Amazon to Close eight 'Go' Stores

Amazon has announced it will permanently close eight of its high-tech Amazon Go convenience stores. The move is the latest by the company to pull back on some of its brick-and-mortar retail operations.

“Like any physical retailer, we periodically assess our portfolio of stores and make optimization decisions along the way,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement explaining the move.

The closures will include two stores in Seattle, two stores in New York City and four in San Francisco, Amazon said in its statement. The affected stores will continue to operate until April 1.

The company stressed that despite the closures, this will not mean an end to the Amazon Go store concept. “We remain committed to the Amazon Go format, operate more than 20 Amazon Go stores across the U.S., and will continue to learn which locations and features resonate most with customers as we keep evolving our Amazon Go stores,” the company said in a statement.

Amazon’s physical stores in the U.S. include 535 Whole Foods Markets, 44 Amazon Fresh grocery stores, 28 Amazon Go c-stores and two Amazon Style apparel, footwear and accessories stores. The company opened its first Amazon Go store in 2018.

In another move, Amazon announced it was pausing construction on its second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia as it evaluates the space and size it may need for the project. 


Research firms IRI, NPD rebrand as Circana

Information Resources Inc. (IRI) and The NPD Group unveiled a new combined company name and brand identity: Circana.

Circana is a leading advisor on the complexity of consumer behavior, the firm said. Through technology, analytics, cross-industry data, and expertise, Circana provides clarity that helps clients take action and unlock business growth. The two companies agreed to a merger in August of 2022.

IRI is also a partner with PLMA providing complementary online market data to PLMA members and retailers via its Unify data portal.

“We are proud to begin this new chapter together as Circana, a name that conveys our 360-degree, full-circle understanding of the consumer and market, and our unique ability to bring clients a complete view of the consumer, store and wallet,” said Kirk Perry, president and chief executive officer, Circana. “In today’s dynamic global retail and media environment, our value proposition has never been stronger. Circana is undeniably best positioned to advise the world’s leading brands and retailers across almost every industry on how to identify opportunity, ignite innovation and grow well into the future.”

Leveraging the data and expertise of its heritage firms, Circana tracks millions of products spanning more than 2,000 categories across more than 500,000 stores in 20 countries, the company said, with insights powered by technology platform Liquid Data. Today, Circana advises almost 7,000 brands and retailers worldwide, it said.

“The combination of IRI and NPD created a category of one. In the months since the merger, we have demonstrated—for our clients and for our team—the immense value of bringing our firms together,” said Tod Johnson, chairman of Circana’s board of directors. “Moving forward with a unified name and brand signifies that Circana is committed to delivering on the full value of our powerful combination for all of our stakeholders, with a relentless focus on innovation and growth.”


Kroger's Store Brands Led to Strong Earnings in '22

Kroger announced its Q4 and FY22 results and a major highlight was strong private label sales.Kroger’s store brand sales increased 10.1% in the final quarter of 2022, as the chain also saw Q4 identical sales without fuel increase 6.2%, while total company sales were $34.8 billion, compared to $33.0 billion for the same period in 2021. Gross margin was recorded at over 21% of sales and operating profit totaled $826 million for the company.

Kroger has used its extensive private label portfolio to its advantage and its store brand sales have seen positive growth throughout the year. It’s Simple Truth and Home Chef  lines have proved to be especially popular with consumers. The grocer has also continued to expand its product set, including the launch of its new value-tier line Smart Way this past fall.

“Our brands’ quality and value proposition [are] especially important when inflation is affecting so many of our customers’ lives,” McMullen said.

While Kroger did not release a figure of its total annual store brand sales they are estimated to be close to $30B in annual sales and consist of roughly 25% of all sales from the retailer. 

In addition, findings from Kroger’s retail data firm 84.51°’s February 2023 Inflation Wrapped report found Kroger shoppers continued to cut back in certain categories, as well as buy less expensive products in others, possibly leading to continued positive news for Kroger’s private brands in 2023.

For instance, the report found when it came to buying less expensive brands, Kroger customers were purchasing more in pet food (+3%), baby care (+2%) and paper products (+1%).

