PLMA’s Salute to Excellence Winners Announced

PLMA’s 2021 Salute to Excellence winners in private label have been revealed after more than 770 submissions from 52 North American retailers, the highest number of entries PLMA has received since the program began in 1986.

The winners consisted of more than 80 products across various categories. The Salute to Excellence awards reflected standout trends, such as products in the eco-friendly household goods category, organic foods, baking products, specialty beverages and self-care.

“The winners exemplify how store brands go above-and-beyond consumer expectations,” said PLMA President Peggy Davies. “They represent exceptional quality, value and innovation.” 

Winners include: Equate Eucalyptus Congestion Relief & Aromatherapy Shower Spray from Walmart; Mini Rose Hydrosol from 365 by Whole Foods Market; Kroger Hydro Go Caffeinated Water; Bamboo Bath Tissue from Sprouts; Total Home Earth Essentials Compostable Birch Cutlery from CVS;  Culinaria Raspberry-Lemon Italian Soda from Schnuck Markets; Nature's Nectar Aloe Vera Drink from Aldi; Seven Farms Organic Vanilla Almond Granola from Federated Group;  Organic White Jasmine Rice from Thrive Market; Lidl Organic Coconut Flour.

All submissions were grouped into one of several categories, including Meal Preparation, Beverages, Health & Beauty, Food for the Family, Healthy Eating, Snacks, Bakery & Desserts, Dairy and Home & Household. Each product was evaluated by a panel of professional and consumer judges on several criteria, including taste, sensory appeal, packaging, presentation, and value for money. 

Usually, the awards are unveiled during the Private Label Trade Show in Chicago, which was canceled out of health and safety concerns due to the pandemic. For a list of the winners click here.

Where is it? Retailers Trialling in-store Wayfinding Apps

In the UK, several retailers have launched tests with apps that show the in-store path to a desired product. Marks & Spencer uses a tool developed by start-up Dent Reality. When users enter a product, they follow an on-screen path to its shelf location.

In addition, users can enter a full shopping list and the app will calculate the optimum route between items. The tool uses augmented reality, when the phone is held up it shows markers and points to a product on the shelf. When the phone is held down, a compass points which way users should walk to reach it. The retailer wants to improve both the customer’s in-store experience and its online order picker efficiency. If the trials are successful, the app will most likely be integrated into the Marks & Spencer app.

Asda is also trialling a wayfinding app. The in-store service was developed with US company Goodmaps. The technology should make it easier for blind and partially sighted people to navigate their way around the store. The app can pinpoint the user’s location to within a meter of accuracy and then it communicates directions to an object or area via audio, enlarged visual, and touch commands. Shoppers will be able to search for key landmarks within the store such as the pharmacy, bathrooms, and tills, but the app can also be used to search for specific goods on the shelves with the aim being to guide the customer as close as possible to the item they are looking for. Although the app has an obvious benefit to disabled shoppers, the usability of the app is not limited to those whom are blind or partially sighted only.
Big Cities Put Light on Flash Deliverers’ Dark Stores

Six major cities in The Netherlands will come together to discuss the multiplication of the storage warehouses used by quick commerce players. The West district in Amsterdam didn’t wait and has already ordered flash deliverer Zapp to close a dark store. In France, the cities of Paris and Lyon want to limit the set up of dark stores in their city. Nuisance for the neighbourhood, non-compatibility with the urban plans and threat to local stores are some of the issues that bother the cities.

Zero Waste e-Grocer Pieter Pot Eyes Expansion

Dutch fully circular e-grocer Pieter Pot has received a €9 million investment boost to expand its service across Europe. The company runs a zero waste, circular economy grocery delivery service. Customers order online and get their groceries delivered in reusable jars for which they get charged a deposit. With the next order, the driver collects the empty jars and deposits are credited back to their account. The jars are reused at least forty times.

The retailer is making the supply chain circular, too. It sources in bulk, for example, olive oil, which it receives in a tank of 1,000 litres, and it’s returned to the producer to get refilled.

The company was founded in Rotterdam in 2019 and is now active across the Netherlands and parts of Belgium. The fresh funding will enable it to expand into new geographies like the UK, France, Germany and Scandinavia soon.

Aldi Harmonizing its Brands Across Several National Markets

Aldi Nord wants to make its private label ranges more uniform on an international level. In the first stage, product ranges in France, Belgium and The Netherlands are going to be scrutinized and checked for possible synergies. Those product containers and designs that work best in several countries will remain in the range.

The retailer does not want to deprive the respective countries of their independence, it emphasizes that synergies saves effort and costs for manufacturers and the retailer alike. Aldi has deliberately chosen the countries with the highest sales in order to achieve savings quickly.
Carrefour Embraces Meta (formerly Facebook)

Carrefour has announced a strategic partnership with Meta, the new name of Facebook. The partnership will be rolled out across the group's integrated countries of France, Italy, Spain, Romania, Poland, Belgium, Taiwan, Argentina, and Brazil.

