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Private label manufacturing: A strategic opportunity for agri-suppliers

Nov 8, 2023
13 min read

Private label manufacturing has transformative potential in agriculture that can reshape the landscape for suppliers and consumers alike.

At a glance:

  • Private label manufacturing in agriculture empowers suppliers to produce goods under their customers' brand names, fostering customer loyalty.
  • Successful examples span seeds, organic farming products, and animal products, highlighting the versatility of private label branding.
  • Collaboration in building private label brands is essential for agricultural suppliers to thrive in the ever-evolving agriculture landscape.

Agriculture, the foundation of our food system, is evolving rapidly. The challenges and opportunities presented by the changing landscape have spurred innovation and diversification. One such promising avenue for growth and expansion is private label manufacturing.

Private label manufacturing is a strategic approach that enables agricultural suppliers to create products under a retailer's brand name. Essentially, it is a B2B partnership in which the supplier acts as the manufacturer, producing goods for another company's label. This approach has gained momentum across various industries due to its flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and ability to foster customer loyalty.

Private label brands have experienced a substantial increase in popularity in recent years. For instance, market shares of private labels in countries like Spain and Switzerland grew by 50% based on 2021 data[1]. Thus, these brands no longer represent generic alternatives. Instead, consumers tend to prefer them for their quality and affordability, opening up a significant opportunity for agricultural suppliers to explore private label manufacturing, adding a new dimension to their business.

Private label manufacturing in agriculture

Private label manufacturing in agriculture is a collaborative business model[2]. It involves agricultural suppliers utilizing their expertise, resources, and production capabilities to create agricultural or food products. Essentially, private label agri-suppliers work behind the scenes to produce products that carry the label of another entity.

The process typically begins with a partnership between an agricultural supplier and a retailer, distributor, or food processor. This partnership provides the brand owner with access to a strong and dependable supply chain, backed by the agri-supplier's knowledge. It's a mutually beneficial relationship where each party leverages the strengths of the other: the agricultural supplier's production capabilities and the brand owner's distribution and market presence.

The mechanics of private label brands

Private label brands offer a flexible alternative to established national or global brands. These labels are versatile and customizable, designed to cater to specific customer preferences, market segments, and price points. The appeal of private label brands lies in their ability to balance quality with affordability[3]. It works like this:

  1. Customization: Agricultural suppliers collaborate closely with brand owners to create products tailored to the brand's target audience. This alliance involves adapting products to suit specific market demands.
  2. Quality assurance: Consistent product quality characterizes successful private label manufacturing. Agricultural suppliers understand that the brand's reputation is at stake, and they invest heavily in quality control and assurance to ensure that products meet or exceed industry standards.
  3. Cost-effective production: Private label manufacturing often results in cost savings for the brand owner compared to developing products in-house. Agricultural suppliers have already invested in infrastructure, equipment, and expertise, making the process more streamlined and cost-effective.
  4. Flexible product range: The product range under private label manufacturing can be diverse, spanning everything from seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, animal feed, and even processed foods, depending on the expertise and capabilities of the agricultural supplier.

Examples of private label manufacturing in agri-food

The food and agriculture industry has not been immune to the rise of private label manufacturing, especially in the US[4] and Europe[5]. Several successful examples abound, illustrating the potential for private label success in this sector. These examples demonstrate how the approach can suit the industry's specific needs:

  1. Seed suppliers and private label seed packaging: Major global agricultural suppliers[6] have embraced private label manufacturing by providing custom seed solutions for local retailers. These retailers can offer seeds under their own brand name, providing consumers with a trusted source for planting their gardens and farms.
  2. Organic farming products: The trend toward organic farming has opened doors for private label manufacturers. Agricultural suppliers partner with supermarkets and specialty stores[7] to produce private label organic farming products, such as fertilizers[8]. This aligns with the growing consumer demand for eco-friendly and sustainable agriculture products[9].
  3. Animal product manufacturing: There is also room for private label branding in the field of animal product manufacturing. Some private label products include chicken, beef, turkey, fish, and pork. Store-owned brands have opportunities to work closely with retailers in customizing their animal product offerings.
  4. Agri-suppliers of packed food and beverages: Agricultural suppliers are expanding into the private label space by collaborating with food and beverage retailers[10] to develop store-branded packaged food and beverages. This partnership allows retailers to offer premium, locally-sourced, and distinctive food and drink options, meeting the rising consumer demand for locally-produced and artisanal products[11] while enhancing the shopping experience and building customer loyalty.

