A Q&A with the Food Marketing Institute's Doug Baker
How did you come into the world of private brands?
I began my career at 17 with Fry’s Food Stores, so I grew up in the business. While serving a global brand like Kraft/Nabisco in the late 90s, I had a significant role in the growth of my customers’ private brand programs. When I joined Albertson’s, though, private brands became a passion and focus for me. We arguably helped to shape a mindset of moving the customer from a “generic” to an “own brand” shopper strategy. At FMI, I now advocate on behalf of the industry, and work with our members to elevate best practices and innovation in private brands.
Describe the private brands industry in one word.
What do you like most about the industry?
Our role in sustaining consumers’ sense of community and being at the center of many memorable “family/ friend” moments.
What do you dislike most about the industry?
I don’t have many complaints, because I chose this industry before I could even vote. But we need to do a better job of touting the opportunities I experienced with younger generations.
What one great thing does the industry have going for it?
Consumer awareness and acceptance of private brands is paving the way for companies to really explore their brand in ways they have not been able to in the past. Food retailers can better connect with their shoppers’ values, whether that’s price, taste, convenience or even social welfare and environmental issues. Private brands are now an extension of a company’s mission, corporate wellness or even social responsibility.
What is the industry’s biggest challenge?
Keeping pace with the speed of change.
If you could create one private brand product, what would it be?
My boss one day told the FMI staff that I would eat dirt if it had protein in it. When I stopped laughing, I had to admit he’s probably right. Sadly, it wouldn’t even need to taste any different than dirt.
Who is your hero and why?
First, my father for giving me the independence to fail, the support to pick me up and help me learn, and for his friendship as an adult. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to really get to know him before he had to leave us. Another influential person in my life is my wife. She juggled her career as an intensive care unit nurse with our daughters’ many activities, and supported me when I finished my degree and pursued new opportunities.
What trait in yourself do you attribute most to your success?
My dad was very specific about “commitment.” If you make one, you show up until that commitment has been fulfilled.
What is the biggest obstacle you have ever overcome?
Myself. Growth opportunities never stop, and growing pains come in all types of experiences. Some obstacles are self-inflicted, and others are because someone sees something in you that you don’t see in yourself.
What’s the best advice someone ever gave you?
What you do when others are not watching is more important than what you do when they are.
It’s 5 o’clock (or later); what do you do for fun?
Most of my fun starts at the 5 o’clock (a.m.) timeframe. With the commute here in D.C. being what it is, I start early and hit the fitness club in our building.
You have a week off. Where do you go and why?
My wife and I are at a stage in our lives where we have a second home. We built a cabin for weekends and short vacations. Now that we have adult children, we are hoping they will consider sneaking away to and hanging out with us to create new memories.
If you were born 100 years ago, what would you do for a living?
Well, if it is true your last name reflects what you do for a living, I’d either be a baker of bread or masonry bricks. The way I love bread, I’d hope it would be the former, not the latter.
What song do you love to crank up in the car?
I played percussion most of my life, so I have an eclectic palate for music. It is a tradition to blast John Denver’s, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I found the nonfiction series "One Second After" extremely entertaining and sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful.