Issue #10 of 24
May 20, 2023

Industry and Government News
PLMA Announces New Circana Unify+ System for Members

PLMA and Circana have added and expanded a major benefit to members with the unveiling of the new Unify+ system on

James Carlson, Consultant and Team Leader for Circana, was featured in a May 11 Lunch & Learn presentation during which he walked members through the new features of Unify+. A video copy of Carlson’s Circana presentation will soon be available for members on PLMA’s website.

The new system adds many features that enable members to follow shoppers and sales. Carlson spoke about the depth of data and the wide spectrum of information provided by Circana. Unify+ now has 11 portals – including sections providing 52-week statistics on point of sale and panel drivers, demographics and spending habits of shoppers, and department and regional performance of sales.

The site will continue to have monthly updates to dollar and unit sales for both national brand and private label going back to early 2021.

Unify+ also gives a breakdown of sales by channel. Members can now get 52-week numbers for private label sales broken down by all outlets, supermarkets, drug, and convenience stores. This is in addition to results from household spending, regional performance, and reports on market activity in 67 of the larger markets in the U.S.

One of the changes is the new display for the extensive sales statistics available for the 317 categories and over 950 subcategories of products featured in the PLMA Rank Report.

The Report is divided into food and non-food sales. Circana’s Unify+ shows the total dollar and unit sales and percentage change from a year ago for private label, national brands and both combined all on one page.

Kroger's Our Brands Reach Sustainability Milestone

The efforts of Kroger to reduce the amount of product packaging from the waste stream have hit a milestone. The grocer announced it has recycled more than one million pieces of flexible plastic product packaging from its Our Brands assortment.

Kroger offers a recycling program and provides shoppers with prepaid shipping labels to mail in the Our Brands flexible plastic packaging for recycling. The recycled materials are then used to construct playgrounds, which have been donated by Kroger to youth and community organizations. 

"We are continually looking for creative and innovative solutions to support our vision of creating zero-waste communities," said Juan De Paoli, vice president of Our Brands for Kroger. "Our customers sharing in that commitment by recycling packaging and purchasing products made with upcycled ingredients, alongside our efforts to advance sustainability, makes important progress toward eliminating waste and creating healthy, thriving communities."

The grocer is also working toward its Zero Hunger/Zero Waste mission with the help of its Simple Truth brand. Offering more than 1,500 unique items, Simple Truth promises customers products that are Free From unwanted ingredients, including more than 101 artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners. Other Simple Truth Upcycled Certified products include Plant-Based Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix, Plant-Based Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, Plant-Based Sugar Cookie Mix, and the new Simple Truth Gluten Free Banana Bread Mix made with upcycled okra flour.

Weis to Invest Millions on Upgrades

Weis Markets has unveiled plans to invest more than $160 million this year for several initiatives including store remodel projects.

Jonathan H. Weis, chairman, president, and CEO, said that investments will also be made in fuel centers, information technology upgrades and thousands of smaller store improvement projects.

"Our budget includes 20 remodels, six fuel centers, one addition and one new store, which will open in 2024,” Weis said during the company’s annual shareholder meeting. “We have five new stores in active planning stages. Our budget also includes thousands of store improvement projects which improve efficiency and drive sales."

Additionally, Weis noted that inflation has helped boost the company’s top-line results and has also expanded the company’s low-price programs.

"Record inflation also put an enormous strain on our customers' budgets,” he said. “In response, we continued to expand our Low, Low-Price program in 2022. It now includes more than 9,000 of our best-selling grocery, frozen and produce items. This price investment helped our customers and our business,” Weis added.

Weis operates 197 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Giant Eagle Starts Price Lock Strategy

Giant Eagle is locking in the price of approximately 800 branded and private label products. The Pittsburgh-based retailer explained this strategy helps customers save as inflation lingers.

The Price Lock will reduce and control prices on essential grocery items by an average of nearly 20% and will be in place until August 9. Giant Eagle’s Price Lock product list features a wide variety of seasonally relevant products such as meat, seafood, produce and dairy staples. Prepared meals and health and wellness products from the Giant Eagle brand will also be included in the price lock.

“We are putting the customer at the center of everything we do,” said Giant Eagle, Inc. Interim CEO Bill Artman. “Right now, our customers are seeking to manage their grocery expenses and telling us they need more ways to save at Giant Eagle to maintain access to the items that are most important to their households.”

“Our teams worked extremely hard in recent weeks to respond to this by delivering meaningful reductions on hundreds of items with a focus on those that are most popular during the spring and summer months,” Artman added.

A selection of Price Lock items will also be highlighted in Giant Eagle’s printed weekly circulars. The circulars will also feature interactive QR codes which will help drive customers to the Giant Eagle website for more detail on savings opportunities.

Giant Eagle operates more than 470 stores in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Indiana.

Self-Checkout Becoming the Dominant Choice of Consumers

A report from VideoMining has found that shoppers are increasingly embracing self-checkout, with usage increasing by 53% in five years and by 17% from 2020 to 2022. So much so that self-checkout terminals are now the dominant grocery checkout format, accounting for 55% of transactions in 2022, according to the company. 

