PLMA 2023: Trends and Opportunities for Private Label in Europe
Eva Hannigan – Global Business Development, Netherlands
Europe is a dynamic and highly active market for Private Label (PL) and as a result of the cost of living crisis, European PL is gaining significant momentum. As shoppers’ needs grow and diversify, PL is no longer a basic alternative to brands but instead showcases traits such as quality, innovation, health and sustainability. With 2023’s PLMA, the leading trade fair in PL, only two months away, this article will outline why Irish suppliers should closely analyse the opportunities in this category, shopper attitudes towards PL and stand-out examples of current trends in the four priority markets; the UK, Netherlands, Germany and France.
5 Key Insights on the Private Label Landscape in Europe:
- There is a well-developed and dynamic PL market in Europe with value shares at 50.4% in the UK, 49.8% in the Netherlands, 48.2% in Germany and 42.1% in France which is only expected to continue to grow (PLMA, 2022).
- European retailers will be investing significantly in PL (IGD, 2022 and Bord Bia, 2022) in the face of rising costs to ease the burden of consumers and prevent shoppers from exploring their competitors.
- While retailers have a love for PL, the quality of these products are vital as it puts their brand on the line. This means retailers can often focus investment and sustainability efforts on PL.
- Trading from brands to PL is a very common strategy in dealing with cost of living crises (Ritson, 2022). However, consumers are not interested in trading down on quality, which remains a top priority when buying food and drink (Bord Bia, 2022), so retailers have to deliver quality in their PL range.
- PL is no longer only targeted at low-budget shoppers. While traditionally targeted towards families on a budget, PL has expanded to other demographics such as the 16-34 year old range (Mintel, 2022). This diversification of consumers has resulted in segmentation of the category, with retailers now offering premium, organic, plant-based, free-from ranges and more besides. This means retailers are looking for suppliers who can innovate and experiment with niche concepts to cater to an increasingly diverse group of shoppers (IPLC, 2023).
Trends in Private Label 2023:
Consumers are not willing to compromise on quality and taste, and Marks and Spencer in the UK excel in this area across a range of PL tiers, driving NPD through its Innovation Hub (IGD, 2022). As part of its convenience offering, M&S has developed diverse products such as premium, ready-made sandwiches or its meal solutions for children designed with dieticians from Great Ormond’s Street Hospital. It also has an ultra-premium “Our Best Ever” range, focusing on ready meals and desserts (IGD, 2022).
The pandemic spurred on an awareness of healthy eating with over 60% of Dutch, German and UK consumers claiming to make an effort to eat more healthily (Bord Bia, 2021) The Nutriscore label, recommended to retailers by the European Commission, is a scale from A (most healthy) to E (least healthy) that can be found on all PL packaging or labels in Albert Heijn in the Netherlands or E. LeClerc in France. Again, this shows retailers leading the way with their PL ranges, with the brands having to catch up. Studies have shown this label influences consumer choice, with products without a Nutriscore label experiencing dips in consumption when compared against a similar product with the label (ISI Insights, 2021). The Nutriscore is expected to be rolled out among more retailers across Europe in the coming years and increasingly influence consumer choice.
Retailers are increasingly improving their sustainability strategies and PL is being targeted by retailers first. In Germany, Penny has an entire sustainable PL range, ‘Food for Future’. These products are awarded a Pro Planet label for being socially and environmentally sustainable and also for meeting a high animal welfare standard. Penny aims for 25% of its PL products to have the Pro Planet label by 2025 (IGD, 2022), and many other retailers in Europe have similar goals for between now and 2030.
Retailers must innovate and react to consumer needs rapidly, and Albert Heijn makes this a core element of their corporate strategy (IGD, 2022). Albert Heijn ‘created’ a brand with its chocolate line Delicata to compete with the ethical claims of Tony’s Chocoloney. The two companies collaborated so AH could access Tony’s Open Chain platform to eradicate slavery and exploitation from the Delicata supply chain. This includes having access to tools such as the Beantracker and Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation system (AH Nieuws, 2019).
So What for Irish Suppliers?
As private label shares continue to grow and retailers invest in their ranges there are great opportunities for Irish suppliers. Here are some key recommendations to support the growth of your PL sales:
- Attend the PLMA Market Study Visit to the Netherlands in May, where we will deep dive into the four private trends of quality, health, sustainability and innovation. This includes a tour of the top retailers in the Netherlands, attendance at the opening day of PLMA and a seminar on PL in Europe. View the brochure and registration details here.
- Bord Bia will also be running an online PL negotiation training on 19 April.
- Especially when targeting PL sales, it’s vital you understand your customer’s brand, sustainability targets, range and competitors. Clients can find a range of resources on the PL market and category information in their target markets from Bord Bia’s Library. You can also reach out to the local Bord Bia office to find out more about retailers in your target market.
- European customers have a strong awareness of Ireland and its natural resources and as a result of this, they recognise Irish food and drink as high-quality, diverse and innovative. They are also looking for suppliers with strong sustainability credentials, which Origin Green offers. Conveying the naturalness, quality, value and sustainability of Irish products to customers will be key.
AH Nieuws, 2019. Delicata bars with Tony's Open Chain chocolate are now available at Albert Heijn [Accessed 28 February] Available at: https://nieuws.ah.nl/vanaf-nu-delicata-repen-met-tonys-open-chain-chocolade-in-schap-bij-albert-heijn/
Bord Bia, 2021. Dietary Lifestyles - The Netherlands. [online] Bord Bia Thinking House. Available at: <https://www.bordbia.ie/industry/insights/publications/dietary-lifestyle-report-march-2021/> [Accessed 28 February].
Bord Bia, 2022. Inflationary Impact Report [Accessed 6 March]
Euromonitor Passport, 2023. Private Label: Evolution of Premium in Food and Beverages [Accessed 9 March]
IGD, 2022. Private Label in the Cost-crisis Era. [Accessed 25 February].
IGD, 2022. Top 10 retailers in Europe winning with private label [Accessed 25 February]
IPLC, 2022. How to become a private label supplier of choice [Accessed 7 March] Available at: https://www.iplc-europe.com/how-to-become-a-private-label-supplier-of-choice/?lang=en
ISI Insights, 2021. How companies can use the Nutriscore to their advantage [Accessed 26 February] Available at: https://www.isi-insights.com/en/blog/nutri-score
Mintel, 2022. Private Label: Getting Ready for 2023 [Accessed 25 February]
Penny, 2023. Available at: https://www.penny.de/erleben/eigenmarken/foodforfuture [Accessed 21 March]
Ritson, M. 2022. The best way to make your brand vulnerable to private label is to commodify it. Marketing Week. Available at: https://www.marketingweek.com/ritson-private-label/ [Accessed 10 March]