Plenty of room for creativity

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Plenty of room for creativity


By Lawrence Aylward/Editor-in-Chief

One way for U.S. private label manufacturers and retailers to capitalize on Americans’ changing eating habits is to offer more innovative store brands, perhaps developed by celebrity chefs, said Tom Vierhile, the innovation insights director for Canadean, a consumer market research firm. So what private label manufacturer or retailer will be the first to phone Bobby Flay?

Vierhile spoke Sunday at a seminar, “America’s Eating Habits Are Changing,” during the PLMA 2016 Private Label Trade Show in Chicago. He stressed that private label manufacturers and retailers have plenty of room to offer more ingenious food creations.

“If you look at places like the UK, you see product lines [done in conjunction] with celebrity chefs that offer innovative private label offerings that reflect the latest food trends in a cutting-edge way,” Vierhile said. “You just don’t see that innovation in the U.S. as much as you could. It seems like there is a lot of white space there for stores to take advantage of.”

Vierhile participated on a panel that also included Robin VanDenabeele, director of private label for Fresh Thyme Market, and Joe Azzinaro, the special projects editor for the PLMA. The panel discussion was moderated by Kathie Canning, a journalist who has covered the private brand industry for several years.

In her questions to the panel, Canning addressed the importance of transparency and authenticity to define store brands. She asked the panelists how consumers, specifically millennials, define such terms.

VanDenabeele said millennials, to no surprise, use social media more than other age groups to discover a product’s origin. Some are going as far to conducting their own products tests and posting the results online.

Azzinaro remarked that store brands have a chance to capitalize on being more transparent and authentic with product offerings.

“The field is pretty open and there are few national brands that are buying into this,” he added. “Store brands have a unique opportunity to take advantage of that, which we are starting to see with some of the major chains.”

VanDenabeele said she has taken a simple approach toward transparency and authenticity with Fresh Thyme Market’s Fresh Thyme brand, mainly by not using too many icons on a product labels, and offering a clear message. VanDenabeele also stressed the importance of keeping up on the trends associated with transparency and authenticity, and discussing them with manufacturers.