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Nice piece by Warren Thayer in PL Buyer about Albertsons' decision to develop a new premium private label line called "essensia."

Thayer writes that Albertsons is "hoping the new line will be the spark that finally ignites the store brand program, which has long been perceived by many in the industry as mediocre," and that its improvement has been a priority since Larry Johnston joined the company as CEO two years ago.

To start with, the company will bring out about 50 SKUs in frozen appetizers, entrees desserts, and shelf stable cookies and crackers, as it marches toward an eventual total line of about 450 items.

The line will not go into Albertsons' Midwest stores, which have a heavy investment in the President's Choice line.

Terry Lee, vice president of corporate brands, tells PL Buyer that he would not call the line upscale, noting that the target for essensia is made up of "the customers who come into our stores. That is a broad range. The line delivers premium quality at a great value for consumers, but it is not targeted to be upscale, which would imply only occasional usage and higher incomes."
KC's View:
Interesting story, in part because it offers a window into how Albertsons is developing a competitive mindset for a tough environment.

The only thing we'd quibble with is the notion that essensia isn’t an upscale line. It, in fact, may not be…but the name certainly implies it, and the lower-case thing makes a point of it.

But if it’s a good product, and the company gets lots of sampling, it may not matter.

Ironically, it has just been in the last week that Winn-Dixie announced that it was going to start using its corporate name on its private label, creating a line of some 3,000 SKUs. The goal for Winn-Dixie is to be price conscious, with the line being 10 percent to 35 percent lower priced than national brands - and to be part of a three-tier program that includes Prestige and Thrifty Maid labels.

The goal for both companies is clearly to find differential advantages that they can leverage in attracting customers.