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The paradox of transparency and private label

“Tell your story”
“Be more transparent”
“Build consumer trust”

Storytelling, transparency and consumer trust are the marketing trifecta of the last decade in all consumer products, especially food.

Yet there is an unfortunate correlation between the rise in consumer demand for food transparency and the retailer push for private labels.

As a consumer, I don’t like the changes I’m seeing in my local produce department.

Transparency is important or extremely important to 81 percent of shoppers both online and in store, according to Transparency Trends: Omnichannel Grocery Shopping from the Consumer Perspective, a report from FMI and Label Insights.

That’s up from 69 percent in 2018. And 29 percent look for sustainability information which includes details about how the product is produced and value-based information such as fair labor practices, which is up from 20 percent in 2018.

These insights indicate that shoppers don’t need their grocer’s corporate address and the obvious claim about the grocer’s role in distributing the produce. Shoppers have a rising demand in being more connected and knowledgeable about their food.

The data surrounding the recent boom in private label sales is missing a critical fact: consumers don’t have a choice between private label and grower brand. More often than not, private labels are replacing grower brands in the produce department.

The rise of private labels at grocery retail is a threat to two critical stakeholders: the farmer and the consumer. We should be fostering strategies to increase the farmer’s profitability and strengthen consumer trust in fresh produce at grocery retail.

The growers are the nucleus of our industry. Farmers are responsible for product innovation, traceability, sustainability, farmworker advancements, and more. They also take on the majority of the risk in the seed-to-smile journey.

Many of the brands in the produce department are family-owned, multi-decade establishments.

The produce department is a gold mine of unique brand stories, transparency, sustainability practices, and more.

Unfortunately, the consumer cannot connect these dots when the farmer’s brand is wiped from the retail packaging.

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms, the leading consumer brand focused on driving the sales and consumption of fresh produce. Lori sold fresh produce to retailers for ten years and often appears in the media as a produce industry spokesperson.