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The Cincinnati Enquirer has a long story about how and why Kroger develops private brand products.

“For Kroger, the epicenter of the company's private-brand initiative is in downtown Cincinnati in a laboratory and test center tucked away in the first floor of the corporate headquarters,” the Enquirer writes. “Few of those thousands of products make it to store shelves without first passing muster with consumers who come to the laboratory to sample items each week.

“Three afternoons a week, anybody who works in the building - many if not most are Kroger employees - line up to rate a variety of foods on a bank of computers. On one recent afternoon, the offering was a cranberry, mango, vegetable and fruit medley in honey-lime seasoning. All of the potential brands are judged with a rigorous survey. Testers cannot talk. They must rank foods across a number of detailed categories, such as overall liking, flavor, appearance and texture … Testers are paid with chocolate candy, cookies and free coupons for their trouble - as well as the free plate of food being tested.”

The Enquirer notes that “Kroger has invested heavily in its roster of private brands; the company has 41 food manufacturing plants spread out across the nation. Kroger has so much confidence in its products that the company makes a bold offer to consumers: Try it, like it or get the national brand free.”

The investment is paying off. The paper also reports that “a typical Kroger store stocks about 14,400 private-label items - nearly double the 7,800 items stocked in 2003 … During 2008, 26 percent of Kroger's grocery sales came from private brands, and Kroger brands reached a record-high 34 percent of grocery unit sales. Also, Private Selection, the company's premium tier of store brands, exceeded $1 billion in sales in 2008.”
KC's View:
It is worth noting that this is important not just because Kroger is doing it, but because papers like the Enquirer are reporting it…which expands the degree of acceptance that private brands have. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is a good thing for companies looking to expand their private brand distribution levels.

You can't just talk about private brands, however; you have to invest in quality. Positive coverage follows quality.