a new Lidl store by the mainstream media, but not one that hits on the contemporary buttons the store brands industry wants to push to make private brands distinguished.

I see more reports in the mainstream media touting private brands for their quality and innovation, not just for their price. But there are still mainstream stories like this one that focus on private brands only as a way to save money.

The industry, from manufacturers, retailers and other entities, needs to keep pushing the modern evolution of private brands in the mainstream media. That gospel is taking hold, but it still needs to be spread.



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