A fortnight ago, the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) hosted its annual “World of Private Label” International Trade Show in Amsterdam, bringing together retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers across from the world. After two years of cancelled shows, the show was back with a bang with 2,500 companies exhibiting and a record number of attendees.
A rollercoaster economic climate
It is no secret that COVID shifted consumers shopping behaviours significantly, after years of consistent private label share gain ended abruptly with share falling by -0.5ppts in 2021. This decline was evident in Fresh (-0.2ppts) and Frozen Food (-0.4ppts), albeit Ambient bucked the trend (+0.2ppts). We have seen a clear resurgence of private label this year with share gain across most European markets, driven rising food prices and switching to the more economical alternatives offered by private label.
As is the case in the wider food industry, plant-based is a thriving space for new entrants and innovation in private label. Plant-based burgers, condiments, protein shakes occupied row after row, and there was even space for specific niches like gravy and salami sticks. Retailers are investing more in innovating and tailoring their own ranges in this dynamic market. Swiss retailer, Migros had one of the broadest ranges (including plant-based fondue!).
Sustainability credentials gaining prominence
Consumers are consciously choosing products and becoming increasingly willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly products. This was seen on the exhibitor floor, with manufacturers keen to underline the environmental credentials. Dutch retailer, HEMA, was given a special mention from PLMA for their innovative wine packaging which involved pouches of wine surrounded by a cardboard exterior, closely resembling traditional glass.
Health is wealth
Health has rocketed up the consumer agenda during the COVID-era; a PLMA consumer survey found “45% of respondents consider ‘Healthy’ more important vs pre-pandemic.” The UK’s own Morrisons NOURISH range was displayed as a prime example of private label products with strong health credentials, calling out functional benefits clearly on products (e.g. Gut Health or Fatigue Fighters).
Historically, economic crises are a perfect platform for private label growth. As we continue to witness increasing inflationary pressures across the economy, consumers are likely to switch to cheaper retailers (discounters) and products (private label). This is even more likely given the narrowing quality gap between brands and private label. In the coming years, the private label sector seems destined to return to strong share growth.