IGA's current packaging makes the logo a prominent feature.

IGA USA (Independent Grocers Alliance)-the world’s largest voluntary supermarket network with aggregate worldwide retail sales of more than $21 billion per year-provides its retailers with an extensive and sophisticated private-label program. And the labels are a major component of its branding process. What’s interesting is that the organization’s label designers, under the direction of Dave Bennett, IGA senior vice president of procurement and private brands, are rigorously applying three straightforward criteria to make this label program pack the punch it needs.

1. Appeal at point of purchase.

2. Clear brand communication.

3. Ease of shopping.

While appeal at point of purchase is the aesthetics of the label to initially engage the shopper, clear brand communication lies at the heart of IGA’s shopper proposition. The IGA logo has to be prominent, but that’s not the only issue.

IGA does not tier its private-label offerings; it provides national brand equivalent or better (there is no value tier, for example), so that the label must convey that quality message. In the world of IGA, this means clean-looking art that effectively conveys the attributes of the product and helps the consumer understand the value of the brand.  

“Clear, accurate and eye-appealing,” says Bennett. “That’s how labels help build trust in the IGA brand and prompt customers to continue to shop.”

But there are obstacles. “In designing our labels, we find that we are becoming increasingly sensitive over time to label clutter. More and more information is being crammed onto the label,” says Bennett. “That’s not good. A cluttered label will not convey our quality message.”

This issue dovetails with the third criteria: ease-of-shopping. The label must present the product and its attributes to the consumer in such a way that it allows her to make a decision relative to purchase. Legibility is an issue, but “decisions have to be made as to what attributes are important.” If the product is fat-free or gluten-free, that must be immediately apparent to the shopper, for example. And, Bennett points out: Label design has to be mindful of the time issue. The message has to be transmitted strongly and quickly since detailed inspection of every label by a shopper is not likely to happen.

Because of the importance of the labels and their power to project the brand, IGA takes their design seriously. As independents, they are up against a formidable array of dominant chain supermarkets with plenty of competitive clout, resources and numbers of stores. Indeed, in this hotly contested retail food arena, Bennett says, “We are absolutely clear at IGA about what the labels must achieve in concert with all other IGA factors. They have to develop high levels of repeat purchase of the product, make a meaningful contribution to sales and drive market share.” But he adds that they also have to develop customer loyalty-a key outcome for independents competing with major chains-and convey quickly and efficiently why this product is important to the purchaser. F&BP

Roy White is a vice president of The Food Institute and has devoted his career to serving the mass market retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturing industries. Contact Roy at 201-791-5570 or rwhite@foodinstitute.com.