Countdown announced it’s rolling out a refresh of its own brand range, as well as introducing a new category to its line up, expecting the massive task to take about two years, with the first hint of the change to be visible on supermarket shelves in May.
The Countdown Select and Signature Range products that most Kiwis are familiar with will eventually come under the name ‘Countdown’, a Countdown release says, while a new ‘Essentials’ range will also be launched to replace Homebrand.
Essentials will hit shelves in May and will be a value-offering including commonly purchased necessities. The revamped Countdown brand will also start appearing but the full transition will take a couple of years.
And this is more than just a packaging change, says Countdown general manager of merchandise Chris Fisher. “We are reinvigorating our own brand products and reviewing each one over time to ensure we are delivering easily identifiable, quality products that suit our customers’ needs at low prices.”
So, why the change?
“We asked our customers about what they want from our own brand products in the future,” Fisher told StopPress. “They told us they want great value and a refreshed design. They also want it to be easier to choose the own brand product best for them. This means introducing changes to our own brand products,” he says.
Fisher wouldn’t reveal which agency or design company is working on the refreshed brands or the newly launched Essentials range, but he did give a few hints as to what the design elements might look like.
“The new Countdown and Countdown Essentials range is about offering great quality products at low prices every day,” he says. “We’ve brought this to life in the product packaging by using clear, honest and straightforward designs. We want the quality of the products to speak for themselves.”
While it could be argued there’s a perception proprietary products are of a lower quality than other branded products, Fisher says the products have been developed based on what customers tell Countdown they’re looking for.
“They have all been sourced by our expert chefs and food technologists and tried and tested by our customers before they reach the shelf, so customers know they’re getting consistent big brand quality at a lower price,” he says.
“We have a quality assurance programme that ensures safe and consistent quality of our own brand products.”
He says the ‘Countdown’ range will include hundreds of popular everyday products across a number of categories. “The Countdown range is a dynamic brand that will evolve and changes according to customer tastes to ensure we’re always exceeding expectations with our own brand range.”
Traditionally, homebrand products have featured very basic designs, but there does seem to be a shift in this regard, with some retailers investing in their proprietary brands.
Countdown is following in the footsteps of Foodstuffs (owner of New World, Four Square and Pak’nSave), which enlisted Brother Design to revamp its Pams range, resulting in the agency winning multiple awards.
Brother Design's reworking of the the Pams product range was typified by attractive design, more akin to traditional branding than that usually associated with an in-house product range.
Mitre 10 is another retailer that has also given its proprietary brands an injection of cash in recent years.
Following its acquisition of 14 private labels in 2012, Mitre 10 introduced new brands Jobmate (for the builder) and Number 8 (for the thrifty DIYer) and reworked the branding of Nouveau (for the decorator).
Following the launch of the product range, customer research indicated that all three brands resonated with their specific target markets and this is also being reflected in the sales figures, which put Mitre 10 on track to achieve its lofty sales targets in 2015 (the retailer also won a TVNZ-NZ Marketing award for the success of the project last year).
Across the broader Kiwi market, private label products (in-house brands) are integral to the retail market, with Nielsen data showing that 12 percent of products sold in supermarkets fall within this category
However, the latest MAT (moving annual total) data shows private label product sales declined 3.7 percent compared to sales from the previous year, providing a possible explanation for why supermarket giants are investing in their own stock.
Nielsen’s data shows its branded products that are experiencing growth (3.8 percent) compared to private label products—which in turn provides a strong indication of how valuable branding and design is on the supermarket shelves.
A Countdown release says the majority of Countdown’s own brand products will continue to be sourced in New Zealand, with more than 70 percent of its own brand products being sourced here currently.