Use private label to gain loyalty, says expert

Key figure in the President Choice private label development says consumers are shifting to store brands more than ever before

One of the key experts in private label in Canada believes that customer loyalty to national brands is declining.

That was the main message given by Scott Lindsay, a food industry consultant who was part of Loblaw’s President’s Choice group for 23 years.

Speaking at the Manitoba Food Processors’ Association AGM, trade show and conference recently, Lindsay noted that "surveys show that the public, particularly in the Maritimes and western Canada has a very positive view of private label products in terms of quality.”

At the conference, Lindsay provided an overview of the history of the foodservice industry with an emphasis of the leading role played by Loblaws’ Galen Weston and Dave Nichols in developments over the past 40 years.

Lindsay was involved in the development and launch of thousands of PC-brand products and was instrumental in the launch of PC Organics and was a leader in the development of PC’s successful Blue Menu healthier eating range of products.

One of the problems facing retailers in the early 1970s, Lindsay pointed out, was that manufacturers were dictating how retailers apportioned their shelf space.

In order to regain control of Loblaw’s shelf space, Weston, Nichols and their management team in 1976 introduced Loblaws’ No Name line of products, the first private label branding program in North America.

“The idea was pioneered by a French grocery chain,” Lindsay said.  “And while the No Name brand promised lower prices, Dave Nichols realized that the brand had to also deliver quality products.”

The No Name brand evolved into President’s Choice products including the Organics and Blue Menu lines.

To be successful with private labelling, Lindsay said retailers have to develop a top-down approach with a comprehensive marketing program to introduce the private label brand.

“Retailers need to be considering the shift to private label brand products,” Lindsay advised.  “Consumers give most credit to those retailers who lead the way.  The ultimate payoff is when the consumer drives past competitors’ stores to shop at your store for your specific brand name products.”

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