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Q&A: CVS Health Drives Private Brand Growth Online, In-Store

Interview with Brenda Lord, VP, private brands and quality assurance, CVS Health, on how the retailer is positioning its store brands.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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CVS Health has been actively promoting its own brands as of late, recently launching a first-ever customer favorites awards program called “Best of Our Brands,” where customers voted across 13 categories for their favorite Gold Emblem, GSQ by Glamsquad, Live Better brands and many others.

Brenda Lord smiling for the camera
Brenda Lord

The retailer has also been leveraging its digital tools to get its private brands front and center. Brenda Lord, vice president of private brands and quality assurance for the drug chain, spoke with Store Brands about its complete portfolio of own brands and the acceleration of e-commerce.

Store Brands: Describe how CVS has leaned into its store brands during the pandemic, and how digital has been playing a role?
Brenda Lord: Since the pandemic hit, we have witnessed changes in consumer shopping habits across the board — not just in store brands but really in how our customers are engaging in general. That’s driven innovations and changes within our daily operations to improve services and meet our customers where they are.

Since March, the demand for home delivery and retail prescription home delivery has surged. In fact, from the start of the pandemic through the end of 2020, our business grew to five times our typical volume, or the equivalent of 63 Black Fridays in a row. We mobilized quickly to meet customer demand by extending free prescription delivery and by adding same-day delivery support for select essential front store products and a variety of items from our exclusive store brands.

SB: How do private brands benefit from the advanced digital tools?   
BL: Exclusive offers of our store brands are often available in savings events throughout the year, including BOGO Free, BOGO 50% and ExtraBucks Rewards on qualified purchases. These events and savings increase awareness of the brands, create value and oftentimes lead to brand adoption due to the affordability and accessibility they offer. 

In fact, we’re really excited about an upcoming promotion this month that’ll offer our customers a 30% off promotion on select store brand products including digestive health, fitness, home healthcare, snack and grocery, facial care and more. The offer can be conveniently accessed either through the mobile app or through the customer’s ExtraCare card. 


SB: Are sales up for private label online?
BL: While we can’t comment on specific sales figures, we can say that our exclusive store brand products continue to play a major role in the shopping journey as health, wellness and beauty continue to be top of mind for many consumers. More than ever, consumers are spending a great deal of time at home and seeking new products to integrate into their daily routines. In addition to providing quality, innovative and on-trend products at a value, we’ve also made it easier than ever to access our store brands products. We’ve given them greater visibility through digital enhancements, like custom brand shops and dedicated landing pages online and in the app, where we’re able to help our customers discover new products from our store brands lines, from the convenience of home. In fact, we’ve launched a new digital page on that spotlights all of our store brands in one convenient place. 

SB: What categories are seeing the biggest increases in digital orders and delivery?
BL: As digital orders and home delivery have grown, our customers have certainly been looking for more snack and grocery options to both satisfy cravings and stick to their unique dietary preferences and needs. Proactive health care has also been an area that we’ve seen our customers get excited about, especially in store brands, which includes everything from sleep solutions to vitamins and supplements. 

SB: What’s new from CVS and its private brands such as Gold Emblem and Gold Emblem abound products, any private brand online exclusives?
BL: Within our exclusive Gold Emblem and Gold Emblem abound lines, we recently launched more than a dozen new pre-made “Fast Favorites” meal solutions for those seeking access to convenient, quick and tasteful meals. I’ve found these to be especially helpful while working from home, and to give to college students for busy days!

The expanded assortment is available across more than 3,700 stores nationwide as well as on including chickpea curry, penne basil pesto, pad thai, roasted red pepper quinoa and more. We’ve also recently added more than 30 new better-for-you snack and pantry staples within those lines including unique flavor combinations and products like spreadable honey, chili lime mango and sesame tahini cashews.

packaging photo

Expanding healthier food offerings is the latest example of our vision to be a premier health-and-wellness destination, helping to make healthier choices easier for millions of customers. In 2020, we introduced new on-trend displays in select stores nationwide to help make it easier for customers to find their favorite indulgences that are better-for-you, such as a “fuel up and go” display and a “Snack Scene $1 $2 $3” display, offering an assortment of flavorful choices, comfort staples, and on-trend ingredients from national and niche brands as well as CVS’ exclusive snack and grocery lines. The assortments include exciting finds with enticing flavor combinations such as Korean BBQ, Coconut Lime, Kale & Potato, Chai Latte and more.

SB: Last year saw the Live Better brand get a restyling, what’s new there?
BL: We launched more than 80 new products within the line in 2020 spanning products like vitamins and supplements, digestive health, oral care, sun care, baby care and more. We identified and created products inspired by some of the most sought-after ingredients in the wellness space like ashwagandha, turmeric and saw palmetto. 

This brand — paired with the convenience and value of shopping at CVS — is making those trends more accessible to everyone. We have lifted the veil on how our ingredients are sourced on our packaging — which is at least 80% recyclable. One of my favorite aspects of the brand is its commitment to transparency and sustainability, which comes to life through the rich origin stories that are available for some products (either online or on the packaging). For example, our bamboo toothbrush is made of Moso bamboo, which is not part of a panda’s diet. We’ve also expanded delivery methods for immunity. In Live Better, we’ve taken our very popular elderberry immunity products into liquid drops which are easy to add to water or tea and are a great alternative to taking a vitamin or supplement in pill form. We also offer elderberry in formats like drink packets, gummies and chewable tablets, which are also great for on-the-go use and for people that are tired of traditional tablets or capsules.

SB: What about the other brands?
BL: The legacy of our store brand portfolio is the CVS Health brand, which includes more than 2,500 products across 19 categories. These products underscore our commitment to quality, safety and trust, offering affordable alternatives to other national brands, as well as unique solutions to different healthcare needs. We have a heritage of giving our customers access to high-quality healthcare products at a good value. This past year, we added 50 new products and entered new categories including a new weighted blanket, and I love our contoured black out eye mask, both are non-OTC solutions to help deal with anxiety and get some quality sleep.

In beauty, I’m proud of our collaboration on the GSQ by Glamsquad brand. This truly is a brand created by a community of beauty experts. GSQ has won several awards from beauty editors and industry experts and I am so excited about the latest expansion of hair accessories. The trendy hair clips are my personal favorite. This is a prestige-like brand at an incredible value.

Along with these new additions, we are thrilled for the launches we have planned for 2021 and can’t wait to share more details with consumers from a health, beauty and grocery standpoint.