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Private label vs. white label: Which is right for you?

Nov 3, 2023
15 min read

With the continuous evolution of the agri-food industry, manufacturers must understand the differences between private label and white label branding. 

At a glance:

  • To achieve success in the agri-food industry, it is vital that manufacturers have an understanding of private label branding and white label branding.
  • Manufacturers need to assess their business’ strengths, target audience, and long-term goals to make the right choice.
  • Opting for a hybrid approach can provide flexibility and a more efficient risk mitigation in the ever-changing agriculture sector.

As the global agricultural landscape continues to evolve, manufacturers face a pivotal decision: whether to offer private label or white label products. Essentially, from an agri-manufacturer’s perspective, the former involves selling a product that it produces exclusively for a retailer. Meanwhile, the latter is when a manufacturer sells a product meant for resale.

This decision holds significant implications for a manufacturer’s profitability, customer loyalty, and overall success. Thus, it is important to make an informed choice between private label and white label concepts, while recognizing the significance of adaptability and innovation in the agricultural industry.

Understanding private label and white label products

Before agricultural manufacturers can decide whether to venture into private label or white label products, they must grasp the concepts, historical context, and market trends that have influenced their significance in the agriculture industry.

Definitions and distinctions

Let us first define and differentiate each one:

  1. Private label products: These are agricultural goods or inputs produced and marketed under a specific company's unique brand name. These products often carry the retailer’s identity, setting them apart from competitors. Essentially, private label products embody brand exclusivity and control for the retailers.
  2. White label products: These are unbranded or generic items typically made by a single manufacturer and sold to other businesses for rebranding and resale. These products do not have a distinct brand identity and are known for versatility and cost-effectiveness, making them adaptable for various brand portfolios.

In essence, private label products offer a unique branding opportunity and exclusive quality control, while white label products provide versatility and cost-efficiency.

Historical context and market trends

To grasp the significance of private label and white label products in agriculture, we need to look at their historical context and evolving market trends. Historically, private label products were associated with lower quality and targeted price-sensitive consumers.

However, consumer perceptions have shifted in recent decades. Today, private label products are seen as offering value, quality, and even innovation. In agriculture, this transformation is noteworthy.

Manufacturers can now use private label products to demonstrate their commitment to quality and stand out from competitors. Several market trends have contributed to the importance of private label and white label products in agriculture:

  1. Consumer preference for value and quality: Agricultural consumers are increasingly value-conscious, driving demand for private label products that offer quality at competitive prices.
  2. Changing retail dynamics: Both physical and online retailers recognize the value of private label products in boosting their profits and brand exclusivity. Meanwhile, white-label eWallet solutions in the Philippines have been established for farm and non-farm retail applications.
  3. Need for differentiation: In a crowded agricultural market, standing out is crucial. Retailers are increasingly adopting private label products to distinguish themselves and secure customer loyalty.

The ability to adapt to these market trends has fueled the resurgence of private label and white label products in agriculture. Manufacturers are finding innovative ways to use these concepts to meet evolving consumer demands and industry dynamics.

Pros and cons of private label products

When manufacturers consider offering private label products to retailers, they need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully. Private label products, often called store brands, offer a unique set of benefits and challenges. In essence, private label branding can help manufacturers build their name, enhance profit margins, and foster customer loyalty.

However, they require a substantial initial investment, demand meticulous brand-building efforts, and are confined to the manufacturer's established distribution channels. Understanding these advantages and disadvantages is crucial when deciding whether to manufacture private label products for retailers in the agriculture sector.

Advantages of private label products

  1. Exclusivity: Since private label products are made exclusive to a particular retailer, manufacturers also sign exclusive contracts and agreements, offering stability. Additionally, manufacturers can be more creative with the products since the manufacturing process would involve customization and personalization based on the needs and goals of the retailer.
  2. Higher profit margins: Private label products tend to be more profitable for manufacturers. For instance, the reduced marketing and advertising expenses associated with these products result in higher margins. Secondly, the exclusivity of private label products allows manufacturers to set their prices, provided they align with market expectations.
  3. Increased customer loyalty: Private label products can significantly enhance customer loyalty. When consumers associate a particular brand with high-quality private label products, they become more inclined to make repeat orders, fostering brand loyalty.

