IPLC – 20 years of great solutions!

Today it is 20 years since I founded IPLC.

More by coincidence than by choice, I started my career in the Private Label industry back in the 1980s. After graduation, the vast majority of my fellow students joined ‘blue chip’ companies. Some of my friends were surprised by my choice -one had not entered university in order to end up in what was perceived as being a somewhat dull and inferior industry such as Private Label. However, I was immediately fascinated by this complex and rapidly growing sector.

I worked for 18 years until 2003 for leading Private Label manufacturers in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Then I started IPLC.

At that time, the average market share of Private Label in Europe was around 5%. Today, including discount retailers, this is above 40%. The ballgame for brands has changed irreversibly. Many of them have been pushed to the defensive or have even disappeared.

The Private Label market is extremely competitive and complex. More professional players on both the retail and manufacturing sides have fuelled further market share growth.

Over the past 20 years, IPLC has grown into a team of Private Label professionals across 9 countries in Europe. Our collaborative networks allow us to have access to key decision makers in the industry. We allocate our resources not only to support our clients but also to enhance our understanding through our own research into relevant Private Label related topics.

As a team we make an effort to be on top of the latest trends and developments in the most sophisticated region for Private Label in the world. This allows us to support our clients around the world in the best possible manner. The market continues to develop at a phenomenal pace and own label thrives by a decline in brand loyalty, the rise of discount retailers and value-focused younger generations.

The debate on whether manufacturer brands will outlast Private Label may well continue but it is an irrelevant debate for the cost-conscious consumer. Does it really matter who makes your box of cereals, bottle of detergent or pack of batteries, as long as they do the job? These are not status symbols by any measure. The propensity to pay a premium for brands may well be on its way out, especially if the quality difference between alternatives is not discernible.

As IPLC grew, more and more professionals joined our team. I am incredibly grateful to be able to work with such great colleagues to share our knowledge and experience, and am eternally grateful to all of our clients who have worked with us to date.

I look forward to the years ahead with excitement – the opportunities within Private Label are endless!

The Evolving Balance of Power

IPLC’s latest report “The Evolving Balance of Power” investigates how Brexit, the Covid Pandemic, War in Ukraine, and the subsequent surge in costs across the world, have changed relationships between retailers and suppliers in the FMCG industry.

How Private Label Suppliers and Buyers can Win through Collaboration

What a volatile start to the 2020’s – Brexit, the Covid Pandemic, War in Ukraine, and the subsequent surge in costs across the world.

International Private Label Consult (IPLC)’s latest report “The Evolving Balance of Power” investigates how all these factors have changed relationships between retailers and suppliers in the FMCG industry.

From the shifting of power between Buyer and Seller, to the adoption of new strategies deployed by both parties, we see how Private Label suppliers have risen to the challenges faced during these extremely difficult circumstances.

This compelling report gives deep insight into the developing relationship between retailers and suppliers over the past three years and identifies six key challenges the industry faces over the coming years.

To read the full report

The Ultimate Guide to Prepare your Buyer meeting

By Remy Medina and Richard Harrow

As a private label manufacturer, it’s important to tailor your preparation for a buyer meeting based on their specific retail needs. Understanding the specific issues of your counterpart will ensure you prepare a robust presentation. Here are some key steps to help you to prepare yourself for this meeting: As the saying goes “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”

Research the retailer environment
Before the meeting, do some research on the retailer’s competitive environment. This allows you to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer(s) helping you to highlight your product and your company as viable supplier. Here are some of the key steps required to make a robust preparation:

  1. Research the market: Before the meeting, conduct market research to gain a better understanding of the customer’s positioning and target audience. Look for trends and patterns that may indicate areas where your private label products could fill a gap, address an unmet need, or solve a problem.
  2. Review the customer’s current offerings: Take a close look at the customer’s current product offerings to identify any gaps or opportunities for your products. For example, if the customer has a line of organic snacks but no gluten-free options, this may be an opportunity for you to offer a private label gluten-free snack.
  3. Understand their current supplier base: If you can find out their current supplier, trying to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how they compare against your business will help you shape your proposal.
  4. Does the retailer look for third party accreditation: Some retailers require suppliers to hold third party accreditation for food safety such as BRC or IFS. They may also look for companies to be aligned to antislavery and fair business practice through organisations like Sedex. Many retailers detail these requirements on their websites.
  5. How does the retailer’s distribution operate: Do they operate centralised distribution, minimum / maximum pallet heights, special types of pallets, do they use dedicated haulage companies. All of this can have a major impact on pricing.
  6. Consider pricing and value: Pricing is an important factor for retailers, so be mindful of how your products compare to the customer’s current offerings in terms of value for money. Look for ways to differentiate your products and offer unique value to the customer.
  7. Look for areas of innovation: Innovation is a key driver of growth in many categories, so consider whether your products can offer something new or different to the customer’s current range. For example, you may be able to offer a new flavour or format that the customer does not currently offer.
  8. Seek confirmation prior to the meeting:  If possible, check that your proposed agenda is aligned with the buyer. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback on your ideas and proposals. This can help you refine your offer and better understand their needs and priorities.

