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Bi-Rite Enjoys Irony in its New ‘Public’ Label

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This post was excerpted from a story written by Carol Angrisani, associate editor of Supermarket News' (SN) Center Store section. The full article appears in the Nov. 12 issue on page 29, or you can click here.

Bi-Rite, the progressive single-store independent in the heart of San Francisco, already operates a rooftop garden, as well as its own farm. That kind of inspiration and can-do spirit is behind the store’s new store brand: Bi-Rite Public Label.

“We liked the irony of calling it ‘Public,’ when it’s a private label,” says Kirsten Bourne, Bi-Rite’s marketing director.

Currently the Public line includes 10 items, like Shakirah’s Mixed Berry Jam, made by an employee named Shakirah Smiley who runs her own jam-making business on the side.

There’s also locally made Kohlrabi Kraut, and various butters infused with pumpkin, pear or purple cauliflower. Bi-Rite is also rebranding existing store products like coffee, olive oil and — soon — tomato sauce under the Public label.

“Public stands for what we think a store brand should be, which is a transparent product,” Bourne adds.

In that spirit, labels include information about the various farms involved, as well as where the product was packaged.

While the effort is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the intent is serious. The idea that consumers should have the option of knowing where their store brand products come from hasn’t permeated mainstream retail channels. If the product is good, then there’s a level of consumer trust that it was made in a way that satisfies a range of consumer demands, from taste, to safety, to price.

But, given the ongoing evolution of consumers into skeptical buyers, Bi-Rite might be on to something. Is it time to shine more light on our private label business?

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