A Q&A with Abby Ayers, senior business development manager of retail partnerships for Fair Trade USA
How did you come into the world of private brands?
Much by accident. I was looking to move soon after college and was exploring different industries on LinkedIn when I noticed a cool opportunity in something called private brands. I had purchased private brands by accident plenty of times but never put much thought into how those products got to shelf. That realization was the start of where I am today.
Describe the private brands industry in one word.
What do you like most about the industry?
I love that we spend so much time talking about this mysterious “consumer,” who, by the way, happens to be each one of us. We are predicting what products our friends and family desire, and trying to bring products to market that they can be excited about and that they want to purchase.
What one great thing does the industry have going for it?
The industry is rapidly changing, and it’s ripe for innovation. Private brands have gone from “generics” to brands that keep us going back to our favorite stores for products that take us on a journey of flavors and that bring excitement to our dinner tables.
What is the industry’s biggest challenge?
There is still friction between giving the consumers what they want at the lowest possible price. Consumers are more educated than ever. They want an organic, high-quality, transparent and sustainable product at a steal. The challenge to meet those expectations is just that — a challenge. But this dichotomy is slowly changing and consumers are realizing they can get a high-quality, sustainable product at a fair price, especially as retailers continue to develop private brands to meet these demands.
What trait in yourself do you attribute most to your success?
My passion for people is my north star. This is what brought me to Fair Trade to help enable sustainable and thriving livelihoods for millions of farming communities around the globe. It is what fuels me to support retailers across the country to help them see how their choices can drive this impact in their supply chains but also be a tool to help them achieve business results.
It’s 5 o’clock (or later), what do you do for fun?
When you are born in northeast Ohio, a love of sports is something in your blood. Regardless if we are winning or losing, I’m a loyal Ohio sports fan, so you can often find me at a Cavs, Browns, Indians or THE Ohio State University game.
You have a week off. Where do you go and why?
My parents’ couch. There is something so relaxing and comforting about being home with the people who know you best.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Bruce Poon Tip’s “Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business.”