At the end of 2022, self-checkout made up 48% of all registers, and shoppers are continuing to seek out these machines as they become more accustomed to them, according to VideoMining study. 

The shopper insights firm, which works with retailers including Target, Walmart, and Family Dollar, says the increase in the popularity of self-checkout is derived from the option being more available as shoppers gravitate toward self-service tools.

According to VideoMining, grocers have also expanded self-checkout services to improve the customer experience: 70% of shoppers did not have to wait in line at all in 2022, which is a significant increase from only 19% of shoppers in 2017.

Self-checkout has also boosted grocers’ front-end sales. The report states there was a 162% jump in dollars per 100 store visitors sold from self-checkout merchandising in 2022 compared to 2020. Even with the wait time in self-checkout lanes being shorter, shoppers are engaging with products offered at the front end of the store at a higher rate, according to the study. 

Despite the growing success of self-checkout, traditional checkout lanes still account for a higher number of overall sales, says the study. The traditional checkout option outperformed self-checkout lanes by 38% in terms of dollars per 100 store visitors in 2022.

In the stores

Pottery Barn and Ayesha Curry are collaborating on a new exclusive home collection that includes a variety of products from bedding to tableware. The Sweet July collection is touted as a lifestyle brand that was founded by Curry, a famous restaurateur, chef, and bestselling author. Sweet July features an assortment including bedding and bath accessories, barware, table linens, marble serve ware and dinnerware.

Hy-Vee has launched a health and wellness subscription service called Healthy You, designed to help shoppers develop healthier lifestyles while promoting the retailer’s private label products. Hy-Vee Healthy You is available to individuals 18 and older for a price of $99 per month. Subscription benefits include appointments with dieticians, wellness classes, and advice on cooking and fitness routines, among other benefits.

Pennsylvania-based c-store chain Rutter’s has launched a store brand beer in collaboration with Lancaster Brewing Co. Called Big Berry Attitude, it is a citrus ale with cranberry and blueberry flavors. Big Berry Attitude will be available at Rutter’s in late May and will be sold exclusively at Rutter’s Pennsylvania beer locations. Based in York, Pa., Rutter’s operates 85 locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia.

Crate & Barrel has partnered with chef and cookbook author Molly Baz on an exclusive home kitchen products collection. Crate & Barrel’s Molly Baz collection features home products such as utensils, entertaining essentials, and Baz’s signature cross back apron. The collection includes nearly 60 new pieces and will be sold exclusively at Crate & Barrel.

Williams-Sonoma has refreshed its line of barbecue food just in time for the summer cookout season. The company hired San Francisco-based agency, Pavement to help with both the formulation and packaging of the BBQ sauces, which come in original, spicy, and hot honey flavors.

HOLISTIK Wellness is releasing an exclusive line of CBD stir sticks which can be used with hot or cold beverages and will be available only at The Vitamin Shoppe. Called FOCUS STIK CBD, the stirrer features Lion’s Mane mushroom, green coffee bean and L-Theanine, and will be available for a limited time. HOLISTIK’s CBD is cultivated from hemp that’s grown indoors in crushed coconut rather than soil.

Kohl’s is honoring Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a new collection of home decor and apparel items. The Sonoma Community collection features designs from two AANHPI artists who developed the product assortment that “embraces self-advocacy.” The line features graphic tops, plush throws, pillows, candles, and other home décor products.

Market research
Gen Z Turns to Social Media for Shopping Advice

Marketing platform LTK’s new 2023 Gen Z Shopper Study shows that 79% of the demographic's shopping is initiated by social media and creator recommendations.

According to the report, creators drive a majority of Gen Z’s shopping decisions both online and in stores, with 75% of Gen Z saying they make purchases online from creator recommendations, which is 21% higher than the general population. In addition, 77% now use the same creator recommendations for shopping in store as well.

“Social commerce has had a major impact on Gen Z shopping behaviors, and we expect this only to continue,” the company stated in a recent press release about the study. The study also found creators were the most trusted by Gen Z on social media, with the majority saying they trust creators more than social media ads and celebrities. Creators were even 3.5 times more influential to Gen Z consumers than social media ads.

Micro influencers with a following of 10,000 to 100,000 were just as popular as macro influencers with a following of 100,000 to 1 million. And the top categories Gen Z is looking to creators to help with recommendations are beauty and personal care, fashion, food, electronics, cleaning supplies and gaming.

The report found Gen Z followed creators due to their authenticity, reliability, and personality. When asked why they turn to creators for style and shopping recommendations, the top reasons included authenticity for style, product quality, the ability for the discovery of new products and brands and authentic opinions.

Confidence in the products also included a lack of returns. Nearly half of Gen Z reported they are less likely to return an item after seeing a creator describe it in their video content, showing the impact creator guided shopping has had on purchase satisfaction.

The most important factors Gen Z shoppers consider when looking at brands were trendy & budget friendly (63%), having an environmental impact (43%), and resale companies (33%).

Almost Half of Grocery Shoppers Won’t Change Stores

Nearly half of consumers would stay with their current food shopping location rather than shift to another to save money, a survey by investment and equity research firm Jefferies found.

