2022 Game Changers

Special report: 2022 Game Changers

The March/April 2022 cover story of Store Brands Magazine honors products, people and brands that are innovating in private label.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
Zachary Russell profile picture

Just as we did last year, Store Brands is honoring those in private label who are pushing boundaries. During a difficult time for the grocery industry, with supply chain issues lingering and inflation at new highs, these products, brands and industry leaders are still innovating.

Here are Store Brands’ 2022 Game Changers:

Product innovations

Signature Reserve pasta sauce, Albertsons Companies

Albertsons Companies pasta sauce

In late 2021, Albertsons Companies added two new pasta sauce items to its Signature Reserve collection: Porcini & Black Truffle Arrabbiata and Mascarpone Vodka. The sauces add unique and developed flavor options to the premium private label line.

Both additions to Signature Reserve are products of Italy, and more specifically the Pochettino family of sauce makers, who have passed the recipes down since the 18th century. They are made by layering quality ingredients and traditional slow-stirring, which brings out a smooth texture and complex flavors.

Adding premium flavors and ingredients to the pasta sauce category, Signature Reserve is changing the game for customers looking for authentic at-home meals.

iGPS pallet

Recyclable plastic pallet, iGPS

iGPS is changing private label from the supply chain side of things with its 100% recyclable plastic pallet. The product is lighter, more environmentally friendly and safer than traditional wood-block pallets, and due to its size and design, is ideal for automated facilities.

The pallets are used by numerous manufacturers, including those in private label, and are a common sight at Costco, Walmart and Kroger. Since 2013, iGPS has invested in recycling more than 212 million pounds of post-consumer resin into developing its innovative, safer, and greener pallets. The lighter pallets have also made for less truck miles on the road, and thus fewer emissions.

The nonporous surface of the 48 x 40 inch iGPS pallet does not absorb moisture, making it easier to clean and sanitize. The uniform design and dimensions also allows them to run through automated supply chain equipment with ease, adding to a number of attributes that make it a game-changing supply chain product.

Smile Beverage Werks

Sustainable coffee pods, Smile Beverage Werks

Smile Beverage Werks came up with an innovative solution to the problem of plastic coffee pod pollution as many states changed laws and removed the single-use cups from the recycling stream.

In response, the company created a full turnkey program where retailers can add their own brand coffee to a commercially compostable, climate neutral, plant-based and renewable coffee pod. The company says that the pods will help private label brands meet sustainability goals, while still appealing to Millenials and others with sustainable packaging.

The product boasts no ink toxins, a certified compostable and cellulose-based filter, and a patented plant-based green pod. The pod has a shelf life of over 12 months, comparable to plastic pods.

SE Grocers coffee

SE Grocers Prestige 100% ground single origin coffee, Southeastern Grocers

SE Grocers is changing the private label game with several products that take key steps forward in regards to sustainability. With this collection of coffee, SE Grocers is changing private label by setting a higher environmental standard for own brand coffee.

Through supporting sustainable, single-origin coffee, the product is de-commodified, which allows for positive opportunities for farmers and sustainable growth for the crop.

The coffee is Fair Trade Certified, meeting rigorous environmental, economic and social standards, and comes in three blends: Peru Cajamarca, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and Sumatra Mandheling. Peru Cajamarca comes from coffee beans grown in the Andes mountains of northeastern Peru, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe is a sweet coffee that is grown in the town of Yirgacheffe in southern Ethiopia and Sumatra Mandheling is an balanced coffee blend that originates from the mountainous region in the Aceh Province.

SE Grocers eggs

SE Grocers Naturally Better cage-free eggs

Like SE Grocers’ single origin coffee, Southeastern Grocers is meeting sustainability goals with its cage-free eggs. SE Grocers Naturally Better cage-free brown eggs, egg substitute and egg white substitute products are produced by cage-free hens that are fed a certified organic vegetarian diet.

To ensure the health and safety of animals in the egg production process, SE Grocers’ suppliers must adhere to the American Humane Certified Cage-Free Standards or Humane Farm Animal Care Standards.

All SE Grocers eggs are 100% cage-free, and the company says it is committed to working with its supplier partners to ensure a sustainable transition to 100% cage-free eggs across all branded eggs the chain carries by 2025.