Understand local regulations
The FMCG industry is highly regulated, so it is important to understand any relevant regulations or standards that may impact your products. Especially if you intend to export into a new country. Be prepared to discuss how your product meets these requirements and potentially seek support from national export agencies who could provide extensive information (quality standards, tax legislation, import duties, etc…)

Highlight food safety measures and supply chain excellence
Food safety is a top priority for retailers, so be prepared to discuss the measures you take to ensure the safety and quality of your products. This may include information about your manufacturing processes, quality control procedures, and certifications. Furthermore, guaranteeing a steady supply is becoming a crucial point for retailers who do not want to end up with empty shelves. Be sure to explain your procedure to secure the supply of your main raw materials.

Bring product samples and specifications
even if this seems a logical, many suppliers do not bring their own samples to meetings. It is always helpful to bring physical samples of your products to the meeting, as well as detailed specifications such as ingredient lists, nutrition information, allergen information, and packaging details. The ideal sample is one that can be tasted/tested and presented in a mock-up design version. This helps to bring the product to life for the buyer. If your product requires preparation or cooking make sure they have the facilities needed, this may require booking a kitchen slot and even taking someone to prepare the product for you.

Be prepared to discuss packaging and labelling
Packaging and labelling are important considerations, so be prepared to discuss how your products can be customised to meet the retailer’s branding (online specific design, logo size and colours, etc…) and packaging requirements (eco conception, plastic reduction, etc…)

Leverage on environmental attributes
Many retailers openly highlight their focus on sustainability in their annual reports or on their websites. Checking these to ensure your product meets or exceeds their standards is vital. Emphasising a lower environmental impact of your product is a great way to differentiate yourself and appeal to retailers who for the vast majority of them, prioritise sustainability. This will help you to:

  1. Quantify the environmental impact: To effectively communicate the environmental benefits of your product, it is important to quantify its impact in a meaningful way. For example, you might calculate the amount of carbon emissions saved by using sustainable materials or the amount of waste diverted from landfills through recycling initiatives. Understanding what the retailer currently focuses on will ensure you tailor your message correctly.
  2. Highlight sustainable materials: If your product uses sustainable materials or production methods, be sure to highlight these in your marketing materials and product packaging. This can help customers understand the environmental benefits of your product at a glance.
  3. Leverage certifications: If your product has been certified by a reputable third-party organisation for its sustainability, be sure to highlight this in your marketing materials.
  4. Highlight the key takeaways of any potential CRS report you might already have in your organisation. Having a clear strategy allows retailers to evaluate potential long-term relationship.

Follow up
After the meeting, follow up with the buyer to thank them for their time. Also reiterate the benefits of your products and confirm any agreed action points. As part of this try to supply information that demonstrates your leadership in your own category. Buyers will always trust and value suppliers with an up-to-date view on their market developments (innovation, competition, legislation) This can help keep your company and products top of mind, increasing the chances of a successful partnership.

Determine the best time of day to schedule a meeting
Depending on the buyer’s role and industry, there may be certain times of day that are particularly busy or stressful. For example, if the buyer is responsible for managing a grocery store, they may be busiest during peak shopping hours. Avoid scheduling meetings during these busy times to minimise disruptions. Depending on the complexity of your product offering or the scope of the meeting, the buyer may need time to review materials or prepare questions in advance. Be sure to schedule the meeting with enough lead time to allow for adequate preparation.

If you need support to improve your organisation’s skills ‘to prepare for your buyer meetings’, contact us to find more about our dedicated Private Label approach at info@iplc-europe.com

This is 6th newsletter in a series of 12 that we will publish in the coming months. In the next newsletter we will send out in March we will discuss ‘Is your Private Label strategy still fit for purpose?’