Disadvantages of private label products

  1. Higher initial investment: Developing and marketing private label products requires a substantial upfront investment. Manufacturers must invest in research and development, quality control measures, and effective branding to ensure the success of these products. This investment can be especially burdensome for smaller manufacturers.
  2. Brand-building challenges: When retailers partner with manufacturers to produce private label products, manufacturers can also be involved in the branding and packaging process. However, building a brand identity from scratch is a considerable challenge. It often takes time and resources to establish a private label as a recognizable, trusted brand on the market, particularly when competing with well-established, name-brand products.
  3. Limited market reach: Unlike white label products, private label items are confined to the company's distribution channels. While this exclusivity can lead to customer loyalty, it also limits the market reach of these products. Manufacturers would need to ensure that a variety of retail locations can offer their private brand.

Examples of private label manufacturers

  • Ralcorp Holdings, Inc.: This Missouri-based corporation has been producing private label products since 1996. It manufactures a variety of food products, including cereals, snacks, and bakery items.
  • Greencore Group: Greencore is a leading UK-based private label manufacturer that produces a variety of food products, including sandwiches, ready meals, soups, and other convenience foods for retailers.

Pros and cons of white label products

Now, understanding the pros and cons of white label products will also help manufacturers determine whether this type of products align with their business goals and target customer base.

Advantages of white label products

  1. Lower initial investment: White label products offer manufacturers a cost-effective way to diversify their offerings. By leveraging existing formulations and manufacturing processes, the initial investment required is significantly lower compared to creating private label products from scratch. This reduced financial burden allows manufacturers to allocate resources to other critical areas of their business.
  2. Faster go-to-market: White label products are essentially pre-made solutions that can be swiftly incorporated into a product portfolio. This agility in product development allows manufacturers to respond promptly to shifting market demands, making it easier to capture opportunities and adapt to changing customer preferences. Rapid go-to-market can be a substantial advantage in a sector where seasonal and environmental factors can heavily impact demand.
  3. Access to established supply chains: White label products often come with the advantage allowing manufacturers to leverage their existing production and distribution capabilities to serve multiple brands and retailers. This access streamlines the production and distribution processes, eliminating the need for substantial infrastructure investments. By tapping into established networks, manufacturers can benefit from the efficiencies and cost savings these supply chains offer, ultimately increasing their competitiveness.

Disadvantages of white label products

  1. Limited to no market identity: One of the primary drawbacks of white label products is their limited identity potential. Since these items are often sold under a generic or unbranded label, manufacturers have little room to establish a unique identity in the market. As a result, they may struggle to differentiate their products in a saturated market where branding plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining customers.
  2. Lower profit margins: While white label products can be cost-effective to produce and offer lower price points to consumers, they often come with thinner profit margins compared to private label alternatives. The fierce competition among manufacturers offering similar white label products can lead to price wars, further squeezing profit margins. Consequently, manufacturers must focus on high-volume sales to compensate for reduced profitability.
  3. Limited differentiation: White label products typically lack features or attributes that significantly differentiate them from competitors. Manufacturers might find it challenging to create a unique selling proposition when marketing white label items. This limitation can result in customers perceiving these products as commodities, making it challenging to establish a loyal customer base based on quality or features.

Examples of white label manufacturers

  • Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value: One of the industry’s most well-known example of a white label product seller is Whole Foods Market. Its store brand is called “365 Everyday Value,” which generally puts the company in a good position against the competition.
  • PT Bali Maya Permai Food Canning Industry: One of the top canned fish producers of Indonesia, which has joined the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) conservation initiative in 2017, supplies its white label products to companies in the U.S.

Assessing your agri-manufacturing needs

The assessment of your agri-manufacturing needs is an indispensable step in the decision-making process between private label and white label products. By conducting a thorough evaluation of your company's strengths and weaknesses, understanding your target market, staying informed about industry trends, and aligning with your long-term business goals, you can make an informed decision that positions your company for success in the dynamic agricultural landscape.

