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Kroger launches Smart Way ‘opening price point’ private label line

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Image credits: Kroger
Image credits: Kroger

Related tags Kroger Private label

As inflationary pressures continue to strain household budgets, Kroger has launched a new private label line called Smart Way spanning multiple categories from canned vegetables to napkins to help shoppers more easily identify “opening price point items.”

As our customers face an ongoing inflationary environment, we know they are looking to stretch their dollars further than ever before," ​said SVP and chief merchant and marketing officer Stuart Aitken.

"Smart Way is an exciting, eye-pleasing product line that will be easy for customers to find. By adding a simplified opening price point brand strategy to Our Brands portfolio, we will further cater to every customer, every time."

Smart Way provides a budget option to Kroger’s expanding private label portfolio, which includes the namesake Kroger brand, Simple Truth, Private Selection, Home Chef and Heritage Farm.

There are approximately 150 Smart Way products on shelves nationwide today, with additional items hitting stores later this year, said the firm, which posted a 5.8% rise in same store sales (excluding fuel) in the second quarter and a 10.2% increase in sales of private label products in the same period​.

Bernstein: Private label steals share as branded players take 'record pricing'

According to analysts at Bernstein, private label $ market share reached 19.6% over the past 12 weeks in US measured retail channels—up ~85bp year-on-year—"as branded competitors took record pricing."

In a note issued Thursday, they explained that in ​the years leading up to the pandemic, private label consistently took market share from branded players, but this reversed in 2020 as government stimulus, shifts in spending, and retailer prioritization of branded products took hold. 

"By August 2021, private label market share had declined -52bp on a rolling 12-week basis compared to the same period in 2019. But as record price increases from branded players took hold this year, the trend reversed rapidly, and private label market share is now up +85bp YoY and is currently 19.6% of the market—32bp higher than in 2019.

"Percentage price gaps between branded foods and private label products have increased year-to-date on average with Smucker's, General Mills, and McCormick seeing the largest increases. The U.S. Food sector has experienced a year on year percentage price gap increase of ~300bp year-to-date.

"These branded price gap increases could contribute to continued market share losses to private label."

Private label market share Bernstein 2022
Source: NielsenIQ, Bernstein analysis and estimates

Brands under pressure

US consumers "remain resilient albeit worse off than they were a year ago, with cracks just starting to show including Walmart reporting a weakening US consumer and a resurgence in private label during recent earnings calls,"​ noted Bernstein.

"Lower retailer profitability typically leads retailers to demand greater promotional spending from suppliers, push back harder on price increases, and mark up products more, which in turn hurts gross margins and volumes for food manufacturers."

So which food and beverage categories have the highest private label penetration?

"Within our U.S. Food coverage, processed cheese, frozen vegetables, pepper, and fresh meat are categories with highest private label penetration​," said Bernstein, "all commoditized or non-value added goods, generally with single ingredients. These categories are the largest segments for Tyson, McCormick, Kraft Heinz, and Conagra Brands, giving these companies the greatest exposure to private label within our coverage."

Private label penetration Nielsen IQ data presented by Bernstein Sept 2022
Private label penetration, top 20 US Nielsen Categories last 12 months. Source: Nielsen IQ data presented by Bernstein Sept 2022

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