2020 European Private Label Awards – No Guts, No Glory

Food retailers and their private label suppliers once again showcased their drive for innovation at the European Supermarket Magazine 2020 European Private Label Awards. We cannot tell you who won yet, but our observations may help you stand out on supermarket shelves in the future.

For the third year in a row, European Supermarket Magazine (ESM) is organizing the European Private Label Awards. Food retailers and their suppliers from across Europe have entered over 150 private label products, ranging from thyme mayonnaise, vegan cheese, and beer bread, to sirloin steaks. Early in October, the jury spent two full days tasting, trying, chewing on, and discussing all products. The people from ESM are processing the scores, so we cannot – and will not – tell you which product won. But if you’re considering entering next year’s contest or want to win over consumers’ hearts, we have some observations you may want to take advantage of.

Innovation on the Shelf Is Driven by Private Label

Food retailing is a competitive business. Private label products help supermarket formulas to differentiate. Over the years, the private label offering has gone beyond price as the sole differentiator, and private label suppliers have become an important driver of innovation on the shelf, as postulated earlier. The most impressive products among the 150+ that we tested show that innovation comes in different forms:

1. Ingredients – Similar to last year, high-quality, honest, and authentic ingredients continue to do the trick. Unfortunately, the most beautiful products too many times came well camouflaged in the most boring packaging.

2. Story – Sustainability is high on the agenda of food retailers and producers, although apparently not in all categories. In dairy, for example, there is more than meets the eye, as many sustainable initiatives are scarcely communicated on the product. In other categories, ‘green’ is not top of mind yet, judging by the excess plastic and carton packaging we came across.

3. Functional – ‘Free from’ has made huge progress over the past two years, bringing the taste of some of these products on par with, or ahead of, their more traditional counterparts.

4. Social – Food is not only about nutrients. Retailers like SPAR Netherlands and Lidl understand that there are fun and social elements to food as well, introducing products to share with friends or to prepare together with kids.

5. Impact – Talking about nutrients, the biggest surprise came from Turkish retailer Migros. With their M Life private label range aimed at “good living,” they may well be ahead of the curve, taking on the role of a trusted advisor on a topic that is close to consumers’ hearts.

All in all, our advice is simple: there are hundreds of thousands of private label products out there. Please do not copy what is already there, but be more creative. That is what will make your products stand out, both on the jury table and on the supermarket shelves.

The 2020 European Private Label Awards jury in action


Image courtesy of the author