As seen from the examples above, private label manufacturing is not limited to specific agricultural sub-sectors; it can be adapted to various areas within the industry. It is a versatile strategy that aspiring private label manufacturers can explore to transform their business and align with the evolving demands of consumers and market trends.

Why agricultural suppliers should consider private label manufacturing

Private label manufacturing can empower agri-suppliers to realize their strategic potential and thrive in a competitive and dynamic industry. More specifically, it can help them to: 

  1. Diversify product portfolio: A primary reason for agricultural suppliers to explore private label manufacturing is the diversification of their product range. Many agri-suppliers hesitate product diversification[12], opting to specialize in specific agricultural inputs or products. By expanding services to include private label manufacturing, they can enter new product categories without the need for substantial additional investments in infrastructure. This diversification reduces reliance on a single market segment, providing a safeguard against market fluctuations.
  2. Increase profit margins: Private label manufacturing typically offers better profit margins[13] than bulk product sales. While bulk sales may be more price-competitive, private label products enable agri-suppliers to capture a more significant share of the value chain. These higher margins[14] can have a substantial impact on business profitability.
  3. Tap into new revenue streams: The diversification that private label manufacturing provides also extends to revenue streams. Agri-suppliers can tap into alternative revenue streams by partnering with retailers, distributors, or food processors. These streams might include contracts for the supply of ingredients, intermediate products, or finished goods. This way, agri-suppliers will not have to rely on traditional sales channels.
  4. Strengthen customer relationships: Agri-suppliers that venture into private label manufacturing create strong relationships that extend beyond transactional exchanges. This strategy enhances brand recognition and fosters customer loyalty. Shoppers who trust the quality of private label products are more likely to return to the same retailer[15].
  5. Capitalize on established brand loyalty: Private label products often bear the branding of a retailer or distributor with a well-established customer base. This association can lead to immediate recognition and trust among consumers who are already loyal to the private label brand. Agri-suppliers benefit from this built-in customer base, which can drive increased sales and brand visibility.

Market trends and opportunities

In the ever-evolving landscape of agriculture, staying attuned to the latest market trends is essential for agri-suppliers seeking to seize opportunities. These trends not only reflect shifting consumer preferences but also underscore the dynamic nature of the industry itself.

Recent consumer trends

One of the most significant opportunities that agri-suppliers can leverage is the ever-changing consumer trends:

  1. Evolving consumer preferences: Consumer preferences have seen a considerable shift[16] toward healthier, locally-sourced, and sustainably-produced agricultural products.
  2. Customization and personalization: Modern consumers value products that cater to their specific requirements[17]. Private label manufacturing allows for product customization, enabling agri-suppliers to match these preferences.
  3. E-commerce dominance: The rise of e-commerce has transformed the way agricultural products reach consumers. Private label brands have leveraged online marketplaces[18], presenting a remarkable opportunity for agri-suppliers.

Sustainable and organic private label products

Sustainability and organic agriculture are driving significant market changes, opening doors for agri-suppliers.

  1. Sustainable practices: Private label manufacturing is a pathway for agri-suppliers to embrace sustainable agricultural practices. These include reducing water use and minimizing chemical inputs.
  2. Organic and non-GMO: The demand for organic and non-GMO products continues to soar[19]. Agri-suppliers can capitalize on this rise by offering private label organic products produced in compliance with stringent organic certification standards[20].
  3. Eco-friendly packaging: Sustainable packaging solutions[21] are gaining traction. Consumers are looking for products that use minimal, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging.

