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By: Virginia Lee

The PLMA (Private Label Manufacturers Association) Private Label Trade Show was held in Rosemont, Illinois from 11-13 November 2012. The show hosted more than 2,000 exhibitors from the alcoholic drinks, beauty and personal care, consumer health, home care, hot drinks, packaged food, packaging, pet care, soft drinks, and tissue and hygiene industries.

Private label is big business. At the global level, private label holds a 12% value share of the US$2.2 trillion packaged foods market in 2012. Private label is especially strong in Western Europe, where it holds a 25% value share of the packaged foods market. In contrast, private label holds a lower 16% value share of the US packaged foods market, due to a more fragmented retail landscape.

John Mackey, co-founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Whole Foods Market, was the keynote speaker on 12 November. Instead of speaking on private label foods or retailing, he spoke about conscious capitalism – the subject of his upcoming book, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. He spoke of how business people are the heroes of the world and not the villains, pointing to advancements such as longer lifespans and a reduction in poverty. Mackey advocated a new kind of capitalism – conscious capitalism – where business has a higher purpose than merely making money. He said that business should create value for all of its stakeholders, including customers and employees, instead of just shareholders.

With more than 35 countries represented among the exhibitors, the Private Label Trade Show had an international flair. There were more than 10 national pavilions, including Canada, China, Costa Rica, France, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, and Turkey. US-based exhibitors also offered a wide array of ethnic foods to meet the growing interest in bolder flavours among American consumers. Attendees could sample delicacies such as Chinese potstickers, Ecuador’s lime-habanero plantain chips, Mexican arroz con pollo, Quebec, Canada’s poutine, Italian limoncello, South Korean roasted seaweed, and Turkish burek.

Though it hails from Italy, pizza has become an American favourite. Numerous companies offered frozen pizzas to meet consumers’ desire for convenience and taste. To better compete against restaurant pizzas, manufacturers introduced speciality varieties, such as baguettes, flatbread, grilled, naan, and stone baked. Manufacturers also introduced more premium toppings, such as Canadian bacon and red peppers, as well as some more unorthodox ones, like biscuits and gravy.

Among health and wellness food exhibitors, gluten-free was a big focus. Manufacturers provided gluten-free brownie mixes, pastas, snack bars and snack chips. Gluten-free products were originally created to meet the needs of consumers with gluten sensitivity, most notably coeliac disease, an auto-immune disease that is sensitive to the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and some oats. As awareness of coeliac disease has grown, even health conscious consumers who do not have the condition have gravitated to gluten-free foods to lose weight or improve digestive health. Benefiting from the gluten-free trend are ancient grains – such as amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff. Mexico’s Gutti offers amaranth snack bars while ConAgra Mills introduced Ancient Grain flours to be used in bakery products.

Gluten Free Pasta

Source: Euromonitor International

Greek yoghurt has taken off in the US, as consumers like its thick, creamy texture and its high protein content. To capitalise on this success, manufacturers have introduced more spoonable varieties as well as drinkable and frozen products. Lucerne Foods launched frozen Greek yoghurts that combine the healthy positioning of Greek yoghurt with the indulgence aspect of ice cream. Win Soon Inc introduced EPOCA Yogudino Greek, a drinkable probiotic dairy beverage.

For the first time, PLMA introduced a Pet Care Pavilion to highlight the offerings from about 50 vendors in the pet food and pet care industries. Private label held a 10% value share of the global US$90 billion pet care market in 2011. Trends popular in packaged foods have also migrated to the pet food aisle. Tropical flavours such as mango and papaya have become popular as interest in Latin foods has grown. Rush Direct Inc, for example, introduced bones in tropical mango, papaya and passion fruit flavours. Consumers who appreciate the digestive benefits of yoghurts can purchase Mark & Chappell’s Yoghurt & Mixed Berries with omega-3 fatty acids and calcium for their dogs. Many food and beverage companies have launched products featuring the natural sweetener Stevia to target calorie-conscious consumers who want to avoid artificial sweeteners. Fetch…for Pets offers Triple-Pet toothpaste sweetened with Stevia.

Pet Yoghurt Bites

Source: Euromonitor International 

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