EDITOR&#8217;S NOTE: <br />The Choice is Yours - and Theirs

A visit to the recent 55th Summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York late last month left me in no doubt that there are more types of center store products than ever to tickle consumers’ fancies making it all the more important that smart retailers edit their assortments and product mixes judiciously, to avoid sensory (not to mention wallet) overload.

Among the plethora of items on display, there were, of course, many standouts, including the tantalizing range of African specialty products grouped together in a planogram that’s been implemented by several major grocery players, with additional operators poised to adopt the concept. One of the architects of the “Taste of Africa” program, Jim Thaller of West New York, N.J.-based Talier Trading Group, gives us the lowdown on the initiative, which could be just the thing to revitalize jaded consumer palates by interesting shoppers in the foods of a continent most Americans know little about.

Additionally, Tasty Brand, Inc., the California-based organic baby food manufacturer, was there with its latest products: a line of Tastybaby Organic Infant Cereals, which it says are the first in the segment to be formulated for use during different times of the day, and Organic Fruit Snacks for children. Other organic and natural baby food makers are similarly pushing the product envelope, both big guys like Beech-Nut and up-and-comers such as Plum Organics.

Beyond the Fancy Food Show, organic products are increasingly infiltrating center store through private brands. In his look at how several top retailers have leveraged private label to their advantage, Sean Heitkemper, VP, business development at Louisville, Ky.-based IMC Licensing, writes how Safeway’s highly successful O Organics line has gone from “a way to stave off competition from Whole Foods Markets [to] being actively promoted and marketed like licensed brands.”

As center store continues its evolution, it will be up to grocers to spotlight the most compelling products, be they private-label items that can compete effectively with their national-brand counterparts, or such long-trusted name brands as those from Unilever, which is expanding the scope of its ongoing “ViveMejor” program targeting Hispanic women. Knowing what to offer is just as important as where and how to offer it.
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