Consumers see the USP Verified Mark on national brand vitamins, minerals and supplements, and expect store brand products to carry the seal, too. Some chains have been participating for years, Atwater said. “It does highlight the fact their products are high quality,” he said. “It also helps with risk management.”
While third-party testing is crucial, subjective tests are valuable, too. Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens has its own brands, including Finest Nutrition Free & Pure Gummy Vitamins, tested by a third party to help ensure the active ingredients have the same strength and effectiveness as the national brands. Earlier this year, the retailer noted on its website that it has an in-house test kitchen where employees are encouraged to sample the chain’s private label products, including gummy vitamins and supplements. While they do not taste all products — melatonin would be an impractical choice for the workday — employees do note whether size, shape, gloss and sheen are comparable to leading brands on the market. They also try other items, including snacks and beauty products.
Making sure their own gummies are comparable to national brands is just one indication that retailers are boosting their own VMS assortments. “I think most large retailers are trying to increase overall private label penetration,” said Chuck Tacl, vice president of sales and business development for Miami Lakes, Fla.-based Mason Vitamins. “Everybody is doing that in different ways, whether advertising, expanding assortment, or merchandising in other departments and other categories. That’s an area a lot of retailers are looking at.”
Instead of displaying vitamins, minerals and supplements in one aisle, innovative retailers are merchandising the products in other areas of the store, such as in beauty, sleep, and eye and ear care. Even retailers that had previously kept their VMS assortments limited are now identifying gaps and expanding their sets, which can help generate sales and build consumer loyalty. “They have done a good job of expanding, and now the shopper is not walking to another store to find that item,” Tacl said.
He added that during the pandemic, some private label manufacturers dropped out of the VMS business. “We benefited because we have the capacity,” he said. “That has helped our business.”
Another detail that can help private label VMS sales is that consumers are looking at price. Also according to IRI, private label vitamins averaged $8.16 per unit, compared to $12.07 for national brands. Both of these were increases, of $0.27 for private label and $0.20 for national brands, compared to the same period the previous year.