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    New Private Label Products Woo Shoppers

    Twenty-seven percent of all food products introduced so far this year are private label.

    CHICAGO -- Providing more than just cheap alternatives to national brands, Mintel reported the newest private label foods are wooing shoppers with premium ingredients, portability and health benefits.

    So far in 2009, Mintel recorded nearly 1,800 new U.S. private label foods that have appeared on retail store shelves -- or 27 percent of all food products introduced this year. In 2005, private label foods comprised only 13 percent of new food product launches.

    And as the recession causes more Americans to cut down on food spending -- both at home and by dining out less -- private label has benefited, according to Mintel. The U.S. market grew 9.3 percent in 2008 (compared to 4.5 percent for branded food sales). Mintel forecasts private label will grow another 8.1 percent by the end of 2009.

    "Not only have private label introductions increased, but product innovation is reaching unprecedented highs," stated Krista Faron, Mintel senior analyst. "Retailers no longer only launch 'me-too' products to compete against major national brands. Instead, private label lines are hotbeds of creativity, driving markets and establishing themselves as trend leaders."

    As more than half of Americans try to spend less at restaurants, Mintel said it sees retailers with private label creating premium in-home meals that boast restaurant quality and fresh ingredients. For example, Supervalu's Culinary Circle features an upscale Pork Carnitas Enchilada Casserole, while Walmart claims fresh-baked taste in minutes with Sam's Choice Thin Crust Pepperoni and Canadian Bacon Pizza.

    Portable, high-quality lunches are another hot area for private label. People want to save money by lunching at the office, and new private label foods such as Safeway's Rice Noodle Soup Bowl (retailing for $1.55) make desk-dining easy, Faron noted.

    Convenience also remains a driver for private label, but Mintel said it sees health and nutrition increasingly influencing proprietary product development.

    "Private label manufacturers realize 'value' means more than 'low price' to consumers, so they're wisely creating new products that deliver on some of today's most exciting food trends," Faron stated.

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