More and more retailers are taking advantage of changes in consumer attitude towards private labels by either launching a private label or extending current offerings through category expansion. Underscoring this trend, Nielsen’s 2018 “Total Consumer Report” showed a rise in the U.S. sales of private brands with private labels posting dollar growth of more than three times the rate of branded products.
Continued growth hinges on maintaining the quality of private label products. Gone are the days where a product could be sold as the poor imitation version of a national brand. Today’s consumer expects private brands to be both a good buy and perform well.
Building quality, private label products
Developing a quality product that can compete against the national brands is a calculated risk. A failed product means losing out on profit earned through national brand placement, not to mention dollars lost in product development. Retailers have to invest in product manufacturing, packaging, packaging design, ingredient sourcing and a host of other decisions to bring their product to market.
Robust testing, including analytical, physical and sensory testing, can help a retailer determine how the product compares to the national brand and how the consumer perceives the product.
Additionally, analytical testing often includes the use of a microbiology lab. The technician might be looking for factors such as growth-bacteria, mold or fungus-presence in a product. The lab also examines the effectiveness of the preservative system plus makes sure a food product doesn’t include extraneous matter.
Physical testing confirms a product's attributes, such as product dimensions, tear strength, absorption rate and other critical tests for the particular product category. Regulatory requirements, such as net contents, the presence of child-resistant closures and other tamper-evident features, can also be evaluated.
Sensory testing can involve the use of trained panelists or untrained, naïve consumers to provide sensory guidance on a product. Researching consumer perception helps a manufacturer or retailer develop successful products.
Trained panels detect and describe the attributes of food and non-food products. The panelists are asked to use one of the five senses — sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing — to characterize a product’s aroma, flavor, texture and appearance. This panel type is often used to determine if there is a perceptible difference or similarity between the two samples.
Consumer panels provide a better understanding of the product purchaser as well as how a consumer perceives the product. Consumer panel testing can be performed in-home or at a central location.
Product testing provides many benefits to the retailer. It can help ensure product quality and reliability, a key to increasing consumer confidence and building lifetime trust. It can forecast the life expectancy of a product and help reduce after sales complaints.
In some cases, product testing fulfills mandated requirements such as those required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The more you can discover about your products, the better equipped, and hopefully successful, you will be when marketing the item. With so much hinging on product success, why wouldn’t you use product testing for your private label brand?