Niche areas with high growth potential

While private label manufacturing presents a broad spectrum of opportunities, recognizing niche areas with substantial growth potential is essential. This way, agri-suppliers can direct their efforts effectively.

  1. Plant-based and alternative proteins: As the trend toward plant-based diets and alternative proteins[22] intensifies, agri-suppliers can cater to this growing market. Producing private label plant-based products, such as meat substitutes, dairy alternatives, and plant-based snacks may be worth looking into.
  2. Functional foods and nutraceuticals: The demand for functional foods[23] and nutraceuticals[24] has surged due to increased health consciousness. Agri-suppliers can explore the production of private label products fortified with vitamins, minerals, and health-boosting ingredients.
  3. Heritage and specialty crops: The resurgence of interest in heirloom and specialty crops[25] presents a unique opportunity. Agri-suppliers can collaborate with private label partners to produce high-value crops, such as exotic fruits, heirloom vegetables, or unique spices.
  4. Precision agriculture technologies: While not a traditional product category, the adoption of precision agriculture technologies[26] is growing. Experts in this field can offer private label services for precision agriculture solutions, aligning with the technological advancements in farming.

By embracing these market trends and opportunities, agri-suppliers can strategically position themselves in the private label manufacturing space. They would meet the evolving needs of consumers and contributing to the sustainability and growth of the agriculture industry.

Collaboration and partnerships

The agricultural landscape offers opportunities for agricultural suppliers to engage in private label manufacturing through strategic collaborations and partnerships. These alliances can lead to new markets, expertise, resources, and cost efficiencies. Together, they foster the growth and success of private label brands in the industry.

Exploring the power of partnerships

The world of private label manufacturing thrives on interdependence and collaboration. For agri-suppliers, partnerships can be a game-changer for a number of reasons:

  1. Access to established markets: Collaborating with established retailers, distributors, or food processors opens the doors to markets that may be difficult to penetrate independently. It allows agricultural suppliers to tap into pre-existing customer bases and distribution networks.
  2. Utilizing expertise: Private label partnerships enable agricultural suppliers to leverage the expertise of their collaborators. Retailers or distributors understand the nuances of consumer preferences, branding, and market trends, providing valuable insights and guidance.
  3. Shared resources: Partnerships can result in shared resources, such as production facilities, marketing efforts, and logistics. This sharing can significantly reduce overhead costs and improve operational efficiency.

Scaling the private label venture

Scaling a private label manufacturing venture is a multifaceted process. Partnerships play a pivotal role in this journey, facilitating growth and expansion:

  1. Broadening product offerings: Collaborations enable agricultural suppliers to expand their private label product lines. Suppliers that specialize in a niche product can especially benefit, as the partnership can diversify their offerings.
  2. Streamlining distribution: Leveraging the distribution networks of partners simplifies the logistics of getting products into the hands of consumers. Accordingly, there is a reduction in lead times, ensuring timely product delivery.
  3. Cost efficiency: Collaborations often lead to cost savings[27]. Agricultural suppliers can share production costs, negotiate better deals with suppliers, and optimize marketing expenses when working with partners.

Successful collaborations in agriculture

In the agricultural sector, numerous successful collaborations have paved the way for private label manufacturing ventures to flourish. These examples highlight the potential and opportunities that partnerships can unlock:

  1. Agricultural cooperatives and local supermarkets: A study in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development[28] emphasizes the importance of collaboration, communication, and trust in building successful relationships between small- and mid-scale farm enterprises and supermarket chains to support local food systems. Some agribusinesses have also resorted to online marketplaces like Social Marketplace to network with potential suppliers and buyers.
  2. Organic farms and distributors: Organic farms have formed partnerships with distributors specializing in organic foods[29]. This collaboration ensures a steady supply of premium organic products for distribution, meeting the growing demand for organic foods.