The topics of the previous newsletters were:

  • How to become a Private label supplier of choice
  • Being the best Private Label Operator
  • The Art of Negotiation for Private Label Contracts
  • Supercharge your business for your next trade show
  • It’s not just Price that will Win you more Business

All newsletters can be found on the IPLC website To read more


It’s not just Price that will Win you more Business

By Koen de Jong and Paul Stainton

Gone are the days when the cheapest price will win a tender for Private Label business.

The most successful players in the European Private Label industry are capable of creating added value on top of the physical product. Although this is difficult to measure, it can be of significant importance in the consideration by a retailer to award a contract to a new supplier or to remain with the existing one. It boils down to the skill to compete on elements other than price alone.

Those manufacturers capable of building and maintaining successful partnerships with the retail trade achieve an invaluable competitive advantage. In some cases, they succeed in adding so much extra value to the product that the retailer is prepared to pay a small premium for this, or will decide not to switch suppliers. Strong account management skills, a proactive attitude in solving problems for the retailer before they can arise, and a good performance in the field of collaborative replenishment and stock control are the most highly valued.

Private label suppliers should be more than manufacturers, they should also be able to provide value as analysts, designers, business consultants and innovators. It is about achieving operational excellence and building sustainable partnerships.

Here are just two examples of how value can be added to the physical product – there are many more.

Sense of urgency

Retailers are faced with the challenge of keeping shelves stocked with a wide range of items every day. A large part of this is fresh or chilled convenience. Supply chain management, in order to guarantee a complete assortment on the shelves with no out-of-stocks, is an immense operation.

Therefore, it makes sense that retailers are demanding and not interested in problems and complexity from the side of the manufacturer. The last thing they need are suppliers that are difficult to contact or with communication that is slow and inefficient. The extent to which a company is proactive and capable of preventing problems of any nature for the retailer is of major importance. This and how they manage to overcome difficulties promptly and effectively, determines the trust the retailer has in the supplier. A relationship with few issues and high supply and service levels will lead to a satisfactory, and hopefully long-term, working relationship.

The speed at which a manufacturer can communicate externally with their counterparts at the retail-end strongly depends upon the degree of internal communication within their own organisation. That is why all departments within the organisation of a Private Label manufacturer must have a highly developed sense of urgency. This also has major consequences for the organisation structure of a Private Label manufacturer which tends to be flat with short communication lines.

 Market knowledge

It is commonly known that buyers and category managers have too little time to even visit their own stores, let alone competing stores. For this reason, it is important that account managers of dedicated Private Label manufacturers pay frequent visits to stores. This will allow them to quickly detect new developments within the category. The careful monitoring of changes such as retail price movement of branded and Private Label products, product introductions and delistings, packaging changes, features and sizes, form part of the basic duties of the account manager.

Furthermore, small-scale consumer research and data analysis can support the gained insights. Current and sound market knowledge, but above all the willingness to share unique information based upon own research and insight, is highly appreciated by the category manager.

Consequently, the account manager becomes a ‘category consultant’, making it easier for them to arrange a meeting with the retailer. After all, the retailer knows they will be much the wiser discussing issues with an account manager who can be relied on to provide great up-to-date category insight, likely resulting in the retailer sharing more from their side. In this way, the account manager can pick up crucial information that can be translated into business opportunities or threats. Based on these insights, new product development and adequate commercial action can be initiated.

If you need support to improve your organisation’s skills ‘to compete on other elements than price alone’, contact us to find more about our dedicated Private Label approach at info@iplc-europe.com

This is 5th newsletter in a series of 12 that we will publish in the coming months. In the next newsletter we will send out in March we will discuss ‘The ultimate preparation for your customer meetings’

The topics of the previous newsletters were:

  • How to become a Private label supplier of choice
  • Being the best Private Label Operator
  • The Art of Negotiation for Private Label Contracts
  • Supercharge your business for your next trade show


All newsletters can be found on the IPLC website To read more

Private Label Seminar 22 May

A New Era for Private Label

Navigating New Retailer Buying Strategies

So much has changed in the last three years: Brexit, COVID, the war in Ukraine and the current inflation crisis. The balance of power has shifted back and forth between retailers and manufacturers.

We are seeing retailers deploying new strategies. Some are long-term, collaborative and partnership-focused. Others are short-term, tactical and aggressive. Suppliers have needed to act quickly with counter selling strategies.

In the next few months IPLC will conclude research to understand key retailer buying strategies and will make recommendations to enable suppliers and manufacturers face confidently into the new world of Private Label, helping you to navigate through challenges and opportunities.

These will be shared, along with the latest insight into Private Label developments across Europe, at our 5th Private Label Seminar in Amsterdam, to be held in the afternoon on Monday 22nd May, prior to the Private Labels show.

