Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers’ Association, has led the organisation since 1981, and has helped spearhead private-label development around the world. Ahead of this year's PLMA World of Private Label trade show, ESM caught up with him. This article first appeared in ESM Issue 3 2019.
ESM: The marketing for this year’s PLMA World of Private Label trade show encourages people to ‘listen to the buzz’. What was the thinking behind this positioning?
Brian Sharoff: There are many trade shows, and we wanted prospective exhibitors and visitors to evaluate PLMA’s World of Private Label on the basis of what we feel is important at an exhibition, namely the serious interaction of buyers and sellers in business discussions.
We feel that this separates PLMA’s event from shows which may be larger, or programmes which only cover one theme. At PLMA World of Private Label, you get the buzz, and that’s what counts.
What do you anticipate will be among the highlights of PLMA World of Private Label 2019?
The highlights will undoubtedly reflect what exhibitors and visitors consider important. It appears that natural and organic will be important, as will health and wellness. The diversity of products from different countries and parts of the world will also be significant.
Israel, Egypt, Latvia and South Africa are among the new national pavilions at this year’s show – an indication that private label is growing significantly outside of traditional Western markets ...?
These pavilions represent the continuing search for business by manufacturers around the world. In some cases, the countries also have excellent private-label programmes. In other cases, they do not. The common thread is the development of new business opportunities, and private label offers small and medium-size companies from all parts of the world a great opportunity.
In what ways do you think private label is perhaps doing a better job than big brands when it comes to embracing consumer needs?
It is clear that retailers are closer to their customers than manufacturers of A-brands.
Private label allows these retailers to identify and satisfy consumers in a way that A-brands cannot, since they are, almost by definition, mass-marketers, which is the antithesis of what retailers can accomplish.
Recently, there has been much discussion of the rise of ‘frictionless’ retail, and the blurring of the lines between bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce. How can retailers bridge this gap?
A-brands have their own agendas, which may include improving stock prices or increasing dividends. Private label, on the other hand, is the retailer’s tool and can be used to differentiate one retailer from another, or to create a frictionless online-offline approach. The key is that the retailer controls the process.
The number of exhibitors offering free-from, vegetarian, vegan, etc. products has risen considerably over the past few years. Why do you think this is?
I would say that everyone – A-brands, private-label suppliers, retailers – are always looking for the next big trend, and, at the moment, free-from, vegetarian, vegan, etc. are calling out for attention. There is a groundswell of interest among consumers, especially millennials and Gen X shoppers.
I would say that this is not simply a fad, however. I believe it represents a very serious shift in eating habits among families today.
Are there any emerging trends that you believe will gain greater traction in private label, both at this year’s trade show and in the future?
The importance of natural and organic will increase as more retailers try to offer these products as private label. Health and wellness will continue to grow as consumers look for products that are free-from or have healthier ingredients. I think we will see more retailer interest in local and regional products and more products aimed at millennials, such as snacks and quick meals.
What do you think will be the key takeaways for those who attend this year’s PLMA World of Private Label trade show?
It really depends on who you are. If you are a private-label retailer, the takeaway will be the ever-expanding sophistication of private label. If you are a manufacturer, it will be the promise of greater business opportunities.
© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.