Evaluate your company's strengths and weaknesses

The first step in assessing your agri-manufacturing needs involves a comprehensive evaluation of your company's internal strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness can provide valuable guidance in choosing between private and white label products.

  • Core competencies: Start by identifying your company's core competencies and areas of excellence, such as research, product development, marketing, and distribution. Understanding your strengths is essential because it helps align your product strategy with your inherent capabilities.
  • Resource availability: Consider the resources at your disposal, including financial, human, and technological assets. An accurate assessment of your resource capacity will aid in determining whether you can afford the initial investment required for private label products or if a white label approach would be more sustainable.
  • Market expertise: Reflect on your understanding of the agri-food market. Evaluate whether your team possesses industry-specific knowledge that can be leveraged to build a strong private label brand. In the white label context, assess your ability to select and market products that resonate with your target audience.
  • Innovation potential: Explore your company's potential for innovation. If innovation is one of your strengths, it might favor the creation of private label products, allowing you to introduce unique and market-leading solutions.
  • Operational efficiency: Analyze your operational efficiency. Streamlined processes can be advantageous for white label products, as they require quick adaptation to market demands and lower production costs.

Identify your target market and customer base

The second part of your assessment revolves around understanding your target market and the preferences of your customer base. By gaining insights into these aspects, you can better tailor your product strategy to align with consumer expectations.

  • Demographic profiling: Conduct a thorough analysis of your target market's demographics, such as age, gender, location, and income. Demographic data can provide clarity on which product line might be more appealing to specific segments. For instance, if you want to target the US market, you can consider beverages as your main product line, as it has a high demand in the country.
  • Consumer preferences: Assess the preferences of your existing and potential customer base. Consider conducting surveys or market research to understand whether your customers are more inclined towards private label products, which offer exclusive branding and quality, or white label products, which provide affordability and variety.
  • Competitor analysis: Study your competitors and their product strategies. Analyze their successes and failures with private and white label products in the agricultural sector. This analysis can reveal opportunities or gaps that your company can fill. Retailer Trends can also help keep you up-to-date on the most recent retail trends in the industry.
  • Market segmentation: Segment your target market based on preferences and buying behaviors. By tailoring your product offerings to different segments, you can maximize the effectiveness of both private and white label products.

Consider market and industry trends

Staying abreast of evolving market and industry trends is vital in the decision-making process. The agricultural sector is dynamic, with shifting consumer preferences, technological advancements, and sustainability considerations.

  • Consumer trends: Stay updated on consumer trends in the food and agriculture sector. Changes in consumer behavior, such as a growing interest in organic products or sustainability, can significantly impact your product strategy.
  • Technology and innovation: Consider how technological advancements, such as precision agriculture or blockchain traceability, are shaping the industry. Assess whether these innovations align with your company's capabilities and whether they can be leveraged in your product line.
  • Sustainability initiatives: Sustainability is a growing concern in agriculture. Evaluate whether your company's values and resources align with sustainability initiatives, as this can influence the choice between private label and white label products.
  • Regulatory environment: Keep an eye on the regulatory landscape. Changes in regulations related to labeling, environmental impact, or quality standards can impact the viability of both private and white label products.

Understand your long-term business goals

Lastly, the assessment should culminate in a deep understanding of your long-term business goals. Your strategic vision will serve as the compass that directs your product line choices.

  • Brand building: If your primary goal is to establish a strong and recognized identity in the agriculture sector, private label products may be the preferred route. This approach allows you to create a distinct identity as a manufacturer.
  • Profitability: Consider your financial objectives. If maximizing profit margins is a top priority, weigh the initial investment required for private label products against the potential profitability of white label products.
  • Market expansion: Reflect on your aspirations for market expansion. If your vision is to rapidly penetrate new markets and diversify your product range, white label products provide a flexible and cost-effective solution.
  • Risk tolerance: Evaluate your company's risk tolerance. Understand that the choice between private and white label products carries distinct risks. Private label products require a higher initial investment, while white label products may entail more significant market competition.

A hybrid approach: Combining private label and white label

When choosing between private label and white label product strategies is unclear, there exists a dynamic middle ground: the hybrid approach.

