Rudolph Foods' best practices for private brands gaining during the pandemic

As America has learned to navigate new and unusual changes over the past year, clarity has been brought to certain aspects of how the food industry could (and should) operate more effectively. For us at Rudolph Foods, our primary mission has remained the same — to provide both our customers and consumers with the peace of mind they need to march forward. We believe it to be our responsibility to keep America fed and food on the shelf.

While private label trends may have shifted with general shopper trends, it’s increasingly important to recognize the long-term changes that can help the food industry to not only “make it through” challenging times, but also thrive — all while offering true support for Americans everywhere.

Today, the private label category demonstrates its dominance month over month with consistent growth. Case in point, it has seen an increase in the demand for and prevalence of snack foods. Private label pork rinds, specifically, now have about 15% of overall grocery share — demonstrating the rise in consumer perception of both pork rinds as a niche and private label consumer packaged goods. Moreover, this trend speaks to U.S. retailers’ adoption of the private label focus of their European counterparts.

Private label pork rinds, specifically, now have about 15% of overall grocery share.

Understanding the evolution of the private label category, overall, has helped to adapt to its unique needs in managing its growth. In a concerted period of time, we’ve experienced confirmation of many of the best practices that have made us strong and successful manufacturing partners. Below are just a few:

Commit to being a true partner.
As a manufacturer and a retailer build their relationship, trust is key in ensuring it’s a lasting one. For those leading the way in the private label category, these relationships are nothing short of a priority. Manufacturers must realize they’re much more than vendors. In fact, they’re partners in the retailer’s success.

Retailers depend on their manufacturing partners to keep their shelves stocked, so it’s critical that they have a clear forecast, good visibility and even updated data to help predict upcoming shopper needs, consumer trends and more. To become a true partner in this area, manufacturing partners can work with their retailers frequently to analyze predictive data four to six weeks out to make sure product is in the right place, at the right time.

Data gathered by manufacturing partners, such as AC Nielsen data, should be analyzed and disseminated to retail partners. Take a closer look at how their private label product is performing, as compared to their competitive counterparts — this actionable intelligence can help a brand pivot, as needed, and move more product off the shelves. For key manufacturers, producing private label products shouldn’t be the end of the story. Our goal is to bring awareness to the product, adapt and innovate to make the product as relevant as possible, all while putting something of superior quality on the shelf.

Commit to providing value, paired with innovation.
Consumers expect both high quality and value from the private label industry today. Particularly as shoppers become more educated about their food, where it comes from and how it affects their daily health, this level of transparency is no longer considered a luxury. On the contrary, it is expected. Manufacturers and retailers must continue to work closely together to innovate and meet these rising standards.

Hand-in-hand with planning for innovation is the need to prepare for the unexpected. While each curve may not be one that could have predicted, maintaining a strong inventory position and operating from a strong action plan affords manufacturers the ability to stay the course — as opposed to cutting corners when a new challenge shakes the industry.

In the months to come…
According to AC Nielsen data, the pork rind category has grown 14% over the last 12 weeks and 17% over the last four weeks. Among that growth, private label and premium pork rind offerings have taken the lead. Because American savings are currently at a high, the food industry has experienced consumers trending towards affordable indulgence — food that offers comfort, nostalgia and flavor, despite the cost. For today’s shoppers, premium products are a luxury. While value has an important role to play in making shoppers feel better, at the end of the day, we’ve seen comfort and quality continue to be a driving factor in making a final purchase.

Retailers and manufacturers can continue to bolster their private label brands by encouraging conversations about their products, as opposed to trusting they’ll move off the shelf organically. This can only be done with true collaboration and within a strong, yet nimble partnership.

Mark Singleton is vice president of sales and marketing at Rudolph Foods in Lima, Ohio.


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