A&P launches new brand

The great Atlantic & Pacific Company of Canada is days from beginning the roll-out of a new private label brand in its 260 stores in Ontario.The ambitious undertaking will consolidate several existing mid-value house brands in a&p's various supermarket chains under...

The great Atlantic & Pacific Company of Canada is days from beginning the roll-out of a new private label brand in its 260 stores in Ontario.

The ambitious undertaking will consolidate several existing mid-value house brands in a&p’s various supermarket chains under one powerful new label called Canada’s Choice.

Gord McCullough, a&p’s director of corporate brands, says Canada’s Choice will comprise about 1,000 items spread across all major food categories.

At the same time, the Toronto-based food retailer, which operates the a&p, Dominion Stores, Miracle Food Mart and Ultra-Mart chains, is moving rapidly to launch a series of sub-brands under its premium quality Master Choice label.

This new strategy will enable the retailer, which operates exclusively in Ontario, to establish an authoritative presence in a number of small but lucrative market niches.

Currently, it has four Master Choice sub-brands in development with roll-out dates ranging between July and October.

The new sub-brands are: Euro, consisting of European-made chocolates, biscuits and tortes; Mommy Made, a line of children’s products, LifeSmart healthy lifestyle products; and Crustino flat breads.

According to Ladka Sweeney, a&p’s head of product development on corporate brands, the flurry of product branding activity under way in the corporate offices of a&p is a reflection of the path Canadian grocery retailers are taking in the 1990s.

Sweeney, who spent six years developing corporate brands with Loblaw International Merchants before joining a&p in January 1992, says retailers will inevitably expand their house brands because, in many instances, they generate higher profits than national brands.

McCullough notes a&p’s decision to consolidate its existing supermarket house brands under the Canada’s Choice banner will result in greater operating efficiencies because it will no longer be faced with running separate private label programs for each of its chains.

In the past, a&p, Dominion Stores, Miracle Food Mart and Ultra-Mart each stocked private label products named after the stores.

McCullough says under the consolidation, which is expected to take two years to complete, the retailer’s overall private label roster will drop from 1,700 items to about 1,000, with most of the reduction resulting from the elimination of duplicate products.

He says the consolidation is too time-consuming at present to leave much room for new product development, but adds that in time the lineup will be expanded.

Advertising for the new brand, to begin early in the summer, will largely take the form of in-store posters, point-of-purchase materials and home-delivered flyers, according to McCullough.

Retail consultant John C. Williams, of Toronto’s John C. Williams Consultants, says the idea of rolling the brands into a single label makes eminent sense because it will improve operating efficiencies and because ‘the single brand will give [a&p] more private label clout.’

Although new product development is on hold in the Canada’s Choice line, the Master Choice label is poised for an explosion of new products.

McCullough says his department, which is in the process of building a new on-site product-development kitchen, has about 150 new Master Choice products in development.

Currently, 270 items are available under the Master Choice logo, which was introduced in Canada in 1990, a year after its launch in the u.s.

By way of comparison, Loblaws, which has been developing house brands for more than a decade and is Canada’s leading private label retailer, stocks in the area of 2,500 house brands in its stores.

It is understood Oshawa Foods, which operates the iga and Food City chains, among others, is also in the process of revamping its private label branding.PA