With that combined experience, it’s no surprise that the reintroduction of the IGA Exclusive Brand would land with such style and a comprehensive hyper-local marketing program — both in-store and digitally.
“We relaunched the brand under a new tagline called, ‘Local Equals Fresh,’” said Ross. “Each retailer, they’re independents, which means we are a case study in hyperlocal marketing. That’s the thing that big brands have trouble doing. They want to be more locally engaged, but there’s so much efficiency in having a homogenous assortment that it’s very hard for them to do.”
It’s the opposite for IGA, he said. “If you’ve got an urban store, if you’ve got a store that serves a Hispanic community or an African American community or a Polish community, if you go to a store that’s intensely rural or suburban, each of those stores is going to have a unique assortment, and they’re going to market in different ways,” he added.
In total, IGA works with more than 1,200 independent grocery stores in the United States and close to 5,000 in 30 countries around the world. The retailers pick and choose which IGA Exclusive Brand items fit their store and get merchandising materials to promote the items, with an emphasis on items being locally sourced.
Ross said the first red IGA letters began appearing on its own brand of packaging more than 50 years ago, possibly even before the concept of private label was really known. IGA formed in 1926, emerging as a way to battle the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea company, the dominant national chain at the time. It was a buying cooperative that did futures trading, buying commodity products, and innovated in many ways since those early days. More than 100 years later, it’s still going strong.
Groscurth kept the association’s history in mind when embarking on a full-scale redesign, wanting to create something modern but not shake up any of the built-in trust that the brand had earned over the years. She said she wanted the look to be “cutting edge” that leveraged the brand’s heritage through the signature trademark IGA, a vivid red craft paper color and top-notch photography.
Those are the key elements in the redesign, represented in the assortment the company calls its core program of items. But the packaging can become a bit more playful as it expands out into a custom program for such novelty categories as ice cream, for example, where brand-new characters can be created and added to the packaging. The same goes for specialty line extensions (including plant-based or organic) that could come over the next year or two.
The structure is a new tiered strategy of store brand lines, anchored by the core program look and the IGA logo. “As long as we have our IGA trademark, our label, our logo on there, the consumer is going to gravitate,” Groscurth added.
She also said the thinking behind a tiered approach was to make IGA competitive against national brands and other national brand equivalents. “I said to myself, ‘Hey, there’s no reason that we can’t be better than the rest.’ We have trust, value and quality that our consumers just love us for, and so this gave us the ability to say, ‘in the dairy set, I want to have this modern, clean look against the cottage cheeses of the world,’ and these brand loyal categories, where people continually shop there, I wanted to be better. I want to look cool. I want to be modern,” she said.
Prior to the revamp, IGA studied the brand, using market researchers and its agency of choice, Porchlight, Atlanta. The market research found that, while independents won’t win the lowest-price-possible game, scores on trust and quality were through the roof, Ross said. That included loyalty in the store brand, where just under a third of IGA shoppers were found to be shopping the store because of its private label.
In March, IGA saw a 15% increase in orders for its store brands, compared with a year ago, so there has been a lot of momentum around its store brand program, and it was sorely in need of an update.
The coronavirus pandemic delayed the initial summer launch to begin in September. “The last thing we wanted to do was have retailers have to distract from running 30, 40, 50% comp days to put up new signs and have to do a bunch of stuff,” Ross said. “There was a benefit in that the pandemic stock-up shopping helped sell-through a bunch of old merchandise, making room for the redesigned packages.”
He continued: “But the retailers are tired. It’s been an exhausting year. And with turnover in the stores and now a resurgence of COVID going on in many markets, it’s still hard, but we went ahead and launched, and the feedback from the retailers has been great. They’re really excited to see the product.”