Private label nonalcoholic beverage category shows large potential for innovation

Industry experts from Casey's and Walgreens talked innovation and supply chain challenges during the nonalcoholic beverage category at the Sept. 29 Store Brands Industry Forum on Beverages, now on demand for viewing.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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Dale Johnson

The nonalcoholic beverage market is one of the most dynamic and innovative segments for private label, although experts at the Store Brands Industry Forum on Beverages held virtually on Sept. 29 spoke about supply chain challenges to the industry. 

The forum provided retailers a chance to listen and connect with private label industry experts. Hosted by Store Brands executive editor Dan Ochwat, the beverage forum consisted of four sections: coffee and tea, dairy, nonalcoholic beverages and alcoholic beverages.

The event, now available on demand, began with a keynote address and a discussion on private label coffee and tea, followed by the dairy portion of the forum, which was then followed by the nonalcoholic beverage segment. Ochwat spoke with Dale Johnson, senior director and divisional merchandise manager of consumables at Walgreens, and Erin Butler, private brands manager at Casey’s.

“It’s been exciting for us to watch as the beverage industry has been evolving,” said Johnson. “The one thing we see in the beverage category compared to the others is that there’s still a strong pipeline of innovation. We’re starting to see a lot more beverages that are in the ‘better for you’ space, and we’re looking at ways we can innovate there.”

Johnson said that as a result of the pandemic, Walgreens has shifted its private label beverage focus from branding and marketing to manufacturing needs.

“In this new environment with all the challenges, you have to get way into the manufacturing,” he said. “Do they have the raw ingredients and materials needed to make the product? You have to make sure they have a reliable supply chain. On-shelf availability is just so important. The days of single-source supplying are probably gone.”


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Erin Butler

Casey’s, a convenience store chain, is one of the best examples of innovation in the private label space, as the company recently overhauled its own brand collection, including beverages.

“Casey’s did a lot of work to modernize the look of the brand, which has really been beneficial for private label,” said Butler. “It’s really exciting to see how well the consumers have accepted it. A lot of our offerings that are the more unique flavors are doing very well. One of our top-sellers in 20 oz. is blue raspberry, which you can’t get from a Pepsi or a Coke. A supplier who is going to work with us on unique flavors is really important. It’s those more unique flavors that are best-sellers because there’s no branded equivalent.”

Those already registered for the Store Brands Industry Forum on Beverages can watch a webcast of the panel here, and it is available on demand for any non-registered viewer as well.