Recent coverage provided by notes that discount operator Lidl has partnered with Fairtrade America on its Way to Go! private label chocolate bar, which contains cocoa from the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana and which will begin to be stocked in the retailer’s North American stores. 

Per the article, “The Way to Go! bars have been available in Lidl stores in Europe since the summer and guarantee that farmers at the cooperative receive at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price for cocoa and the Fairtrade Premium, an extra sum of money for farmers to invest in their farms and communities.”

Lidl’s cocoa sourcing partnership thus pays farmers additional premiums to invest in their communities and will also help to diversify their farms and develop new sustainable farming approaches. 

Sourcing standards such as those used in Way to Go! chocolate demonstrate a growing trend among grocers: private label brands are making adept use of sourcing cues to signal quality. In this instance, Lidl’s private label innovation speaks to the increasingly holistic nature of sustainability, raising the bar on responsible sourcing in the category.

Consumers are shopping in step with such developments: our recent Food Sourcing in America, July/August 2020 report found that during the pandemic, availability and price have been key in influencing trial purchase and use of private label products. 

Factors like fluctuating availability of traditional grocery products and squeezed home finances have pushed store brands into the consideration set for a broader set of shoppers, and many like what they see. Compared to before the pandemic, one-fifth (22%) of shoppers say they now rely more on private label products, and half of these (52%) say they expect to continue purchasing such labels even as major concerns about COVID-19 subside.

Food Sourcing in America also notes that when private label lines or products take on their own unique brand identity, they can drive loyalty and dedication to a retailer, with consumers often going out of their way to visit a store that sells their favorite store brand items. 

Often this behavior results when store brands excel at integrating premium attributes, such as Way to Go!’s sustainable distinctions, organic or other agricultural certifications, or specificity in varietal, provenance or authentic global flavors.

This evolution of private label is a topic The Hartman Group will explore in depth in 2021 with a syndicated study on private label in the U.S. More information is available in this Hartman Group article: COVID-19: The Disruptive Force That Defined 2020. What We Will Explore in 2021

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