Kroger's private label chief -- Juan De Paoli, V.P. Our Brands -- is the keynote speaker at PLMA’s Annual Meeting & Leadership Conference, March 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Orlando.

He will talk about how Kroger’s Our Brands portfolio contributed to the success of its corporate 2022 earnings. Juan will also share how he and his team are "winning with Our Brands by building loyal customers who choose to shop at Kroger for the value and quality of Our Brands’ products."


USDA proposes closing 'Made in USA’ loophole

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing closing a regulatory loophole that enables meat and poultry producers to label their products as “Made in the U.S.A.” even when the animals are born and raised and much of the processing takes place outside the United States.

Under the proposed change, any meat, poultry or egg product would have to be “derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States” in order to be labeled as a U.S. product. The USDA noted that the proposed change is a key component of President Biden’s executive order, Promoting Competition in the American Economy. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say. These proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions. Our action today affirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring accurate and truthful product labeling.”

The USDA said a survey taken last summer revealed that nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) incorrectly believe that all production steps must take place in the United States for manufacturers to apply the label.

The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days after publishing in the Federal Register. Public comments can be submitted at


Lunch & Learn, April 27, to Focus on 'How America Eats'

PLMA's popular Lunch and Learn series returns on April 27 with a program titled How America Eats. The presentation will shed light on why so many food and beverage trends come and go in the blink of an eye and what is behind this phenomenon.

Elizabeth Horvath, Vice President of Marketing of the Kerry Group, will share new research on what shoppers want from leading food and beverage categories and based on their needs, will provide context on trends retailers and manufacturers should watch for in the year ahead.

Kerry surveyed 5,000 U.S. consumers to understand the effects of the pandemic on their motivations and desires. The results presented by Horvath will reveal what’s driving purchasing habits across categories, gender, and generations. Leading a team of highly skilled Kerry professionals, Horvath drives strategic growth, using creativity and insights to connect needs to solutions.

This will be PLMA’s fourth Lunch & Learn session in 2023.

The first was held on January 26 and focused on growing private label sales and hosted by Kyle Patterson, Senior Vice President of Daymon. The session was held February 2 with a review of store brand sales from 2022 by MaryEllen Lynch of IRI. The third was held on February 23 by Gary Stibel of The New England Consulting Group.

Lunch & Learn sessions are conducted online for 60 minutes starting at 12:30 PM EDT. The professional development program is complimentary for all PLMA member manufacturers, brokers, and suppliers as well as for retailers and wholesalers.

To register for any session, please click here or please contact Julia Meehan at for more information.
New Year, Same Double-Digit Sales Growth for Store Brands

When it comes to store brand sales, last year's performance will be a tough act to follow. But so far the products are overachieving.

During the first two months of 2023, store brand sales picked up right where they left off in 2022, with double digit dollar gains and increased market share in both dollars and units, according to Circana (formerly IRI and NPD) data as of February 26.

Information Resources, Inc., and The NPD Group, which merged in October 2022, announced on March 7 that it had named its new company Circana.

Across all U.S. retailing channels, store brand dollar sales increased by 11.2%, that is more than twice the gain of national brands (plus 5.5%), compared to the same two months last year. Store brand dollar share rose to 19.6% and unit share moved ahead to 21.1%, vs the same two-month period last year.

A sign that store brands may equal or even surpass last year's gains: In February alone, sales jumped 11.7%, vs last February; in all of 2022, store brand sales rose 11.3%.

As was the case last year, all brands shed unit sales. But like in 2022, store brand units declined far less than national brands: they were off 1.4% vs minus 4.3% for national brands.

Among the 17 departments IRI Unify tracks exclusively for PLMA, 15 saw increased store brand dollar sales during January and February. The top gainers were Beverages (up 18.6%), General Food (17.1%), Bakery (16.9%) and Refrigerated (16.8%). Eight departments improved in terms of store brand unit sales, led by Deli Cheese (plus 2.6%), Bakery (2.2%), Health (1.6%) and General Merchandise (1.6%).

The next report to PLMA from Circana is due April 3; that will conclude results for the first quarter of the year.