Stay tuned, more information to follow in the near future.

More details or to subscribe now

IPLC Opens Office in North America

We are pleased to announce that Sandra Farwell has joined IPLC. Based in Toronto, Canada she will run the office in the position of Partner Northern America.

Sandra has over 30 years experience in the International Private Label Market, leading buying and Private Label teams across food and non-food categories.
Sandra started as a food buyer at Marks & Spencer and then moved over to Loblaw Companies in Canada, where she progressed to Senior Director of Merchandising. She developed many Private Label ranges across ambient, frozen, fresh and non food.

She became a Vice president of Private Label at Walmart Canada and then took over as a Walmart International Global Officer of Private Label in the United States. She oversaw Private Label programs in 10 different countries including China, India, Mexico, Canada, South America and the UK.

“With Private label sales growing significantly in North America as the cost of living increases, it is a great time to open a North American IPLC office.

In Europe, Private Label sales already account for a much larger chunk of grocery purchases than North America. So it will be beneficial to share learning and experience from the 9 European countries IPLC currently operates in, with North American suppliers and retailers.

I look forward to adding my expertise of North America to IPLC’s team of International consultants”.

Koen de Jong, Managing Partner IPLC:
“We are delighted with the arrival of Sandra because it finally gives us the opportunity to open our first office outside Europe. After Europe, Canada and the US are markets with the highest market share for Private label.

We see great opportunities to link the expertise built up on both sides of the ocean and thus provide our clients with an even better service.

Sandra will establish a Private Label Group modeled on the 14 groups that IPLC already has in 9 European countries. In addition, she offers her knowledge and experience to European producers of Private Label who wish to enter the American or Canadian market or who already supply there”.

For more information or to contact Sandra directly:

Supercharge your Business for your Next Trade Show

Trade shows can be an effective way for businesses to showcase their products or services, network with potential clients and partners, and gather market intelligence. We regularly discuss trade shows with commercial directors in our Private Label Groups and gather that most of the preparation time is dedicated to the logistics of the event: stand preparation, samples, arranging events for own employees and/or clients, accommodation, transport, etc.


Only a few are really prepared for what needs to happen during the show itself. As former buyers, we encountered numerous suppliers with impressive stands, but barely any preparation for discussion with potential buyers. Retailers send their buyers expecting them to be as effective as possible. Efficient meetings are therefore crucial for the buyer, but often the buyer is faced with unprepared potential suppliers. The buyer has to explain in detail about their retailer, their position in the market, their quality, ESR and logistics requirements, before they can even start talking about what specific products may be suitable for them.


A trade show is an ideal platform for suppliers to meet potential new customers and, when a buyer comes to your stand, it is imperative to make the most of the time you have to spend with them, making the maximum impact possible. Crucially, you don’t want to jeopardize any future potential relationship with a poor performance during the show.


Therefore, for your next trade show, if you want to make the most use of the buyer’s availability (and make them happy):


  1. Determine your goals: What do you want to achieve at the trade show? Do you want to generate leads, showcase your products, network with potential partners, or gather market intelligence? Identifying your goals will help you focus your efforts and allocate your resources effectively.


  1. Research the trade show: Find out as much as you can about it, including the size, demographics, and local retail environment. Look for opportunities to stand out, such as by participating in a panel discussion or sponsoring an event. And obviously understand the local retail dynamics by visiting stores in the local area.


  1. Promote your participation: Use social media, email marketing, and other channels to promote your participation in the trade show and encourage people to visit your stand.


  1. Prepare marketing materials: Develop materials that clearly communicate the value of your products or services adapted to the market environment and potential leads.


  1. Train your team: Ensure that your team members are knowledgeable about your products or services and are prepared to answer questions from potential clients and partners. Make sure that people know each other roles and that there is always someone on the stand.


  1. Book meetings ahead of the show with your current and potential customers. Buyers are very busy during the show opening hours and appreciate a specific time to meet you on your stand. Ensure you prepare fully, understanding the buyer’s current range and their retailer requirements along with the retailer’s current performance in their markets.


  1. Follow up after the trade show: Don’t let potential leads go cold. Follow up with anyone you meet at the trade show within a few days to reinforce your value proposition and encourage them to take the next step.


In addition to these general steps, you may want to consider focusing on the following areas specific to private label products:


  • Highlight the unique features and benefits of your private label products.
  • Demonstrate the value proposition of your private label products for retailers and other businesses.
  • Showcase the range of private label products you offer, as well as any customization options.
  • Discuss your private label manufacturing capabilities and capacity as availability may become crucial for retailers.
  • Share any relevant case studies or testimonials from customers who have successfully used your private label products.


