2012 PLMA: The Biggest Ever

By Susan Stansbury, Contributing Editor | January 7, 2013

Exhibitors in food, non-food categories showcase their innovations to retailers at annual event.

Once again, PLMA’s Annual Private Label Trade Show was a big success. More than 3500 retailers and wholesalers attended the PLMA (Private Label Manufacturers’ Association) show held November 11-13 in the Chicago area. According to PLMA, with more than 2285 exhibit stands, it was the largest PLMA show ever presented. It also attracted the largest number of buyers in its history. They came from supermarkets, supercenters, drug chains, mass merchandisers, wholesalers, importers and exporters, discounters and convenience stores, even military exchanges. The trade show also had a larger international presence than in past years with 35 countries represented by exhibitors.

This show featured food, snacks and beverages, household and kitchen products as well as health and beauty products. Exhibitors ranged from large, well-known international corporations to small and medium-size companies.

To maximize efficiency, the PLMA show floor was divided into food and non-food halls. This year, PLMA added a new Sky Hall, which highlighted many of the industry’s largest companies with expanded booth space to meet their product display needs.

PLMA’s New Product Expo was a big hit, too. It spotlighted exhibitor innovations in products and packaging, while Idea Supermarket showcased private label programs from retailers around the world.

This year’s seminars focused on consumer trends. Jon Berry of GfK research analyzed emerging shopping differences of women and men while Author Carmine Gallo examined lessons to be learned from Apple’s retail network. Daymon’s Glen Pfeifer looked at the media value of packaging. At the retail trends breakfast, Marc Hubbard of Planet Retail surveyed private label trends in the U.S. and Europe. But the highlight of the presentations was the keynote speech by John Mackey of Whole Foods Markets.

Nonwovens On Display

Private label producers represented their marquee products ranging from foods, pharmaceuticals, household goods, to nonwovens wipes, disposable tissue items and much more. In the case of nonwovens products, many of the perennial manufacturers were on hand including companies like Albaad, Diamond Wipes, Nice Pak, Premier Care and Rockline Industries, all producers of wipes and related products.

The show is unlike many others because it is narrowly attended by one particular group—store buyers seeking to learn about the offerings of private label producers. To keep other attendees from distracting from this purpose, their attendance fee is about $500. So appointments center around serious, inside-the-booth conversations about the latest items with their selling features and benefits. Exhibitors of nonwovens have to answer questions about properties like cleansing effectiveness and the latest on flushability and sustainability. 

Wal-Mart, for example, says it will be focusing more on sustainability. As noted by PLMA, the retailer intends to conform to Sustainability Index standards in making its supply chain more socially and environmentally accountable. By the end of 2017, Wal-Mart wants to buy 70% of goods sold in Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores only from suppliers using the Index to evaluate and share the sustainability of their products. Wal-Mart’s influence on sustainability extends to supplier product design.

Another factor facing the retail industry and its suppliers is what analysts believe is looming increased consolidation. Currently characterized as “highly fragmented,” the private label industry is said to be ripe for increasing take-overs. ConAgra Foods’ takeover of Ralcorp Holdings for nearly $5 billion is a recent example, with expected increasing emphasis on private labeled goods.

Attendees outside of the typical store buyers’ world, like Fred Herman, president of Bridge View Paper Company, were able to obtain market intelligence and “gain an overview of nonwovens products for today’s marketplace.” Herman and Bridge View are new in the nonwovens industry, offering slit roll goods, and recovered fiber opportunities for their parent company, Newman and Company, Inc.

Ron Hagemann of New Composite Partners is another atypical attendee looking for the latest products rolling out in sustainability and bio-plastics. “If you’re there to see suppliers and buyers, the show is the place to be,” says Hagemann. “It’s huge.” However, he also laments not finding any particular product breakthrough to take away. Attending when you’re not the targeted buyer group has its risks, points out Hagemann. “But it’s good to know what current directions producers are taking too,” he says.

PLMA’s 2013 event will be held from Nov. 17-19 at the Rosemont Convention Center, 10 minutes from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. For more information about exhibiting or attending, contact:

Private Label Manufacturers Association
630 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Fax: 212-983-1382

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