SE Grocers chocolate

SE Grocers Prestige chocolate bars, Southeastern Grocers

Coming in a variety of flavors, SE Grocers Prestige chocolate bars are designated with the Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa Label. Third-party certifications, like on these chocolate bars, help hold retailers accountable to environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments.

SE Grocers Prestige chocolate bars come in a variety of flavors including 85% pure dark chocolate, 72% pure dark chocolate, 54% dark chocolate with a hint of Himalayan sea salt, 54% dark chocolate cold brew and milk chocolate caramel toffee.

Like many commodity ingredients, including coffee, the chocolate supply chain has humanitarian and sustainability risks, and cocoa farmers often do not make a living wage. The Rainforest Alliance Certification tracks the origins of cocoa products to ensure any humanitarian and
sustainability risks are avoided.

SE Grocers utensils

SE Grocers Naturally Better paper products, Southeastern Grocers

SE Grocers continues its sustainability initiatives with its collection of Natural Better paper products, including dinner plates, oval platters, compostable bowls, paper straws and sustainable cutlery.

The Naturally Better paper straws and compostable bowls were honored in Store Brands’ 2021 Editors’ Picks feature. SE Grocers Naturally Better paper products drive change by offering shoppers a high-quality, sustainable store brand solution for household kitchenware. All these paper products are Forest Stewardship Council Certified, meaning that the paper used comes from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious and economically viable.

Naturally Better paper straws are made from food-grade safe paper, sold in a recyclable cardboard box. Naturally Better dinner plates are made from sugar cane fiber, avoiding the use of trees altogether, and are biodegradable and compostable. Naturally Better compostable bowls are made from natural, renewable sugarcane fibers. These items are tree-free, compostable, and soak-resistant, yet are still microwave and freezer safe.

SE Grocers seafood

SE Grocers BAP certified seafood, Southeastern Grocers

All of SE Grocers’ private label seafood, both frozen and fresh, is Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certified or equivalent, a game-changing initiative in private label.

This certification addresses the four key areas of sustainability at each step of the aquaculture production chain. Seafood which carries the BAP designation has been reviewed by a third-party
auditor for environmental, social, food safety and animal health and welfare standards at the hatchery, feed manufacturer, farm and processor.

SE Grocers’ BAP certified seafood lessens the demand for wild-caught alternatives which many experts report are overfished. By allowing wild fish to flourish, oceans have greater biodiversity and store more carbon, ultimately supporting efforts to mitigate climate change.

SE Grocers tuna

SE Grocers tuna (canned and pouched), Southeastern Grocers

Just like its fresh and frozen private label seafood, SE Grocers extends sustainability to its canned and pouched private label tuna.

SE Grocers tuna is Dolphin Safe Certified which means it meets all U.S. regulations that require a written statement from the captain of the vessel, in most fisheries worldwide, certifying that no fishing equipment was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the fishing trip in which the tuna were caught, and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured during the trip as well.

The environmentally-conscious tuna comes in a variety of flavors including original solid white tuna, chunk light tuna, hickory smoke, lemon pepper and sweet & spicy.

SE Grocers bag

SE Grocers Community Bag and Giving Tag program, Southeastern Grocers

Rounding out SE Grocers’ Game Changer selections is the Community Bag and Giving Tag Program. The new community bags are available for purchase ($2.99) in all Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie locations for customers who want to make a difference in their local communities, while also helping the environment by reducing the use of paper and plastic bags.

With each purchase, customers can direct a $1 donation to the nonprofit of their choice within seven days of purchase by visiting and following the instructions on the giving tag to make their selection. If the customer does not choose a nonprofit to receive the $1 donation within seven days, it will automatically be donated to the store’s chosen nonprofit of the month.

Each month, the store will select a new organization to benefit from the program, including educational, civic, health and wellness, hunger and disaster relief, veterans and military families as well as belonging, inclusion and diversity organizations serving the local community.

The Spice Labs

Packaged seasoning blend sets, The Spice Lab

The Spice Lab has created gift sets of assorted spices and seasonings for retailers to brand and sell to customers as attractively packaged collections. Each set aims to be reflective of the brand while offering consumers a convenient way to discover new products, changing the way customers can interact with the private label brand at their local grocery store.