The cooperation will span many aspects of Carrefour’s business from internal communication and employee experience to customer relations, digital advertising and the digitization of leaflets, local communication and social commerce. It will include multiple Meta platforms and services, such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Workplace.

Meta will integrate Carrefour into its mobile experience development programs. In this way, Meta will help Carrefour build the future of its mobile environment. To digitalize its customer experience, the Group will also work with Meta to provide instant and more personalized experiences via WhatsApp and Messenger platforms.

The companies will develop a joint tool to target and measure campaigns within Carrefour Links, Carrefour's platform that brings together all retail media solutions to improve the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. In addition, Carrefour will begin exploring with Meta the opportunities that virtual reality might create for employee training.

Hack Attacks on Chains Signal Greater Investment in Cybersecurity

Last year, several retailers were hit by a cyber-attack. In July, Coop Sweden had to close all of its 800 stores for days after point-of-sale tills and self-service checkouts stopped working. The company itself was not the target, a large software supplier that it works with was hit.

In October, the Tesco app and website went down for two days after a hack that left customers unable to place orders. In December, more than 300 James Hall-supplied Spar stores in the UK fell victim to an attack and had to close their doors. The wholesaler’s IT systems were invaded, and hackers gained access to its internal systems, operating everything from stock control to logistics.

The cases highlight the growing concern among retailers about both direct targeted attacks as well as attacks where hackers claim multiple victims by attacking their suppliers. In this increasing digitalizing retail world, investing in cybersecurity is becoming more important. Schwarz Group, owner of Lidl and Kaufland, just bought a major stake in Israeli IT security provider XM Cyber. The company simulates attack paths, using simulated attacker techniques in vulnerable parts of companies’ IT system in order to close them.
PLMA Lunch & Learn to Examine Consumer Private Label Demand

On January 20, PLMA will hold the latest in its popular Lunch & Learn program with an in-depth look at IRI’s new study about the growing consumer demand for private label. The program is free for all members and qualified retailers and will be held for one hour beginning at 12:30 PM EST.

Called “Consumer Demand for Private Brands,” the new IRI study states the most successful store brand programs function like CPG companies, including retailer commitment to supporting their brands beyond production with the four P’s: packaging, promotion, placement, and pricing.

Mary Ellen Lynch, Principal, IRI Center of Store Solutions Group, will host the seminar and will analyze some of the factors that are driving private brand expansion across all retail channels. She will profile consumers who display high, medium, or low loyalty to store brands and those with similar levels of loyalty to national brands. Lynch will also explore the emerging store brand landscape and the opportunities it creates for retailers to build demand for their brands.

Lynch is an experienced strategic consultant to big brands, innovative brands, retail and industry publications and other organizations, and is a recognized success at expanding strategic relationships for mutual growth through commercialization. 

“Our Lunch & Learn program on IRI’s new thought leadership study will contribute to increasing strategic collaboration that can open doors to new relationships and build lasting trust among store brand manufacturers and retailers,” PLMA President Peggy Davies said. “Don’t just break for lunch, come learn with us.”

A Q&A session will also be conducted. For Lunch & Learn registration information, please contact

Sen. Warren Asks Supermarkets for Pricing Information

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has requested that Kroger, Albertsons, and Publix release pandemic-related price information to address the rise in grocery prices.

Warren claimed the supermarket chains could do more to alleviate consumers facing increased grocery prices due to inflation. Warren noted that the companies had large gains in sales and profit in the wake of increased consumer demand triggered by the pandemic.

“I am writing regarding my concerns about rising grocery prices for American consumers and the extent to which large grocery retailers are earning massive profits for company officials and investors while making it harder for American families to put food on the table,” Warren said in the letters to the companies.

Citing various sources, Warren said Kroger reported $2.6 billion in profit for 2020, up 5.6% year over year, while Albertsons totaled $1.89 billion in net earnings for 2020 versus $612.1 million in 2019. She also noted that Publix reported 60% profit growth for the 2020 third quarter. Kroger, Albertsons, and Publix have not commented on the request.

Rite Aid to Close 63 Stores

Rite Aid has announced it plans to close 63 stores across the country in move to help the chain be more competitive.

The company said the drug chain had been “conducting a rigorous assessment of its store base and has implemented a store closure program.” Rite Aid did not disclose which stores would be closed in the announcement.

The move comes after rival CVS announced last month it is planning to close over 900 stores in the coming years. Rite Aid has more than 2,400 retail pharmacy locations across 17 states. By comparison, CVS, and Walgreens each have more than 9,000 stores.

The drug chain and pharmacy business has recently faced competitive threats like online retailer Amazon's push into pharmacy. This move may be forcing drugstore chains to look at new ways to reinvent their brick-and-mortar drugstores, selling new products and adding more healthcare services as a response to competitive pressures.