Private Label Packaging Steps Out

Store-wide private label lines and premium-tier store brands dress up to compete with the nationals.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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So Sunflower "products that don't have as full of a story" don't get an on-pack QR code, he says. But "products that are truly unique are getting it." For those that do display a QR code, Sunflower has developed linked web content that educates shoppers about, for example, where the products or their ingredients come from.

Premium and artisanal products

In addition to the shift to store-wide private label lines, industry observers are noticing continued growth of premium and artisanal private label products.

"Premium [private label] is, in my opinion, a trend that will continue to grow, because the goal is to offer a better product than exists in the category today, still at a better price point than the comparable national brand in the category," says CBX's Maute. "So it's a nice way for retailers to differentiate themselves in the marketplace."

For these high-end products, packaging that accurately conveys the item's quality is essential. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (, Montvale, N.J., leveraged package graphics to communicate artisanal qualities when it launched the Jersey Tomato Sauce line under its Food Emporium Trading Company private label. Vertis Communications designed the Jersey Tomato Sauce packaging for A&P.

The four products in this product line are made in small batches by "two guys from New Jersey who are passionate about tomatoes," says Beckman. "They buy the Jersey tomatoes the second they're ripe and make this sauce at that time. So it has a lot of artisan craftsmanship about it, and we wanted to bring that out in the design. Also, it's very Jersey and we wanted it to have a little bit of Jersey attitude, as well."

To balance those objectives and stand out on-shelf, the designers chose a weathered look for the brand name and tomato illustration — plus a prominent "Made with Jersey Fresh Tomatoes" icon on the front of the package. The 25-oz. glass jars are decorated with pressure-sensitive labels.

CarmellasRestaurateurs are also getting onboard with artisanal private labeling. When family-owned Carmella's Italian Bistro (, Appleton, Wis., decided to launch a private label version of its house-made sauces, package design was a key consideration.

Directions Marketing designed Carmella's package graphics, and WS Packaging Group Inc. (, Green Bay, Wis., printed the labels using a digital printer. Digital printing is geared to low-volume, high-quality print runs and is much more cost-effective for small-batch projects than high-volume, high-quality printing technologies such as rotogravure.

"We chose an off-white uncoated paper stock traditionally used for wine labels, which combined visual texture as well as an in-hand feel," says Aaron Graff, art director at Directions Marketing (, Neenah, Wis. "The design was kept clean and simple, highlighting a primary ingredient. Both of these cues combined to offer a fresh approach to the category by reflecting the simple, natural and handcrafted essence of the Carmella's sauces."

Graff adds the pressure-sensitive label stock's visual and tactile attributes "work together to portray Carmella's as a premium handmade sauce."

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