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What is a White Label Product?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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White labeling is a manufacturing strategy adopted in large numbers several decades ago, primarily by grocery stores, and then quickly followed by other retailers. In order to establish brand loyalty, grocery stores in particular would commission other manufacturers to create products for them. These would then be labeled with the store’s label, rather than that of the initial manufacturer. Since shoppers could only get the store brand items at that particular store, the hope was to inspire customers to maintain loyalty to a particular store or company.

Consumers can see many examples of white label products at grocery stores and at other retail outlets. Trader Joe’s, for instance, carries a significant number of store brand products that are labeled “Trader Joe’s.” These are usually offered at prices much less expensive than “brand” name labels, but the quality is frequently comparable if not better than those things sold with a different brand. In fact, especially in specialty markets like Trader Joe’s, shoppers may be getting a considerable deal on high end products.

White label product types aren’t only restricted to food. Many huge retailers, big box stores, and the like now have their own exclusive brand. Not every store brand product is created equal, however, and some are cheap knock-offs of better quality brand names. Still, many do represent similar or better quality than brand name products.

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It may be hard to get a store to disclose the original manufacturer of a white label product. In a way, this is not in the interest of the store, since the shopper then knows where else he or she can purchase the product. Other stores are more open about manufacturers, and this has become especially important in regards to food manufacturing.

Consumers who buy white label food, particularly since food safety has become such an issue in recent years, may want to know who is making the product. Any recalls of food items often begin with listing the manufacturer of the food, and may not be able to list all labels under which the products are sold. If shoppers know the manufacturer and where the food is grown or made, they can make better choices as a consumer.

Knowing the manufacturer can also help consumers decide whether the white label product is a better value or quality than its brand name competitors, or whether they would not purchase the product because they find the manufacturing company does not meet their standards for quality, safety, or ethics in conducting business. This is a problem, since information on the real manufacturers may be hard to come by. It’s also difficult to find out whether these products support local businesses or sustainable agriculture.

Another trend in white labeling is occurring on the Internet. This is when companies prepackage services or things like e-books, which people can sell from their own sites. The jury is out on whether white label Internet products or services will ultimately prove profitable.

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honeybees
Post 11

I have three kids and live on a tight budget which means I have to make my food dollars stretch as far as I can. I use coupons and buy white label products to get the most from my money.

I have never added up the actual difference in price, but know that I save money every week by buying as many white label products as I can. Most of the time I don't see much difference in the quality and am thankful that I have food to make for my family.

julies
Post 10

When it comes to buying a white label food product I will try something once. If I find the quality to be as good or better than a name brand, then I will continue to buy that item.

I have to say that I have usually been disappointed in a lot of the food items I buy. I am pretty loyal to brands that I like, but if something doesn't measure up, I won't keep buying it just because it is cheaper.

Some of the white label products that I have really been disappointed in are cheese and canned products. I have had the best results buying white label frozen vegetables.

andee
Post 9

When I was shopping for some paint at Wal-Mart the employee told me their paint was the same as a well-known major brand, but packaged with a different label.

I figured if this was exactly the same paint it would save me some money. I could get a high quality paint at a much cheaper price. I ended up being disappointed. The paint was runny and did not have a thick consistency that I was looking for.

It might have been made by the same manufacturer, but it was definitely not one of their premium paints. The next time I need to buy some paint, I will stick with the major brands that I trust.

myharley
Post 8

I have had better luck buying white label products that are not food related. I have no problem buying white label medications because if you look at the list of ingredients most of them are the same. I always compare how much active ingredient is in each one, and there is rarely a difference.

If they didn't work as well, I would spend the extra money for the name brand, but so far I have found them to be just as effective while saving me money at the same time.

seag47
Post 7

I always worry about food recalls, so I stick with name brands of food. I don't want to wind up with food poisoning or some awful food-related illness because I didn't know whether or not my brand of food was infected. I don't mind spending a few more cents here and there for this peace of mind.

healthy4life
Post 6

Sometimes, white label products are just not as high quality as other brands. I have noticed that the store brand of freezer bags does not seal as well as the more expensive brand, and I have also noticed that the packaging of some food items isn't as complex or as secure with the white label versions.

I do enjoy the taste of my store's brand of potato chips and cookies, but I dislike the flavor of their pasta sauce and their frozen corn on the cob. You never really know if it will be good until you try it, though, and since the items are fairly cheap, you don't lose a whole lot by experimenting.

StarJo
Post 5

I have a friend who is obsessed with collecting and using coupons, and she refuses to buy white label products because she can't find coupons on them. I told her that she would likely save more by buying them than she would by using the coupons on the more expensive brands.

Since many coupons for food items are for 50 cents, this is true. Even when the brand name items only cost $2.50, you will often be able to find the white label version for $1.75 or some similar price.

JackWhack
Post 4

@cafe41 – I agree with you. I have been buying the store brand of my allergy medication for years, and it works just as well as the expensive kind.

You really notice the price difference on items that are kind of high. The allergy medication that I use was once only available by prescription, so even though it is now sold over the counter, it retains a higher price than drugs that have always been sold over the counter.

If I were to buy the well-known brand of this medication, I would spend about $10 more on the product, even though the ingredients are identical to those in the store brand. I see no sense in that.

anon151557
Post 3

White labeling seems to be the latest jargon for what most people know as "private labeling," which existed for at least most of the 20th century. If you ever bought an SS Pierce can of anything, you were purchasing a private-labeled product.

cafe41
Post 2

Crispety- Another area where this happens is with over the counter drugs. If you buy the CVS or Walgreens brand of Tylenol you will save several dollars a bottle instead of buying the name brand.

In addition, if you look at the ingredients they are exactly the same as Tylenol.

You are basically paying for the advertising costs and packaging. There are a lot of while label products that offer really good quality.

Some people have the misconception that just because it is cheaper, then the product must be inferior, but that is not correct.

Crispety
Post 1

A white label product is really a product with the store’s name. These products provide the consumer with cheaper more cost effective merchandise to buy and at the same time these products offer a higher gross margin to the store.

The store gains more profits when the white label products are purchased. Since these products are not advertised, the store can offer these products at much cheaper levels. For example, the Office Depot brand pencils that come in a 12 pack are sold for $1.29, while the Ticonderoga are sold at $2.59 more than double the price. If you look at for while labels you can really save a lot of money and chances are the products are identical.

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