The Spice Lab’s sets feature colorful and attractive designs on the sets, while still allowing customers to see the seasoning products included in the set. The company has worked with Spice Bazaar, Chef Nancie and Nom Nom Paleo already, and is looking to work with retailers on
their private brands.


Diphenhydramine chewable OTC, USpharma, LTD

USpharma has innovated in the OTC medicine category with the launch of its chewable gummy format, aiding consumers who have trouble swallowing pills especially in large doses or don’t like
the mess of oral liquid medications.

USpharma has drawn upon decades of innovative drug formulation experience from its senior management and figured out the ideal gummy technology formula for pharmaceuticals, launching the diphenhydramine chewable bar with leading retailers in the U.S., including CVS Health.

Having been developed, validated and launched by USpharma, the product is formulated to meet FDA requirements for OTC medicine.


Toothpaste tablets and whitening gel, WSD Labs USA

In the personal care category, WSD Labs has innovated teeth whitening with two products that are available for private label use: toothpaste tablets and teeth whitening gel.

The toothpaste tablets are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional tubed toothpaste, and contain a high concentration of hydroxyapatite, the main component of enamel which gives teeth a bright, white color. WSD Labs USA’s formula works to brighten and prevent the build up of new stains.

The PAP whitening gel is a strong teeth whitening alternative for those who are restricted from use of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide due to regulatory restraints or personal incompatibility. Based on the science behind food-grade processing of grains, the ingredients known as PAP are deemed safe enough to deliver equivalent or better whitening results than peroxide based formulas.

WSD Labs USA offers end-to-end ‘custom smile solutions’ for retailers including creating custom formulas, products, packaging and services, backed by various certifications and an FDA-registered facility.

Josianne Legare


Josianne Legare, senior vice president of sales, Lassonde Pappas

Covid-19 has challenged many in the food & beverage industry professionally and personally, but Josianne Legare of Lassonde Pappas, a producer of private label juice products, has put her team, customers and company before herself.

During the pandemic, Legare ensured that retailers understood any challenges in the production and supply process, and had weekly meetings with her staff and partners so they understood what the issues were, and brought forward solutions.

Legare is a sales leader with over 20 years of experience in the CPG industry, and has a track record of developing store brand products. Her leadership skills and strong business acumen have contributed to Lassonde’s success in both Canada and the U.S., and she is passionate about developing and maintaining strong relationships centered on trust with each of her customers.

Sunpop wine


Sunpop wine, Target

Target’s SunPop brand of fruity wine was introduced in March 2021, and saw quick success. It won a Growth Brands 2022 award from The Beverage Information Group as a “Rising Star,” and became Target’s third most popular private label wine brand.

SunPop changed the category by offering fruit-flavored Moscato, frozen cocktail pops and a soon-to-be released Bubbly Brut at a competitive price of $6.99. There are currently four flavors: Peach Moscato, Strawberry Moscato,

Tropical Moscato and Carmel Apple Moscato, with more flavors slated to launch in 2022 and 2023. With its sleek yet vibrant and eye-catching packaging, SunPop is already a hit with customers, and has a large potential for growth.

Basket & Bushel

Basket & Bushel, Topco Associates

Basket & Bushel, a private brand from Topco Associates available at the company’s grocery chains including Hy-Vee, who also nominated the brand themselves, offers high-quality produce in clean packaging.

The straightforward font, bold green-on-green logo and simplified leaf and bushel basket illustration help to reinforce the freshness of the brand, and the clear packaging allows the bright and colorful products themselves to serve as part of the package design, highlighting freshness and simplifying shopping in the produce aisle.

The Basket and Bushel private label was designed to allow multiple Topco members across the nation to implement this fresh new look into their stores as their proprietary produce store brand.

From fresh berries to pre-cut vegetables, gourmet potatoes and tomatoes to fresh grapes, Basket & Bushel boasts a wide variety of products. Most importantly, by creating one unique UPC for each SKU no matter the packer, Topco has enabled retailers to track sales more easily, giving greater visibility to inventory levels. Retailers are now able to capture lost sales and shoppers are able to easily find the quality fresh items they seek in the online ordering process.