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Private Label Is a 'Hotbed for Creativity'

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NEW YORK Private label products are anything but cheap imitations of brand-name items, according to a new report. The retail consultancy Mintel GNPD finds that manufacturers of private label food products are staying up on current food trends, including the use of premium and healthy ingredients as well as convenient packaging.
 
New private label products are being introduced into the U.S. market at a rate far above that from just a few years ago. So far in 2009, almost 1,800 new private label foods have hit store shelves. This comprises 27 percent of all new food products that have been introduced this year. In 2005, private label made up only 13 percent of new food products.
 
This has as much to do with the higher quality of private label products available as it does with consumer concerns about prices, according to the study. "Retailers no longer only launch 'me-too' products to compete against major national brands," said Krista Faron, senior analyst at Mintel, in a statement. "Instead, private label lines are hotbeds of creativity, driving markets and establishing themselves as trend leaders."
 
Faron said the convenient packaging and portion sizes of items such as Safeway's Rice Noodle Soup Bowl is attractive to today's shopper, many of whom are bringing lunch to work as an easy way to save a few dollars.
 
A rising focus on nutritious products and quality ingredients is also notable in the new private label products, per Mintel. Product lines such as Lucerne Foods' Eating Right brand is cited for its healthy options, while Supervalu's Culinary Circle gets a nod for offering gourmet dishes such as the Pork Carnitas Enchilada Casserole at a recession-friendly price.
 
Cost-saving efforts by Americans have helped create a significant growth in private label market. In 2008, private label products saw a growth of 9.3 percent, compared to only a 4.5 percent growth for branded food.
 
"Private label manufacturers realize 'value' means more than 'low price' to consumers," said Faron. "They're wisely creating new products that deliver on some of today's most exciting food trends."