You might be thinking that simply being present is sufficient, but well-prepared teams will achieve a higher number of leads during trade shows. Use this unique momentum to grasp the attention of potential buyers with a clear and unique message.


If you need support to ‘supercharge your business for trade shows’, contact us to find more about our dedicated private label approach.

Being the best Private Label operator

It is vital to focus on a few critical key areas to become a best in class operator

By Koen de Jong and Paul Stainton

The private label market can be characterised as a quasi monopsony. This is a market form in which a few very powerful buyers interface with many suppliers. It results in very fierce competition amongst suppliers, made even more intense due to an overcapacity in manufacturing in almost every category.

Without retailers, manufacturers of private label products simply cannot get their products in front of the consumer. For a manufacturer, a contract to supply a retailer may represent a significant proportion of its overal sales. For the retailer on the other end, one contract will represent only a small fraction of its overall business. This considerably increases the bargaining power of retailers.

In these difficult market conditions, the private label supplier must have a clear vision and strategy to ensure they are an efficient operator and a supplier of choice for their retail customers. It is vital to focus on a few critical key areas to become a best in class operator.

Below we highlight three of them.

Managing complexity in production

As individual retail customers have their own specifications for products to be supplied under private label, the manufacturer often has hundreds of different stock keeping units (SKUs) to deal with, creating huge complexity in the production factory.

Mistakes can often be made if a wrong ingredient or packaging component is used. With high-speed filling lines, the consequences can be quite dramatic. Furthermore, it is a challenge for a manufacturer to keep machine downtime to a minimum. Another consequence of this enormous variety in the product range is the need to hold relatively high stocks, tying up working capital, not only of finished products (in order to be able to react to orders promptly) but also of raw materials, packaging and auxiliary materials. To reduce the risk of packaging material or exclusive raw materials becoming obsolete, excellent stock-keeping procedures must be in place.

Efficient allocation of resources and driving out costs

Private label manufacturers work in a highly competitive market, often having to deal with relatively one-sided trading relationships. Therefore, it is of vital importance to a private label manufacturer to handle both labour and capital with extreme efficiency. Furthermore, there is the constant looming threat of losing the supply contract to a cheaper competitor. It is therefore essential to remain competitive by keeping a very keen eye on the costs base of the company as a whole. A branded manufacturer is often able to absorb forced price reductions or a rise in production costs as it generally has better margins. Alternatively, there is the possibility of reducing marketing and product development expenses.

This, however, is a luxury unknown to the private label manufacturer. As a rule, competition is fierce, and it is a constant battle for manufacturers to try and keep costs down as they simply do not get away with inefficiencies. It is characteristic for the private label industry to put a very lean structure in place and to continuously, and sometimes almost obsessively, attempt to cut costs. Cost culture, in both thought and action, has to be deeply ingrained in the company’s fabric.

In attempting to reduce costs, activity-based costing can provide managers with important insights into the factors that are of influence on the total costs within the company. Traditional costing systems often fail to accurately determine the actual costs of production and the costs of related services. Consequently, managers make decisions based on inaccurate data, especially where multiple products are involved as is the case in a private label organisation.

Instead of using broad arbitrary percentages to allocate costs, activity-based costing seeks to identify cause-and-effect relationships to objectively assign costs. Once costs of the activities have been identified, the cost of each activity is attributed to each product to the extent that the product uses the activity. In this way, areas of high overhead costs per unit can be identified and attention directed to finding ways to reduce the costs or to charge more for costly products. If multiple products share common costs that are not allocated to the correct products, there is a danger of one product subsidising another. Activity-based costing is of great value for product and customer portfolio analysis.

Competing on elements other than just price

The successful players in the European private label industry are capable of creating added value on top of the physical product. Although this is difficult to measure, it can be of significant importance in the consideration by the retailer to award a contract to a new supplier or to remain with the existing one. The ways in which to add value on top of the physical product in order to compete on other elements than price alone will be explained in one of the upcoming IPLC Newsletters.

Contact us should you would wish to learn more about how to become a best in class private label operator on info@iplc-europe.com.

In the next newsletter we will send out in November our colleague Malachy O’Connor will discuss ‘The Art of Negotiating Private Label contracts’.

This is the second newsletter in a series of 12 that we will publish in the coming months. The previous newsletter ‘How to become a private label supplier of choice’ was published on 14 September and can be found on our website. To read more