MONTREAL -- Loblaw Cos., which has set the standard for private-label development, has added a hefty helping of new grocery products under its premium President's Choice brand, most of them marketed as better-for-you.
Many of the 60 new food products carry the PC Blue Menu label, the Canadian retailer's 6-month-old line of foods that are low in fat and calories and lack artificial additives. The addition brings the PC Blue line to over 145 stockkeeping units and puts it on track to meet its goal of having 200 products by year's end, said Geoff Wilson, Loblaw's senior vice president, investor relations and public affairs.
Wilson said Loblaw was building on the success of its first batch of PC Blue products and Mini Chefs, its offshoot for kids. He wouldn't provide sales data, but said the retailer was "pleasantly surprised" by customer acceptance, calling them "right for the times."
"We're going to continue to grow our organics line, our new Blue line, and we're looking at new, innovative products for President's Choice," he said. "We're not taking our foot off the accelerator at all."
The additions, whether cast as good-for-you or just indulgent, uphold the President's Choice reputation for quality and innovation. New Blue Menu products include chicken and beef burgers, three flavors of soy beverages, and cookies (varieties include crunchy oat and cranberry orange). For vegetarians, there are four new soy "meats." Snacks include chipotle barbecue- and buttermilk ranch-flavored chips.
There are new Italian-style specialties, such as mortadella, prosciutto and frozen panna cotta. Far from ordinary, new grilling products include frozen scallop and bacon burgers, lamb burgers, balsamic vinegar and fig sauce, and focaccia.
"It's clear that the Blue menu is a kingpin of theirs," said Tom Stephens, who provides private-label consulting through his firm, Brand Strategy Consultants, Ontario. "It's definitely the main thrust of their program right now, to come out with healthier and convenient products."
Such healthful products would seem poised for success at a time when consumers are being bombarded with warnings about obesity. Loblaw seems to realize, though, that just putting out healthful food isn't enough for consumers who still demand that food be yummy, said Stephens, who has tried many of the Blue products and found them tasty. He cited Loblaw's promotional copy for products that acknowledges that diet food often disappoints.
"They have a very strong team of product developers," he said. "And they don't rush into market. The Blue menu was two years in development. The proof is in the product -- the product appears to do very well."
Loblaw used shelf talkers, in-store signs, sampling, TV advertising, employee uniforms and Insider News, a shopper newsletter that's delivered as a freestanding newspaper insert, to promote the newest additions. New items got extra display space in addition to their regular place alongside similar national-brand products.