PLMA members and accredited retailers who want to dig deeper into the latest store brands and national brands sales data can go to the portal called "Exclusive Market Data From PLMA" on

UK Grocers Ration Fresh Produce

Supermarkets across the UK have been forced to impose purchase limits on fresh produce due to supply shortages. Facing empty shelves, more and more stores are rationing the amount of fruit and vegetables to prevent supplies from going completely bare.
Tesco, Aldi, and Morrisons are among supermarkets that are telling customers they can buy no more than two or three packs of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, salad bags, broccoli, or lettuce.
The causes of the scarcity are many. First, bad weather conditions (flooding, storms, unusually low temperatures) in the south of Europe and Northern Africa have disrupted harvests for some items. Within Britain, farmers have to use greenhouses to grow crops. The current sky-high energy prices have forced them to cut back on heating the greenhouses and hence, on production.
The UK domestically produces 35% of its total supply while net imports make up the other 65%, mainly from Spain and Morocco. The supply chain disruption is expected to last until the summer.

European Retailers Battle Inflation

Throughout Europe, consumers are dealing with inflation and high prices in their grocery stores. In some countries, governments intervene, in others, retailers compete with each other to strengthen their image to consumers of affordability.

In the UK, Tesco has added more private label SKUs to its Aldi Price Match campaign, now including close to 700 products. Competitor Sainsbury’s equally expanded the price match campaign by almost a third to now cover over 300 products. Waitrose is investing £100m this year on cutting the price of hundreds of products including fresh veg, meat and tea, in what the retailer said is a record price cut designed to help shoppers during the cost-of-living crisis.

France’s finance minister has urged food retailers to do more to help consumers cope with high prices, as the government leans on them, voluntarily for now, to agree to sell an anti-inflation basket of everyday essential goods at very low prices. Système U has already launched 150 everyday products, the majority of which are own brands, at cost price. Lidl made a similar move. Auchan doubled the number of products offered at low prices. Carrefour has its own anti-inflation campaign with hundreds of products offered for knockdown prices. Casino uses a price freeze on a range of 550 everyday products.

In Spain, the government has eliminated VAT on staple foods (bread, bread flour, milk, cheese, eggs, fruit, vegetables, legumes, potatoes and cereals), going from 4% to 0% during the first six months of this year. In the same way, it reduces this tax for oil and pasta from 10% to 5%.

The Greece government has enforced a so-called inflation basket on retailers. Products include, amongst others, milk, meat, rice and bread.

Inflation is still high and supermarket prices remain under pressure, not the least because brand manufacturers continue to ask for higher prices. The end of the inflation game is not in sight yet.


For Private Label Sales in the US, 2022 Was a Record-Breaking Year 

Powered by a double digit increase in sales, private label in the US set new records in annual volume as well as in dollar and unit shares. Month after month, sales climbed steadily. The year began with single digit sales increases in January (up 6.3%), February (7.5%) and March (9.1%). Then the gains rose sharply to double digits in May (up 11.8%) and they never looked back, with the final four months averaging a 13% improvement.

For the full year, private label sales advanced 11.3%, nearly twice the growth of national brands, which were up 6.1%, according to data from IRI Unify. Annual dollar volume increased $23.2bn, setting a new record of $228.6bn. Store brands accounted for 29% of all new dollar sales that flowed into U.S. retailing industry last year. Store brand dollar share came in at 18.9%, up 0.7 points from 18.2% in 2021; unit share was 20.5%, up from 19.9%.

Lidl to Reduce Meat Choices

Lidl announced it will reduce the sales of meat and increase the proportion of plant-based food in its assortment. The move is part of a sustainable new business strategy aimed to help the environment and meet the demands of a growing global population. “There is no second planet,” said purchase director Christopher Graf at the International Green Week in Berlin.

The retailer specified it does not intend to dictate how customers live their lives but wants to motivate them to eat plant based. While part of its customer base may not like to see less meat items, it expects that younger generations will be happy to have more options to choose from.

Lidl plans to set up themed weeks to bring the new strategy to consumers. By 2025 at the latest, the share of vegetable protein sources in the company's range must be "demonstrably increased."

Lidl also reports that it has almost completely stopped advertising unhealthy assortments to children since the beginning of this year. Only around holidays like Christmas, Halloween and Easter, the retailer will make an exception to this policy.