“La Boulange”

In case you don’t frequent Starbucks, “La Boulange” is their new and improved line of pastry products. I have never tasted one, I just like the coffee.
The overload of private label products in almost every store I visit is what bothers me. I understand why these big companies (Target, Costco, Whole Foods, BJ’s, Wal-Mart, etc.) think it’s a wonderful idea. Here is their reasoning, as best as I can deduce:

  • Branding: The assumption is that customers trust the brand. Whole Foods removes fifteen different outside vendors for Coffee Beans and Cereals, and then fills the shelf with their “365” versions of the same products. They figure when I walk in the store, I will buy it because everything Whole Foods puts out is good.
  • Pricing: They seize control of the manufacturing process from other vendors. They’ll go to a perhaps lesser known coffee farm or cereal maker and say, “Make me this, cheaper.” In some cases, the cereal that looks like Cheerios might even actually still be made by General Mills – just in a different box. Other times, it will be done ‘in-house’ or outsourced. Either way, they negotiate the cost and can then sell it for $1 cheaper than the original.

Sometimes, this is a good thing. Other times, not so much.

I think we have reached the point of overkill. Yes, I do like to shop at Whole Foods. No, I do not blindly trust them or think that they actually make cereal or grow coffee beans. So now I am faced with uncertainty: Where did that stuff come from? In what kind of conditions was it produced?

How about the small to mid-sized vendors that are getting pushed off the shelves? You might think, “Survival of the fittest – if they can’t compete on price, they deserve to lose.” Before you do, take a look inside that bag of Archer Farms or Kirkland Trail Mix. Does it have the same percentage of nuts to raisins as the old one? No? That’s why it’s cheaper.

If a brand you loved is gone from your supermarket, look them up on the web and find out where you can buy it.

I don’t know about you, but I like choices – not being dictated to.

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