HMT Insights from PLMA

One of the (admittedly many!) nice things about the end of the pandemic has been to be able to be on the road again, attend events in person and meet so many of you in different venues! This week our senior B2B Consultant Koen Jacobs and our project manager & junior strategist Marit Veenstra, attended PLMA’s annual “World of Private Label” International Trade Show in Amsterdam, which brought retailers together with manufacturers. We asked Marit & Koen what drew their attention, what are the learnings from the show, and which were their favorite innovations. Let’s find out!

HMT: So, how was PLMA’s trade show and what stood out for you?

Marit: It was the first PLMA event in 3 years, so first of all there was this really positive buzz with people happy to be there and lots of positive energy. It was much bigger than I expected actually with many different categories being represented such as beauty & care as well as household products, apart from Food & Health of course which was the focus of our visit.

Koen: It was a B2B event but different to Vitafoods for example which I attended in May. Private label manufacturers seem to have a different approach and are much more focused on selling specific products. We had interesting discussions about what it means to be an innovation partner. This would allow Private Label Manufacturers to engage with different levels of their clients’ organisations and really co- innovate together. This industry is well- positioned to do it and it is an opportunity for those first movers to try the approach and to stand out from the competition. And from what we saw at the show, the competition is fierce.

Marit: What stood out for me is the variety of meat alternative brands and plant- based producers. There was really a lot! What we found out though is that brands find it difficult to express their points of differentiation. Those we asked mainly mentioned taste, but it makes one wonder: in today’s competitive climate with high consumer scrutiny, is taste enough? One of the meat alternative brands that I liked was Sons of Butchers with their tagline “from herds to herbs”. They claim to have developed a “range of plant- based meat alternatives with all the great flavors and textures you know and love but with all the nutritional and environmental benefits of plants”. Nutrition is a much-needed benefit in this category. Of course, if we apply our FourFactors® of Success methodology, you know that a benefit needs to be evaluated in relation to the brand, the ingredient, and the audience it is addressing. It is probable that for the mass- market consumer just taste will be enough. But brands need to have a different approach if they want to leave the mass market. (and stand out in the sea of sameness)

Sons of Butchers at PLMA

I also liked a brand called Boltsi from Finland which is taking a new approach to plant-based by using different ingredients such as oats, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, limiting allergens such as soy and containing no additives.

Boltsi from Finland
Boltsi from Finland

Koen: As a sportsman myself, I was particularly interested to see what is new in sports nutrition. There were a lot of high sugar protein snacks and such without clear differentiation. But one brand that stood out for me was FitFork with their pots. Using a combination of high protein, ancient grains and hidden veggies, the team have come up with a range of delicious meals that are quick & convenient and free from “artificial nasties”. They address a sport nutrition enthusiast’s need for high protein together with the consumer preference for convenience and growing health demands. And they taste great too.


Marit: Another concept I loved was a Dutch brand, Zeeuwse Kroepoek from Wilthagen. My favourite product was the crispy seaweed crackers with seaweed sourced locally in the Netherlands. As they say it is made with only natural ingredients. They also offer other varieties such as sweet shrimp, caught in the North Sea and salmon. I like it because it is a simple concept but hitting a couple of important consumer trends:

  • a) back to the roots, ingredients you know and understand and also
  • b) zero kilometers (=proximity of sourcing) and sustainability.
Zeeuwse Kroepoek from Wilthagen
Zeeuwse Kroepoek from Wilthagen

HMT: Anything specific about retailer spaces? Any trends for in the supermarket aisles that we should be aware of?

Marit: PLMA had prepared an Idea Supermarket and this is where they showcased how different retailers around the globe are tapping into trends with innovative private label brands & interesting initiatives. In general, we saw that supermarkets are more focusing on healthy & sustainable food solutions by offering a broad range of plant-based products, both meat and dairy alternatives, free from products, or product ranges focusing consumers with an active lifestyle. Plus, supermarkets start introducing initiatives that are promoting local farmers & local sourcing. For example, there is a Carrefour in Belgium who is focusing only on local sourcing and French supermarket Intermarché launched the concept “Thank you farmers” where they put farmers in the spotlight on the packaging of different dairy, eggs, juice & meat products.

Idea Supermarket at PLMA

HMT: Sounds like a great event! Thanks for sharing your insights Koen and Marit.

If you want to know which one of these insights is best for your brand and how to apply it, we are celebrating our 15-year anniversary and we are offering one-hour free consultation. Please contact Maria at to set up your session now.