Oshawa launches new label

Better late than never, Oshawa Foods has leapt into the premium-quality private label game.On June 26, Toronto-based Oshawa Foods, which owns the iga, Price Chopper, Food Town, Valley Foods, Knechtel Supermarkets and Dutch Boy Markets banners, launched five new products under...

Better late than never, Oshawa Foods has leapt into the premium-quality private label game.

On June 26, Toronto-based Oshawa Foods, which owns the iga, Price Chopper, Food Town, Valley Foods, Knechtel Supermarkets and Dutch Boy Markets banners, launched five new products under the newly created brand, ‘Our Compliments.’

The products are: soft drinks, cookies, not-from-concentrate orange juice, tortilla chips and chunky salsa.

Jay Peters, Oshawa Foods’ vice-president of marketing, says Our Compliments will appear first in Ontario, where the company has 360 stores.

In time, it will be introduced to the 600-plus stores Oshawa Foods operates elsewhere in the country, he says, adding the company will eventually introduce Our Compliments products in a wide range of categories.

The concept of supermarket brands that compete with the top national brands on quality, and beat them on price, was pioneered in Canada in the mid-1980s by Loblaw Companies under the leadership of company President Dave Nichol.

Loblaws claims it now carries about 2,500 stock keeping units with the President’s Choice label.

In 1990, a&p launched its Master Choice label in Canada, a year after the label appeared in the u.s.

a&p now sells nearly 300 products under the Master Choice name.

And only two months ago, Ottawa-based Loeb entered the fray with the launch of Loeb Cola, which it says is the first of many new Loeb-brand products to come.

Oshawa Food’s move into premium-quality house brands was carried out with the assistance of Montreal ad agency, Taxi, which picked up the account nine months ago.

Taxi, which also has an office in Toronto, handled the advertising behind the brand launch, while its sister agency, Taxi Design, was responsible for name development and package design.

Jane Hope, creative head of Taxi Design, says the Our Compliments name has a ‘friendly, honest tone’ that reflects Oshawa Foods’ intention of developing products based on consumer tastes, not company imperatives.

Oshawa Foods’ recent private label activity is the product of a corporate decision taken last year to adopt a more savvy approach to house brand marketing.

As part of that decision, Oshawa Foods hired Peters to head up a newly formed marketing department.

Peters, who joined the firm 18 months ago, was previously the vice-president of marketing at Wendy’s Restaurants of Canada from 1977-89, and a principal with the now-defunct Toronto agency, Wicks Peters Freir Diplock, from 1989-92.

Working under Peters is Doug Brummer, whose title is director of product marketing.

Brummer joined Oshawa Foods a month ago, shortly after leaving Heinz of Canada, where he had been general manager on Weight Watchers.

In addition to the development of Our Compliments, Oshawa Foods has been working on three other private label brands.

Since the beginning of the year, it has redesigned the labels of two of its existing store label brands, Food City and iga, which are targetted against second- and third-tier national brands.

As well, it has added a ‘best price’ house brand called Smart Choice.

Smart Choice, which began appearing in stores in May, competes against national and supermarket brands with value-priced positionings.

And for the last year of so, it has been experimenting in niche markets with brands such as its large-format Value Club line, aimed at warehouse supermarket shoppers, and Green Care, aimed at the shoppers with environmental concerns.

‘In the past, Oshawa could be criticized for not having a strong selection of house brands, and we are moving to correct that,’ Peters says.

While the new brands are expected to dramatically increase Oshawa Foods’ clout, both with consumers and against national brands, Peters says ‘we have no vision of eliminating national brands, adding ‘research shows customers want to have a selection of national brands.’

Tim Carter, Oshawa’s corporate vice-president of public relations, says the company’s strategy is to use its private label brands to supplement its national brand roster, thereby increasing the overall attractiveness of its various product categories.

‘We look at the total line-up,’ Carter says. ‘We want the brands collectively to be the strongest line-up in the marketplace.’