Retailers are recognizing the importance of developing their brand as a stand-alone product, equal or superior to the national brand. To that end, store brand packaging is more closely resembling that of the national brands, with more professional photography, rich colors and innovative design than ever before.
"These days, supermarkets want to be more than a private-label or store brand. They want to be another brand to compete with national brands," said Wendy Sallak, director of creative services at the Northlake, Ill.-based Shurfine International, a private label manufacturer.
"You need to make food look so beautiful and appetizing, something from your retail brand that is so wonderful that you want to go to that store because it's the only place you can get their chocolate chip cookies," agreed Julia Beardwood, executive director of brand identity at Landor Associates, a New York-based brand strategy and consulting firm.
John Graham, vice president of sales at the Seabrook, N.J.-based Clement Pappas & Co., a manufacturer of private-label juices, told SN the growing popularity of private-label goods has prompted retailers to take a more expediential approach to things like label redesign.
"It used to be that retailers would redesign labels every eight to ten years. Now it is every three to five, I think because private label has become a huge share of every category," Graham said.
Colin Porter, chairman of CorpBrand Identity in the United Kingdom, has come up with an explanation for the trend. "Now that the quality of own-brand goods has been raised, their packaging needs to start reflecting an increased brand structure and personality."
Porter also attributes the packaging shift to consumers' overwhelming acceptance of private label in supermarkets. Store brand products are the top sellers in most categories, and 75% of consumers now define stores as brands, according to a recent Gallup study.
"Now, consumers see themselves as a Safeway person or a Tesco person. Where to shop has become a bit of a lifestyle statement," Porter said. Comparing the current consumer attitude to five or ten years ago, the consumers' prime relationship was with the national brand, he added.
Porter believes Sainsbury and Tesco in the United Kingdom are at the forefront of the professional store brand packaging revolution. Tesco's upscale 'Finest' brand and Sainsbury's 'Select' line both feature "metallic materials," such as gold, silver and bronze.
"The photography and art direction is on par with editorial in a magazine, and the sleek silver backdrop lets the product be the hero," Porter said about Tesco's 'Finest' line of store brand products.
Store brands in the U.S. have also transformed packaging to include sharper photography. "The photography gives the product a fresher look: more care is taken in the styling of food and lighting has become very important," Sallak said. "Photography is very important, even with economic lines."
In addition to conveying the quality of the brand, store brands are designing package photography to make food more "appealing to the appetite," Sallak continued. In addition, the graphics and photography help people who have trouble reading quickly see what is in the package, she added. Typestyle on store brand packages is also larger and easier to read, Sallak said.
Beardwood said she believes the Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's, which began its ongoing store brand overhaul about four years ago, is one of the private label packaging leaders.
"Albertson's has one of the most beautiful salt packages I've ever seen," Beardwood said.
Kroger, Safeway, H.E. Butt, and many others have also upgraded packaging in the past few years.
"Most major retailers have changed [store brand juice] labels from four-color to six-color and are trying to make the fruit look more attractive," Graham said.
Although logos are now a minor emphasis of the total design, they are more attractive, industry sources say.
Richer colors are also being used on packaging. Deep blues, greens and "jewel tones," which graduate from a bright color to a deeper color, are popular, Sallak noted, to make the package "as eye appealing as possible."
The design of store brand children's cereals is particularly eye-catching, Sallak said. Graphics, such as a cartoon kid, appeal to children while "getting a strong identity out on their shelf," she said.
In the juice category, store brand polyethylene terathalate (P.E.T.) bottles are designed much like their national brand counterparts, with their own identity. Swirl designs on the top of PET private-label grip bottles, for example, compete with national brand designs such as diamonds, according to Graham.