Store Brands

JAN 2017

Store Brands delivers unprecedented strategic and tactical information needed by retail executives to develop and support compelling, differentiated store brand programs to build customer loyalty.

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2 0 Store Brands / January 2017 / Cover Story have her here, it was perfect for us." Walsh works closely with Damrath and others to execute Tops' private brand vision. "We pride our- selves on working with premier suppliers to bring best-in-class product solutions," she says. Before the reformulation began, Tops conducted research and focus groups to gather consumer views on the Tops line. It was then that the private label team discovered the perceived gap of quality between packaging and product as well as consumers' expecta- tions for products with simpler and fewer ingredients. Damrath offers a microcosm of the enhancements made with the Tops line by using the company's rising crust pizza line as an example. "Our rising crust pizza is a high-quality product, but the packaging didn't sell the product," Damrath says while holding up a new version of the pizza box, which features a close-up photograph of the product in a glossy black and red box. Previously, the photography on the package didn't capture the product's nuances or emanate what Damrath calls a "premium" product. The pizza's ingredients were also modified — the sodium level was reduced in the sauce and the crust was changed to preservative-free. But what didn't change was the price. "We want to make sure our customers realize we didn't do this to make the Tops line more expensive," Persons says. "What we are trying to do is make sure our customers understand the value inside the packaging." The new packaging was done in conjunction with Daymon's sister company, Galileo Global Branding Group. Recognizing the increased consumer demand for products with fewer and healthier ingredients, Tops went back to the drawing board with its manufacturers to develop products with cleaner labels. Many of the reintroduced and new products feature five or fewer ingredients such as its Triple Fruit Spread, a new product that is free from high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and flavors, gluten, trans fat and monosodium glutamate. While the goal was to simplify product ingredients, it had to be done without affecting the taste and efficacy of the product. "You have to do it in a way that people still want to eat it," says Diane Colgan, Tops' senior vice president of marketing and decision support. On occasion, that was a challenge, such as with apple sauce. Tops wanted to offer apple sauce made without high fructose corn syrup, yet it was difficult to locate a manufacturer that created the product without it. After extensive research, a manufacturer was located and the reformulated product does not not contain high fructose corn syrup. Balancing act In November, Chicago-based market research firm IRI released a report citing that a stronger economy, falling food prices and the maturation of some important private label sectors have hampered growth of private label products. The report emphasized the importance for consumer packaged goods, retailers and manufacturers to strike the right balance between national and private label brands — while providing shoppers with the value and quality they seek in private brands. Finding the right balance between private label Tops first to market with own-brand compostable coffee pod line As part of Tops Friendly Markets' reformulation of its Tops brand of private label products, the Williamsville, N.Y.- based grocer recently introduced its own line of 100 percent compostable single- serve coffee pods under the Tops Coffee House Creations label. "We don't have the chance very often to be the first to market with something because a lot of companies are working on similar things. But this is one of those chances [where we were first]," says Diane Colgan, Tops' senior vice president of marketing and decision report. "The ability to do this is phenomenal for us." Tops says coffee enthusiasts can now enjoy pure Arabica premium coffee and feel good about preserving the environment. "One of the things people don't like about pods in general is that they haven't been compostable," Colgan says. Tops teamed with one of the world's largest coffee groups, Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, on the project. Massimo has been in business for more than 35 years. Made of 100 percent renewable sources, the compostable single-serve pods help to divert food waste from landfills and incinerators to composting, which turns it back into nutrients that help improve the soil for farmers and gardeners, according to Tops. Even the coffee ring is made up of coffee bean skins or "chaff" that previously used to go to waste. Tests of the compostable pods in municipal composting showed that they can break down in as few as five weeks in well-managed composting systems. "With an estimated 38.3 million K-cups entering the waste stream every day, this is going to have a tremendous positive impact on environmental waste," says Dave Damrath, director of marketing for Tops private brands. — Lawrence Aylward

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