Benefits of a hybrid strategy

The hybrid approach combines the best elements of both private label and white label strategies, creating a product branding model that offers a unique blend of customization and efficiency.  In a hybrid approach, private label branding aspects involve creating products with unique features, designs, and formulations tailored to a specific retailer's requirements, allowing for exclusivity.

Simultaneously, white label efficiencies are incorporated by utilizing existing supply chains, production capabilities, and cost-saving measures to maintain competitive pricing and quick time-to-market. This approach strikes a balance between product customization and cost-effective production, providing a competitive edge in the market. Let's take a closer look at the benefits it offers:

  • Diversified product portfolio: One of the primary advantages of adopting a hybrid approach is the ability to create a broader range of products that cater to a wider spectrum of customer preferences. By combining private label products with white label alternatives, manufacturers can tap into both exclusive and budget-conscious markets, providing solutions for a broader customer base.
  • Cost control: The hybrid approach enables manufacturers to maintain cost control while expanding their product range. With the more controlled costs associated with white label products, companies can continue to offer competitively priced options without jeopardizing their higher-margin private label products. This flexibility in pricing helps adapt to changing market conditions and customer demands.
  • Risk mitigation: Relying solely on one product strategy can be risky. Market dynamics can change, consumer preferences can shift, and external factors, such as weather patterns, can affect the agricultural industry. A hybrid approach offers risk mitigation by spreading the product portfolio across private and white label lines. If one segment faces challenges, the other can serve as a safety net, ensuring business continuity and reducing vulnerability to market fluctuations.

Examples of companies implementing hybrid approaches

Several manufacturers have successfully harnessed the power of a hybrid approach to diversify their product offerings and enhance their market presence. Let's examine some notable examples:

  • Cargill: As one of the world's largest agribusiness companies, Cargill has embraced a hybrid strategy by offering both private label and white label animal feed products.
  • JBS Prepared Foods: JBS is a leading manufacturer in the meat processing industry. While it produces protein-centric prepared foods in private label, it also offers a variety of meat products under different brand labels for retailers.
  • Syngenta: A global leader in crop protection and seeds, they offer a diversified product range of proprietary, private label, and white label solutions, empowering them to maximize market coverage.

Factors to consider in adopting a hybrid approach

Implementing a hybrid strategy necessitates careful planning and execution. Here are the key factors to guide manufacturers in adopting a successful hybrid approach:

  1. Market research: Understand customer preferences, market demands, and the competitive landscape. Identify which products are best suited for private label and white label strategies. This insight will help you tailor your approach to your target audience effectively.
  2. Supply chain management: You need to ensure that your supply chain can support the production and distribution needs of both private label and white label products. This may involve making adjustments to procurement, manufacturing, and distribution processes to accommodate the diversity of products.
  3. Branding and marketing: To effectively differentiate between your private and white label products, you must create distinct branding elements for each. This strategy can include unique packaging, branding guidelines, and messaging. Consider the specific target audience for each product line and tailor your marketing efforts accordingly.
  4. Pricing strategy: Your pricing strategy should align with the positioning of your private and white label products in the market. For private label products, you may set premium pricing to reflect exclusivity and quality. In contrast, white label products may be priced more competitively to appeal to budget-conscious consumers. Striking the right balance is crucial to maximize profitability.
  5. Quality assurance: Maintain strict quality control and assurance protocols for both product categories. Consistency in product quality is essential for building and sustaining trust among consumers, whether they are purchasing private label or white label products.
  6. Customer support and engagement: Ensure that your customer support and engagement strategies are in place for both private and white label customers. Effective customer service, assistance, and feedback channels are crucial for building and retaining a loyal customer base.


Given the dynamic changes in the food and agriculture sector, success for manufacturers demands informed decisions, adaptability, and innovation. Whether you prefer private labels for a unique identity in the market, opt for white labels' efficiency, or pursue a hybrid approach, aligning your strategy with your strengths, market trends, and customer preferences is key. The future of agri-manufacturing offers abundant opportunities to those who stay agile, adapt to market shifts, and meet evolving customer needs.

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