Brands, organics show faint signs of rebound
U.S. consumers say ‘meh’ to sustainable packaging
Whole Foods products to carry non-GMO seal
Doritos package is virtual concert ticket
Snickers wrap allows consumers to reseal
Shrink sleeve holds fish cans


Brands, organics show
faint signs of rebound


by Pan Demetrakakes
Executive Editor

It’s a truism that the economy has left many consumers with much less money. But the impact on food retailing is less clear, especially when it has to do with items on different points of the value spectrum.

Certain predictable behaviors have come true, an executive for The Nielsen Co. told an audience of retailers at an industry event in New York in late June. These include organic products falling to an anemic 1% year-over-year growth rate (the record was 24%), and private label sales rising 5.3%, while branded products fell 4.4%.

Consumers also seem to be switching to alternative retail outlets, with dollar stores coming on strong. Family Dollar Stores has added 200 food items to their inventory, while Dollar Tree Inc. is installing freezers and coolers. Nielsen reported that consumers made an average 13 trips to dollar stores in 2008, up from 11 in 2001, while supermarket trips declined from 72 to 59 in that period.

However, the long-term outlook for these value adjustments is less clear.

While organic and other premium items are down, at least one major grocer in the United Kingdom is seeing signs of hope. Tesco reports that its store-brand line of premium products, called Finest, are back up to 3% growth in several categories, while organic produce sales are up 52% since last November.

As for private label, it has price working in its favor, a situation that’s not likely to change. Overall grocery prices edged up a fraction of a percent in the 12-week period ending May 16, compared with a 4.7% decline in private label prices, a Nielsen report says. A recent poll conducted by GfK Custom Research North America for the Private Label Manufacturers Association reports that 91% of shoppers say they will keep buying store brand products after the recession ends.

But all things may not be equal in the private label/branded struggle. A study by ICOM, a unit of marketing services company Epsilon Targeting, suggests that consumers are more reluctant to switch from national brands to private label when it comes to products for children and pets.

The six-month survey of 1,530 U.S. consumers said that only 12% bought private-label child-care products, and only 23% bought private-label pet-care products. The study suggested that perceived risk may be holding consumers back from the switch.


TOP DEVELOPMENTS

U.S. consumers say ‘meh’ to sustainable packaging
Sustainable packaging is markedly less important to American consumers than to those in many other countries, according to a recent report from Datamonitor. The study, which surveyed consumers in 15 nations, reported that only 34% of American consumers were concerned about over-packaging, compared with a worldwide average of 44%. Only 35% of Americans surveyed said they would seek out other products to avoid those with excessive packaging-a rate ahead of only the Netherlands.

Whole Foods products to carry non-GMO seal
Whole Foods Market will carry a line of store-brand foods that are made without genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These products will be identified by a special logo from the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit group of food producers and retailers. The Whole Foods products will be the first private label foods, and the largest brands, under the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program. This program uses on-site facility audits, document-based review and DNA testing to insure GMO-free status.

Doritos package is virtual concert ticket
A symbol on special packages of Doritos tortilla chips is the key that unlocks exclusive pop-concert footage on consumers’ home computers. The symbols appear on special-edition packages of Doritos Late Night, from the Frito-Lay unit of PepsiCo. Consumers can point the symbol at their webcams to gain online access to 3D concert footage by pop group blink-182 and rapper Big Boi. The footage varies depending on how consumers hold or shake the bag in front of their webcams.


NEW PACKAGES

Snickers wrap allows consumers to reseal
A new twist-literally-on wrapping allows consumers to enjoy half of their Snickers bar now, half later, in secure packaging. Snickers, the iconic candy bar from Mars, comes in a 3.29-ounce two-piece size with an innovative memory film twist wrap design. Consumers can eat one of the bar’s two pieces and simply twist the wrapping closed to secure the second piece. The suggested retail price is $1.29.

Shrink sleeve holds fish cans
A shrink sleeve unitizes four cans of salmon so effectively that it looks like a single large can. The five-ounce cans of Bumble Bee Atlantic Salmon come in a club store four-pack, unitized by a shrink sleeve from Printpack Inc. The sleeve is made from polylactic acid (PLA), a corn-derived polymer, and is gravure-printed in seven colors. The PLA, from Earthfirst, allows Bumble Bee to put an “Eco-Friendly Package” seal on the label.