Of 900 shoppers polled in Jefferies’ U.S. Food Survey, 46% said they wouldn’t change where they shop for groceries to gain savings. That percentage includes 33% of consumers who would “change what I buy, not where I shop” and 13% who “wouldn’t change where or what I buy.”

“When asked how consumers were going to change their food shopping location if trying to save money, 46% of the customers said they wouldn’t change where they grocery shop. We believe this is positive for retailers who gained share with higher-income cohorts (Walmart, Dollar General) ahead.” Jefferies analysts Corey Tarlowe and Randal Konik wrote on the study’s findings.

“Seventy percent primarily grocery shop at supermarkets or mass retailers, while 33% would change what they buy, not where they shop if trying to save money,” Jefferies analysts Rob Dickerson and Scott Marks said in the U.S. Food Survey report. “These results highlight the need for retailers and food manufacturers to invest in price and/or adjust price-pack architecture to meet consumer needs in a possible recessionary environment.”

Buying private label products could be a tailwind for value-focused grocery retailers as consumers hunt for savings, the report’s authors noted.

“According to the survey, consumers are most likely to buy private-label bread, eggs, spices/seasonings, and chips and least likely to purchase private-label cookies, coffee, baked snacks, and candy. We believe that food-oriented value retailers with strong, essential private-label offerings could benefit,” Dickerson and Marks wrote.

Among other strategies to save money when purchasing groceries, 17% of respondents said they would shop more at discount stores, according to the Jefferies survey. Nine percent reported they would shop more at conventional supermarkets for savings, followed by club stores (7%), mass retailers (7%), dollar stores (6%), and more shopping at other types of stores (5%).

Traditional grocery stores still are the first choice of most consumers. Grocery stores were cited by 44% of consumers polled as their primary grocery store, compared with 24% who named mass retailers. Shoppers were also found to be turning to discount stores (13%), club stores (9%), premium markets (7%), dollar stores (3%) and other retailers (1%) as their main food shopping destination.

Unify+ is the Ultimate Source of Store Brand Sales Data for PLMA Members

This column usually focuses on sales in specific categories, subcategories, or trends. But something far more noteworthy happened this week.

In partnership with PLMA, Circana launched Unify+, an expanded database for monthly statistics. While it contains some of the same information as the previous version, Unify+ gives a more in-depth look at store brand sales from several key angles. Members are advised to log in and tour the new database for themselves.

For instance, the Channel Summary portal appears as the first choice on the platform. Here you can instantly see the top 10 selling store brand categories and subcategories not only in total outlets but in multi-outlet, supermarkets, drug stores, and convenience stores. In addition, you can see not only the top 10 but which products were driving growth that month aka which had the largest sale increases.

Say you want to know the top five best-selling categories in convenience stores. A quick look shows bottled water, milk, cups and plates, fresh eggs, and natural cheese. What products were driving growth in the first four months in dollar sales from YA%? Cups & Plates (140%), Fresh Eggs (25%), Toilet Tissue (+41%), and meat (+114%). Members also discover convenience store private label sales rose 18.5% compared to a year ago.

In the POS Drivers section, members can see the big picture of how store brands have changed in the past 52-weeks- an increase of $20.3B in dollar sales since April of 2022. In Panel Drivers members see a detailed look into households and per shopping trip data. Users will see sales in the frozen food department is up 8.7% per buyer while dollars spent on frozen food per trip have increased 8.8%.

The demographics portal displays the behavior of specific groups including pet owners and 12 other demographic categories and what their spending habits are in total store. Unify+ gives the user a look into dollars spent per trip, per household, and product trips per buyer.

In the departments and PLMA Rank Reports for food and non-food, the statistics are the same as monthly updates offered by Circana in the past. Now they are presented in a new format making it easier to see the entire picture.

In the PLMA Rank Report you can view dollar and unit sales for 317 categories and 967 categories for both store brands, national brands and all brands combined.

The best way for members to appreciate the advantages of the new system is to try it. Find the category or subcategory that matches your business and discover insights into multiple layers of data from the hundreds of categories and subcategories available.

Tom’s Data Dive is a monthly column written by Editor-in-Chief Tom Prendergast, taking a deeper look at statistics and trends in the industry. This story will be featured in PLMA’s e-Scanner May 20, 2023, e-Scanner newsletter.

PLMA is Open to New Membership

The Private Label Manufacturers Association is the only trade association devoted exclusively to the private label industry. Founded in 1979, PLMA currently has over 4,000 member companies. Membership is open to manufacturers, brokers, trade suppliers and other companies. PLMA members enjoy exclusive access and discounted pricing to PLMA events and services. For more information about membership, please visit  or contact Barbara Cruz at (212) 972-3131, EXT. 1225 or



F&B Manufacturing in 2023: Obstacles, Outlook, and Producing Positive Outcomes / June 8 / Rockwell Automation

Navigating the Retail Consolidation and Fulfillment Landscape / September 21 / Hub Group

Where do you go to learn about developing and marketing store brands. There are no MBA programs.  It takes too long to learn the secrets of the trade as an apprentice.  The answer for more than 1,900 graduates has been PLMA’s annual Executive Education Program.