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Private Label Blended Oils: From Idea To In Stock

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By Kevin Cyr, director of retail sales, Catania Oils

As the edible oil market continues to experience significant volatility, retailers are feeling the sting of high prices. Many are considering alternative options to straight oil, hoping to find a solution that is simultaneously profitable and appealing to consumers on inflation-induced budgets. At Catania Oils, we have seen many retailers turn to blended oils as a way to combat high prices of straight oil and have helped them navigate the challenges along the way. Here are six tried-and-true strategies to help retailers successfully bring blended products from scheme to shelf.

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Kevin Cyr

Give consumers the option

The ultimate goal of adding a blended oil to shelves is to keep consumers in your store and in the category of olive oil in general. High prices of straight oil will eventually force consumers to seek alternative options. If they can’t find those options on store shelves, some may switch over to a cheaper, 100% alternative like vegetable oil and never return to the olive oil category. Others may choose to patronize a different store entirely, one that offers an array of options that fit their needs. In times like this, it’s essential to give olive oil customers a choice – or they will go and find it somewhere else.

Stay flexible

If there’s one positive outcome of recent supply chain issues, it’s an increased awareness of the myriad of alternative solutions available in a crisis. Retailers have become experts in flexibility. Now, with the edible oil market showing extreme volatility, first with vegetable oil and palm oil, and now with olive oil, retailers are once again taking a hard look at how to help themselves. Maintaining flexibility is key in tackling market volatility head on. What worked for you six months ago may not work now, and will probably not work six months from now. Pursuing a new path could yield positive results. As the market changes, so should your strategy. Blended oils, for example, are no longer exclusively a foodservice item. Retailers are increasingly acknowledging the value of adding blended products to their shelves. 

Embrace the customization process

Blended oils can be extensively customized to meet your needs and those of your customers. Foodservice uses a set of traditional blends, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. In fact, creating a blend suited to your specific customer base may just yield better results. Different oils can be combined to meet specific taste, nutritional, or budgetary requirements. Organic and non-GMO blends are also possible. Industry professionals like Catania Oils can provide valuable insight throughout the customization process.

Invest in your company

Retailers must stay proactive in retaining customers. Investing in a blended product can help keep customers in your store during this period of volatility – the value of which cannot be overstated. Nevertheless, it can take a long time to bring a product from concept to shelf. Designing and creating the blend can take a month or more; labeling takes a minimum of 4-6 weeks; and artwork tacks on another week. All in all, it will be a few months before your product is ready to hit the shelves. This timeline can cause retailers to second guess making the investment. However, creating a blended oil will not only provide financial security in the present, it’s also an investment in the future. Given the edible oil market’s history of volatility, having an oil blend prepared and ready to go in advance can help your company conquer the next period of volatility with confidence. 

Educate your customers

With no indication that oil prices will drop anytime soon, demand destruction will likely occur for straight oils down the line. Providing consumers with viable alternatives like a blended product will prevent retailers from experiencing financial strain when this inevitably occurs; however, getting the product onto shelves is only the first step. There is an educational component for consumers that cannot be ignored. With so many edible oil varieties on store shelves, consumers may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. They will likely also be hesitant to purchase a product outside of their go-to, especially when it’s not a straight oil.

While industry professionals know that blended oils have always been a great alternative to straight oils, a lack of information has made blended oils unpopular amongst consumers. The prevalence of food fraud in the edible oil industry has further eroded consumer trust in blended oils. We are now in a window where consumers are open to switching things up if it means saving some cash – but only if they are properly informed. There are several methods retailers can use to encourage the sale of blended products. 

  • Tailor your product to your target customer through white labeling. Health-focused consumers may wrinkle their noses at a product labeled ‘everyday blend’ but be attracted to one called ‘Mediterranean blend’. On the other hand, budget-conscious consumers looking for the most versatile option may have the opposite reaction. Tailored labels allow customers to see that blended oils can provide the same nutritional needs as straight oils at a lower price. 
  • Adding signage on the shelf that details the contents and possible uses for the blend will draw necessary attention to the product and help the consumer understand its versatility. Strategically placing products in various locations and offering various sizes will also help draw attention. 
  • Start conversations with customers by adding the product to weekly circulars. Place its image and description in a prime location and discuss its various uses. 
  • Get your product into peoples’ hands and mouths with in-store demos or take-home portion packs. Product trial drives business. Bonus points if the consumer takes home a sell-sheet with their sample – now they have a product to try and a description of how to use it. Putting a recipe on your sell-sheet makes it doubly attractive.
  • Make sure you deliver a consistently high-quality product to consumers. Edible oil fraud has increasingly made news headlines, prompting consumers to become wary of the industry. Since fraud can occur at any point along the supply chain, choosing a supplier with testing facilities that can guarantee the authenticity of their products will ensure you deliver a consistent, tasty, authentic product with every batch. 

Go in with a game plan

Adding a new product to shelves can be an overwhelming process, and it’s not always obvious that taking the plunge will yield positive results. For retailers who might be on the fence, here’s a sample game plan that will let you “test drive” adding a blend to shelves. Manufacturers like Catania Oils already offer oil blends under our brands, like Marconi and La Spagnola. Retailers can add one of these already-developed blends to shelves and see how it goes over with consumers. If that product sells well, then retailers can return to the manufacturer and sell the same product as a private label blend, or create a unique new one. 

Creating a new product in the midst of market volatility can be a daunting, yet rewarding, process. With these six strategies, your company can successfully navigate the challenge of bringing blended products to your shelves.

Read more by our Industry Leaders from The Shelby Report.

About Kevin Cyr

Kevin Cyr is director of retail sales for Catania Oils, the Northeast’s largest processor and packager of plant-based oils including olive, vegetable, blended and specialty oils for bulk, food service, retail and private label. For more information, visit cataniaoils.com.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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