Produced by the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA), the annual expo gathers contract food manufacturers and packaging partners to showcase their offerings.
A walk down the aisle through the thousands of recent product introductions offers a glimpse into what the most impactful trends are, and what changes shoppers will see on retail aisles in the coming months.
Not too long ago, tastes from foreign lands were in short supply on US grocer shelves. A few Mexican and Asian dishes were available from domestic processors; otherwise, shoppers with a taste for worldly dishes had to travel to specialty stores (or to restaurants) to get their fix.
Now, though, brands of Indian foods, Chinese dishes, Latino delicacies and other global foods entice shoppers, and retailers are following suit by offering an increasing range of exotic foods.
The Private Label Trade Show showcased imported goods from Mexico, Italy, Egypt and other countries, but many producers are offering far-away tastes made closer to home.
Chef Bombay treated attendees to samples of samosas, tandoori chicken and other Indian treats. The Canadian producer’s exotic flavors are offered bearing brand names owned by Trader Joe’s, Safeway and other grocery chains.
Natural sugar alternatives
Consumer sometimes demand food characteristics that can be hard to reconcile. For example, cutting calories on sweet treats while simultaneously maintaining clean tastes.
Stepping in to help meet that balance between a natural diet and sweet fulfilment are stevia, monkfruit and other alternative sweeteners.
The Private Label Trade Show offered a wealth of two kinds of products: prepared foods incorporating natural low-calorie sweeteners instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners, and store-brand sweeteners for home use.
Heartland Food Products Group, an Indiana producer, provides a range of beverage additives and sweeteners made with stevia and other natural sweeteners. Its offerings include Skinnygirl sweeteners, products bearing the brand owned by reality TV star Bethenny Frankel.
Speaking of celebrities, the private label possibilities shown at the event include a wide array of cross-branded and star-endorsed products.
Bekrom Foods produces spices, bake mixes, meats and other items for various private-label products. The North Dakota processor’s items include several different items bearing the smiling mug of comedian Larry the Cable Guy, including beer bread mix, grill seasonings and pre-flavored meats.
The Private Label Trade Show showcased brownies, pizzas, cheese puffs and other tempting treats commonly found in grocery stores. Gaining ground against traditional junk food treats, however, are fruits, vegetables and other lighter alternatives.
BrandStorm was among the producers offering snacks that counter potato chips, cookies and other traditional, less healthful noshes. The company offered samples of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables to booth visitors; the wares are available for private-label retail clients, but also sold under its Nature’s All Foods name.
Flexible packaging and cartons
Canned food hasn’t gone away and won’t anytime soon, based on the presence of the packaging format in PLMA member booths.
However, flexible packaging’s share of shelf space is continuing to increase, as are cartons. Tetra Pak showed off soup cartons from General Mills brand Progresso, marking that brand's first departure from metal cans.