The family of brands at Food City, The Shelby Report of the Southeast’s Retailer of the Year, includes thousands of items across nearly every category.
A combination of nationally recognized and local private label offerings provide customers with quality and value. Each brand is backed by a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. If customers aren’t pleased, they can get a refund or free replacement.
The list of Food City brands includes recognizable names such as Crav’n, Food Club, That’s Smart! and Simply Done, among others. The company has its own branded items under the Food City, Food City Premium Ice Cream and Food City Fresh brands. The retailer keeps longtime branding partnerships with local brands referred to as “legacy brands.” These are exclusive to Food City and include Kern’s Bread, Kay’s Ice Cream, Lay Meats, Terry’s Snack Foods and Moore’s Potato Chips.
Food City has restored these brands that had “fallen by the wayside” by recreating them as close to the original recipe as possible, according to Drew Hembree, VP and managing partner of JCS Sales, K-VA-T Food Store Inc.’s internal brokerage unit that predominantly covers private label.
In one instance, Food City was able to contact the original founding family of Kay’s Ice Cream to get the recipe.
“We take great care in trying to match as best as we could to the original recipes…we’ve been able to get some of those original formulations to be faithful to the names that we’re putting back out there on the packaging,” Hembree said.
Food City is a member of Elk Grove, Illinois-based Topco. This relationship, along with its own and legacy brands, gives the retailer a distinct advantage.
JCS represents more than 200 companies of various sizes that make up the portfolio of private brands.
“You have some, like Treehouse Foods, which is a big company, and they make 200-250 SKUs for us. Then you have some that are very specific and only make one SKU. We have one company that just makes one brand of mouth lozenge for us. So to do that, we really do lean on Topco,” Hembree explained.
K-VA-T does not have a quality assurance lab, making the partnership with Topco vital to maintaining quality. Topco is continuously testing and cutting products that don’t meet quality requirements.
“We don’t have as many Food City branded items as we did in the 1990s and early 2000s, but people know that Food Club and Crav’n are Food City brands. If we’re going to put our name behind it, we want to make sure the quality is there,” Hembree said.
As customers continue to see their grocery bills rise, private-label brands have become an important part of their baskets. Part of Hembree’s job is to ensure that Food City’s offerings maintain a “strong gap between national brand and entry-level private label.”
Private label is separated by Food City into three categories – entry-level, first tier and premium. Food City’s That’s Smart! is the company’s highest value entry-level brand, with hundreds of everyday essential products across the store.
High-value brands have become important to Food City and its customers. They help Food City compete against competitors, build relationships with customers and continue to deliver on the quality guarantee. Hembree said he learned when starting out in the industry that providing offerings that appeal to any customer is the best way to provide value.
“When I was working at a store as an assistant manager, it instilled in me the need to treat everybody with respect, but have an offering out there that can hit every single demographic. Because you never know what somebody’s situation is. Some situations are permanent, some situations are transitory. But to have a good quality offering out there at a price point is what we offer. It’s what That’s Smart! offers. And that’s what we use to fight [the competition],” he explained.
Food City has some of the highest brand penetration among Topco members. This has created consumer confidence. Some of the brands that Food City offers, such as Food Club, have been part of the company’s portfolio for more than 20 years. As the retailer moves into new markets – including its expansion in Alabama – that trust needs to be established.
“We make sure that around 35-40 percent of all planned displays are private label,” Hembree said. “It doesn’t have to be competing items, it can be complementary items. We work to make sure that we have a presence, that we have our fair share of ad space, making sure that we’re top of mind when it comes to digital ads and make sure new and exciting offers are brought with any of the things that we’re doing differently,” Hembree said.
He added that he sees single solution brands such as Crav’n – which “blurs the line between national and private label brands” – to be the future of private label. Crav’n began as a cookie and crackers brand but has expanded into more categories, including frozen and meat. Offering premium brands like Crav’n and Simply Done gives Food City an advantage.