By: Doug Baker, Vice President, Industry Relations - Private Brands, Technology, FMI
Private Brands DC Summit Family Meals Event

Succeeding in private brands requires great products, but that’s not all.

Increasingly it’s also about pursuing key strategies to accelerate the business. A number of strategies were discussed at the recent FMI Private Brands DC Summit, including:

  1. Powerful branding.
  2. Solid engagement with consumers.
  3. Strong relationships with suppliers.

It’s important to further understand these strategies and how they are playing out today in private brands. The Summit attracted a wide range of private brand retailers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Powerful Branding

The importance of branding was underscored during an interactive segment of the Summit. I asked audience members to call out what they consider key attributes of a brand. We recorded the numerous responses on large sheets of paper, and hung these on a wall.

Here are attributes the audience used to describe brands: trust; purpose; integrity; emotional connection; safety; loyalty; promise; control; ownership; intrinsic value; consistency; transparent; strategic; and differentiated.

Why was it important to conduct this exercise? In the 2019 FMI The Power of Private Brands: From the Industry report, retailers overwhelmingly used the word “brand” over “label” in describing how they view this business.

All of this indicates “label” is more tactical, while “brand” is more strategic.

Solid Engagement with Consumers

The Summit also spotlighted a number of ways for private brand retailers to solidify relationships with consumers. One of these is by promoting the FMI Foundation’s National Family Meals Month™ campaign. John Evans, director of private brands for Weis Markets, described how his company made private brands a centerpiece of its 2019 efforts around this campaign.

Initiatives included running ads in the retailer’s circular and HealthyBites magazine, showcasing meal solutions, making coupons available, conducting in-store events with dietitians, and leveraging social media, podcasts, and media appearances.

Another Summit presentation relayed how private brands are increasingly driving consumer decisions on which stores to shop. Mark McKeown, client insights principal for IRI, outlined findings from FMI’s latest The Power of Private Brands: From the Consumer research. Citing IRI data, he noted that 46% of consumers say private brands are very or extremely influential in their choice of food retailer, up significantly from 35% in 2016. Moreover, millennials are especially on board with this point – 54% point to a strong connection between private brands and store choice.

“If you’re a retailer, that’s really good,” said McKeown. “Your younger shoppers are saying that your brands are more important. So I would double down on that. What do you need to do with your brands to continue to have them be a critical part of why these consumers shop with you?”

Strong Relationships with Suppliers

The Summit underscored the importance of retailer engagement with private brand suppliers. A new research report on this topic was unveiled by David Taylor, client success director for Solutions for Retail Brands (S4RB).

“Private brands by its very DNA is a collaborative endeavor between manufacturers and retailers,” said Taylor. “Collaboration can become your competitive advantage. Successful supplier engagement means successful private brands.”

This research was based on an industry survey conducted in partnership with FMI. It shows widespread industry understanding of the value of private brand retailer-supplier engagement, but less than satisfactory levels of current engagement. It also indicates huge opportunities for future partner collaboration, Taylor said.

So, what’s my overall take on the FMI Summit? I’m pleased that attendees gained a lot of insights on branding, consumer relationships and supplier engagement, among other topics. These will be important areas to pursue as private brands move further along the journey from “fast follower” to innovative leader.

FMI Private Brand Resources