It makes sense that a private label created for — and by — the community is marketed under the “Public” brand.
That’s the concept behind a locally produced line that debuted over the summer at Bi-Rite Market, a single-unit San Francisco store, with specialties like Shakirah’s Mixed Berry Jam, made by Shakirah Simley, a Bi-Rite employee who runs her own jamming business; Kohlrabi Kraut, made from Watsonville, Calif.-based Mariquita Farm’s Kohlrabi cabbage and Hollister, Calif.-based Catalan Farm’s red cabbage; and Shakirah’s Strawberry Balsamic Sauce.
“We liked the irony of calling it “Public,” when it’s a private label,” said Kirsten Bourne, marketing director for Bi-Rite Market.
The Public brand is unique in that items are made either from food grown on Bi-Rite’s four-acre farm, or with ingredients from companies with which Bi-Rite has a direct relationship. Products are packaged either at Bi-Rite, or in Bay Area packing kitchens.
“Public stands for what we think a store brand should be, which is a transparent product,” Bourne said. “That means consumers know where and how it was made.”
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Each item has Bi-Rite’s stamp of approval in terms of the ingredients it contains and how it was produced.
“Our store stands behind the recipes and ingredients,” Bourne said.
Labels contain information on the farms that harvested the ingredients, and where the product was packaged.
“We provide as much information as we can to establish a trust among consumers,” she said.
The community even had a hand in naming the line. Bi-Rite received hundreds of responses when it asked shoppers what it should call the line.
“We wanted to name it in a democratic way,” said Bourne. “It’s our way of fully sharing it with everyone.”
Items in the line are made with ingredients from companies with which Bi-Rite has a close working relationship. Partner companies include Mariquita Farms, a small family farm that grows heirloom and specialty vegetables, greens and strawberries; Full Belly Farm, Guinda, Calif., a 300-acre certified organic farm that produces vegetables, herbs, nuts, flowers and fruits year-round, and Catalan Farms, a 14-acre farm owned by a former migrant farm worker.
The line caters to those who support small food production companies, as opposed to industrialized farming.
“We’re inspired by the number of people who want to know about the farmer who grew their food,” said Bourne.
Bi-Rite even hosts farm tours so that shoppers can visit the farms that produce the food in the Public label.
“People crave the tangibility of picturing a farm, potentially visiting it, and understanding it on a deeper level,” she said.