It used to be pretty obvious which products were private label. They’d look just like the national brands, often mimicking their colors and design cues. Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s private label because the products are dressed as their own brands.

At the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) show last month, Interbrand’s Scott Lucas pointed out that 60 percent of all shoppers are buying more private label than they were five years ago. He also noted that 80 percent of brand interaction happens through the packaging. See a correlation here?

It’s safe to say that most private label marketers have evolved, moving away from the “copycat” strategy and toward creating their own brands in an effort to draw in consumers and elevate their products.

Take Safeway’s Eating Right or O Organics lines. I wonder how many shoppers realize these products are private label – the Eating Right packaging even features licensed characters! Thanks to consumers’ new need for value, and private label’s recent push toward innovation in package design, store brands are directly competing with national brands…many times unbeknownst to consumers. Even if shoppers aren’t seeking out private label brands, they’re finding enough value and packaging appeal to purchase them.

Wallace Church’s Russ Napolitano was also at PLMA, and he shared the following: 68 percent of shoppers are brand switchers, while only five percent are loyal to one brand. And one more statistic for you: 70 percent of all consumer purchase decisions are being made in store.

There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence here that the store environment is a critical setting for purchasing decisions and that packaging acts as an important influence on those choices.

It’s something marketers of national brands realized some time ago. But now, there’s no question, private label brands are on to the notion as well. They know, as much as anyone, that packaging is a brand’s first impression on a consumer-and it’s clear that they’re out to make it a good one.