Creating opportunities out of the challenges and risks of private labels

Private label manufacturing offers numerous opportunities for agricultural suppliers, but it is important to recognize the associated challenges and risks. Nonetheless, private label manufacturing is a viable and promising strategy for agricultural suppliers, especially when you know how to navigate the potential challenges:

  1. Brand reputation: Agricultural suppliers must ensure that the quality of their private label products aligns with customer expectations. Any compromise in product quality could harm not only the retailer's brand but also the supplier's reputation.
  2. Quality control: Ensuring consistent quality across various product batches, especially when producing under multiple private labels, can be challenging. Agricultural suppliers need robust quality control processes to ensure that every product meets the agreed-upon standards.
  3. Market competition: The private label market can be highly competitive[30], with numerous suppliers competing for partnerships with retailers, distributors, or brand owners. This competition can lead to pricing pressure, necessitating cost-efficiency without compromising quality.

Marketing and branding: The cornerstones of private label success

The success of private label manufacturing in agriculture hinges on effective marketing and branding strategies. Crafting a strong brand identity, understanding your target market, and adapting your branding to different segments are essential components. Remember that a well-executed branding strategy can be the key to unlocking the full potential of this strategic opportunity.

Build trust and credibility

A well-crafted brand image can differentiate your private label products from generic offerings. Consumers often associate private labels with quality[31], affordability, and innovation, provided that the branding effectively communicates these attributes. The trust and loyalty a strong brand can generate will influence purchasing decisions and, consequently, your business's success.

Set a unique identity

Branding provides your private label products with a unique identity in the market. This element is especially crucial in an industry where differentiation is challenging[32]. Your branding should reflect your products' value proposition, whether it is sustainable farming practices, superior quality, or innovative solutions. A compelling brand story can captivate your target audience and leave a lasting impression.

Align with consumer preferences

A well-defined private label branding that aligns with consumer values, such as sustainability, organic farming, or local sourcing, can be a powerful magnet. Your branding should resonate with your customers' preferences, ensuring a stronger connection with your target market.

Understand your target market

Thoroughly understanding your target market is vital. Conduct market research to identify consumer demographics, preferences, and needs. You will want to know who your ideal customers are, what they value, and where they shop. This knowledge will guide your branding strategy.

Develop unique value propositions

Once you have identified your target market, your branding should convey unique value propositions that set your private label products apart. Consider product features, quality, pricing, and any other attributes that make your products a compelling choice. Highlight these strengths in your branding to attract consumers.

Create branding strategies for different target markets

One of the fascinating aspects of private label manufacturing is its adaptability. Agri-suppliers can cater to various market segments, each with its unique set of preferences and requirements. Thus, it is crucial to tailor your branding strategies to suit different target markets.

  1. Retailers and distributors: Private label products developed for retailers and distributors should align closely with their brand image. Design your branding strategy to reflect the retailer's values to cater to their specific customer base.
  2. Specialty and niche markets: A deep understanding of niches and their consumer preferences is paramount when targeting specialized markets. Your branding should communicate that your products cater to their unique needs. Highlight your products' specialty attributes and quality to capture the attention of discerning consumers.
  3. Local and community markets: Local and community markets often place a strong emphasis on supporting local businesses. In these markets, branding should focus on local roots, community engagement, and the economic impact of buying local. Showcase your commitment to the community in your branding to foster loyalty.


The agriculture industry offers abundant opportunities for agricultural suppliers to engage in private label manufacturing. This strategic move can diversify revenue streams, enhance brand recognition, and foster long-term customer loyalty. It presents a compelling opportunity that aligns with market trends and consumer preferences, making it a worthwhile investment. As you delve into this dynamic realm, remember that successful private label manufacturers prioritize quality, innovation, and collaboration – the keys to a thriving private label branding business in agriculture.

Retailer Trends can help you gain a competitive edge in the industry as you build your brand and identity as a private label manufacturer.

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