Private label opportunities strong

At a conference session at SIAL in Montreal, panellists discussed the growing opportunities in the world of private label

Though the economy is seemingly on solid footing, nearly 40% of Canadians feel the country is in recession and only 59% of Canadians feel positively about their personal finances, and this is affecting the way they shop.

Clément Bourbon, client business partner at Nielsen, shared these statistics and more during a conference session titled "The role of private brands in Canada: Retailers and manufacturers' perspectives" at SIAL in Montreal on Wednesday afternoon.

One of the top five concerns for Canadians is food prices (20%), second only to the economy (24%). Debt (19%), health (19%) and utilities (17%) round out the list. To save on household expenses, 61% of Canadians are reducing take-out and 49% are switching to cheaper grocery brands, among other tactics.

Bourbon presented these numbers to help demonstrate what business opportunities are available in the private-label space, before moderating a discussion with Marie-France Gibson, vice-president, private brands at Metro and Benoît Lampron, trade marketing and business insights manager at Bonduelle.

Discussing the role private-label brands play within Metro's strategy, Gibson said: "It exists to improve customer experience by offering consumers innovative product lines, and we’re also there to create customer retention by offering good price and value ... and to generate profitability."

Gibson went on to say the products offered under a private-label brand demonstrate that Metro is aware of trends and the current and future needs of its customers. "It shows the ability of our stores to renew themselves; to be trendy year after year based on market trends," she said.

And when it comes to innovation, Metro looks at players in other markets for inspiration, or how it can tweak staple items. It's possible, for instance, to take Canadian butter and change up the packaging and presentation, she said.

"Even in the simplest category there’s a way of working with the manufacturers, even if it’s a commodity product to create innovation or come up with new ways to use the product," she said.

What does the future of private label look like? Lampron said it would only continue to grow with competitors such as Amazon and even dollar stores trying to capitalize on consumers' desire for reasonably priced products.

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