Premium and Value-Added Private Labels: The Case of Private Labels in Sustainable FMCG Markets

Premium and Value-Added Private Labels: The Case of Private Labels in Sustainable FMCG Markets

Victoria Labajo (Pontifical Comillas University, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0220-3.ch013
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The main purpose of this chapter is to gain insight into the latest trends in retailers' strategies in terms of private labels and their customer value proposition in the context of proliferating brands and multi-brand portfolios. The first part of this chapter provides a comprehensive review of research on evolving trends in private label strategy in addition to some conceptual considerations. It is followed by an analysis, based on a number of industry reports, of the resulting quality-value balance and PLs' performance across some representative countries. In addition, this chapter looks into some sustainable MMCG brands (organic, fair trade, etc.), with the focus on their presence in retailers worldwide, as an example of such premium PLs strategy. Finally, in order to further illustrate retailers' strategies and PLs role in this ever growing value-added niche market, this chapter will draw on sustainable Spanish FMCG market through a market-research case
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Private labels (PLs) have changed significantly the competitive scene of the retail market, particularly as far as fast moving consumer goods markets (FMCG) are concerned. In the battle on the shelves, retailers compete against national brands (NBs) with their own brands that in the first instance were born as a generic low-cost alternative aimed at price-sensitive-customers. The need to improve general perception of these brands led retailers to invest more both, in quality and marketing efforts. This enabled them to compete against the leading brands by using the so-called “me too” strategy and, at the same time, exploiting the advantage of low-cost prices.

Furthermore, aware of the growing PL potential - in terms of generating a differential brand positioning, increasing profitability, developing new consumer segments and reinforcing customer loyalty - some of the more experienced retailers opted for a more sophisticated strategy based on segmented portfolios.

This new positioning of “premium” PL is revolutionizing the retail landscape. On one hand, sophisticated retailers are positioning to differentiate on quality vis-a-vis the manufacturer brands. On the other hand, as consumers believe private labels are a good alternative to manufacturer brands especially from a quality perspective, many of them can be persuaded to pay more for top quality private labels. The introduction in mainstream channels of “organic”, “fair trade”, “green” or other ethical or sustainable claims via PL represents the attempt of leader retailers to develop such premium brands, and permits retailers’ response to new market requirements through new values, thus improving their own image in comparison with that of the producers.

The main objectives of this chapter can be defined as following:

  • Provide an overview of the current situation in terms of PLs and own brand strategy development stages reached in different countries; draw on the initiatives of premium PLs that are currently carried out by a number of significant retailers in the scene of international FMCG markets and identify trends that could provide a glimpse into the future development of PLs.

  • Cover the issue of ethical and sustainable brands, as an example of premium PLs strategies. For this purpose, three main consumer concerns are addressed: care for the environment as closely linked to health, respect for human and social rights, development of communities and animal welfare.

  • Assess the positive impact of sustainable PLs in the portfolio of retailers’ own brands. Address different approaches to the issue by drawing on both academia findings and a number of reports issued by a range of entities. Likewise, provide examples illustrating the implementation of such activities carried out by some retailers.

  • Illustrate the issue of sustainable PLs in addition to the role adapted by retailers in respect of the latter through a research case, developed in the Spanish FMCG market, which refers to the brands granted with sustainable labels by an independent body: Organic, Fair Trade, FSC, MSC, Rainforest Alliance, Ecolabel and Leaping Bunny. To assess the role of PLs against NBs in these premium segments within a set of representative categories, this paper bases on information provided by the Panel Nielsen Retail ScanTrack delimited by the metropolitan area of Madrid in the year 2012 - 2013.

  • And, finally, provide a diagnosis of the current status of these growing high-value niche markets and draw on the consequent implications for the leader retailers operating in Spain, as key actors in the development of sustainable market.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Fast Moving Consumer Goods Market (FMCG): Also known as Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG). This term refers to packaged grocery, household care and personal care/beauty. They tend to be high volume and low cost items/categories.

4th Generation PLs: Segmented and value-added or innovative own brands. Their objective is improve PLs’ image and gain differentiation.

Premium PL: Store brands positioned in the superior price-quality tier.

Venture Brands: Brands exclusive to store but not carry store branding, characterized by premium positioning and price typically above category average.

Sustainable Brands: Brands that incorporate social or environmental attributes linked to conscious/ethical consumers’ concerns such as environmental care, social justice, and animal welfare. Also called “ethical brands”.

LOHAS: An acronym that stands for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) which defines a market segment related to sustainable living and 'green' initiatives.

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