As part of our dedicated Private Label Issue, ESM spoke to industry leaders at a number of retailers across Europe about the innovations that they are bringing to the table, and why they believe that private label can be a kingmaker in a changing retail landscape. This article first appeared in ESM May/June 2022.
Alessandra Corsi, Marketing Director Private Label, Conad (Italy)
Do you think that consumer preference for private labels increased during the pandemic?
Consumer preference for retailer brands during the pandemic increased, accelerating a trend that was already under way, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. In the most acute phase of the health emergency, the penetration of private label increased, as many more people had access to private labels due to the phenomenon of hoarding.
Today, many customers consider supermarket brands to be real brands, comparable in quality and innovation to those of the main industry players. The pandemic accelerated the growth of Conad’s private-label range in 2020, with a positive trend that continued in 2021, going against wider market trends and showing that customers, after trying Conad brand products, are satisfied.
The retail sector has had to deal with significant food price inflation in recent months. How have you had to adapt your private-label range to accommodate these cost increases?
Conad has always supported people and communities, which are the core of the brand’s sustainability strategy. It does so especially now, in a context of economic crisis, in which households feel under pressure. In this scenario, Conad private label is the concrete expression of the group’s support for the savings needs of families, which has long been characterised by a strong quality-price ratio.
Especially in this period of economic difficulty, Conad absorbs part of the increase in costs, to support customers and give them the guarantee of a complete, convenient and safe shopping experience.
With Bassi e Fissi, an everyday low-price initiative that we have been carrying out since 2013, we offer in our stores a basket of essential products for Italian families at low and fixed prices, with a quality that is second to none. In 2021, there were over 700 products in this range, representing 128 product categories, guaranteeing an average annual saving per family of €1,500.
How have you sought to improve the ‘eco’ credentials of your private-label offering?
Reducing the consumption of virgin raw materials, reintroducing an increasing share of sustainable materials into the production cycle at all stages of the product’s life, and promoting the separation and recycling of materials are central themes in the evolution of Conad MDD. Today, over 70% of Conad brand products feature sustainable packaging.
In recent years, the brand has increased the percentage of recycled plastic in the packaging of many of its products, with the aim of further increasing that this year, and using more and more compostable and biodegradable materials. Within this framework, Conad has identified four priority areas of intervention on which to focus its commitment to product packaging: the recyclability of materials; the use of recycled materials; the use of biodegradable and compostable materials; and eco-design.
On the product side, we have also decided to expand the Verso Natura brand towards products oriented towards environmental sustainability and naturalness.
What has been the biggest private-label innovation at your company over the past year? Are there any new-product launches that have proved particularly successful?
In November 2020, we launched the new line of Conad Sapori & Idee products – a selected premium offer that collects ingredients and recipes combining raw materials and excellent flavours from all over the world. In 2021, the Sapori & Idee line generated a turnover of €50 million across 200 references, representing about 40 product categories.
This year, the offer will be further expanded with the launch of two shortcrust pastry references, as well as ice-cream cone and ice-cream stick multipacks, all boasting highly selected ingredients.
Elsewhere, in the fruit and vegetable department, maximum attention is paid to the distinctiveness of the offer, with innovative products and unique varieties.