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Special Report: Retailer-Supplier Roundtable www.storebrands.info / December 2015 / Store Brands 1 7 ccording to Webster's New World Dictionary, "transparency" can be defined as "the quality or state of being transparent. "Transparent," meanwhile, can be defined as "without guile or concealment; open; frank, candid." But transparency can be significantly more complicated than the definition suggests when it comes to consumers and the products they buy. In a Nov. 15 roundtable discussion held in conjunction with the Private Label Manufacturers Association's (PLMA) Private Label Trade Show in Rosemont, Ill., Store Brands asked retailers and suppliers to discuss their transparency-related efforts and challenges in relation to store brand products. Our roundtable participants included Mark Coleman, vice president of retail sales, Catania- Spagna Corp., Ayer, Mass.; Marie-France Gibson, vice president, private label, Metro Inc., Montreal; Anna Kaplan, director, private brands, Rexall, Mississauga, Ontario; Erin Kouri, category manager, owned brands, Kum & Go, West Des Moines, Iowa; Jackie Langlands, national Pharmasave brand manager, Pharmasave Drugs Ltd., Langley, British Columbia; Art Malcomson, director of sales and marketing, Zip-Pak, Manteno, Ill.; Jennifer Oas, director of merchandising – private label, The Fresh Market, Greensboro, N.C.; Nate Shotwell, director, new own brands and innovation, Meijer Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Sean Thompson, senior director of merchandising, private brands, 7-Eleven Inc., Dallas. What follows are a few highlights from the hour-long roundtable discussion. Engaged with shoppers When asked if they are engaging in any dialogue with their shoppers in regard to transparency, most of the retailer participants indicated that they are — and that they also are responding to the feedback. "What we're noticing is that our brands actually can serve as a nice platform to engage the customer in that dialogue around transparency, and the way we're trying to do that is concept testing," Shotwell said. "We've done a lot of concept testing with consumers that has basically allowed us to determine what their key motivators are." After a few rounds of concept testing, Meijer found that what really resonates with its shoppers is "fresh" in the context of "local," he said. "We've got a new natural and organic brand, or clean-label brand, that really is making an effort at transparency, and transparency in the context of clean label and fewer ingredients and trying to simplify the message to the customer," Shotwell noted. "But one new platform we're working on potentially is expanding into more fresh and local." For its part, Pharmasave engages with its customers on a regular basis to understand what they want to know about its products, Langlands said. "When we recently redesigned our vitamins, we engaged focus groups as well and found out what was important to the customers and the key attributes that were important to them, such as gluten-free, lactose-free, no artificial flavors and colors, so we could build them into our packaging design," she said. Packaging also represents a way for Rexall to be more transparent with shoppers, Kaplan said. The retailer designed "check marks" that allow them to outline a product's main benefits — such as gluten-free status for a food or paraben-free status for a beauty product. "We definitely always welcome our customers to call and ask the questions if specific things they're The transparency push Participants in our retailer-supplier roundtable discussed their responses and challenges related to consumers' desire for increased transparency on the own-brand side. By Kathie Canning Jennifer Oas, director of merchandising – private label, The Fresh Market; Mark Coleman, vice president of retail sales, Catania- Spagna Corp. Jackie Langlands, national Pharmasave brand manager, Pharmasave Drugs Ltd.