Retail RD Opportunities in Owned Brands
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Over the past year amidst the pandemic, consumers have been more willing to switch brands and/or try new brands, and private label has benefited. Survey data from McKinsey and Company found that nearly 20% of consumers indicate they have purchased more owned brand products during the pandemic than they did pre-COVID-19. Forty-five percent of these shoppers indicate price was the primary reason. Private label brands are having a moment, and retailers are strategizing to hold these sales.
With this heightened focus on owned brands, a key strategy for retail RDs is to determine how health and wellness strategies align with private label brand strategies. At the same time, this focus may open up new roles and position shifts into owned brand departments for RDs. Consider these ways in which retail RDs can get more involved:
- Establish Owned Brands Nutrition Guardrails. The pandemic has also increased consumer interest in health, and if your retailer’s brands don’t already have specific subcategories aligned with healthy living or have nutrition guardrails established, now is the perfect time to establish them. Assess what your competitors are doing in this space. Look to FDA’s labeling disclosure levels as a starting point for guardrails. Establish your goal to set the nutrition standards and then position the product development or specifications team to ensure they are implemented. Include sales tracking of these products in your ROI reporting.
- Take a Stretch Assignment in Own Brands. Former retail RD Kara Behlke took on a role leading a packaging redesign in own brands and gained significant experience along the way. “Launching a product is more complex than you realize,” comments Behlke. “From understanding who you are selling to and what will make them buy your product versus the competition to knowing how to promote it and how the product offering aligns with the retailer’s brand to getting familiar with print label requirements and product specification processes, there are a myriad of details to manage. It’s a business within the business. These types of professional experiences can give you exposure to different parts of the business that will help you develop the skills and business acumen needed to build a stronger business case for your health and wellness program.”
- Tackle Labeling and Regulatory. As the retailer’s name is on the package, the company wants to ensure all label information is accurate and messaging aligns with corporate goals. To accomplish this, there are often labeling and regulatory staff at retailers, and RDs are in these roles. Nutrition background is valuable when it comes to nutrition and health claims and understanding general food composition. RDs understand the corporate health and wellness policy and can ensure package messages align with it. Gaining experience in this area can be incredibly valuable across a career.
When consider roles within owned brands teams, it’s essential for RDs to assess the full scope of the work and the time needed to manage the projects initially as well as in the long term. Often, these are fulltime roles that can’t simply be added to the retail RD’s already full plate. At the same time, they can provide expanded experience within the retail industry.