Fascination with own brands – And Now for Something Completely Different

A preserving jar glass bottle of gourmet gherkins or pickles from Austria

Rainy and chilly, I have the private labels (especially) of Billa (Rewe Group) hanging in my head. The topic fascinates me, if I write about it, I might get it out of my head a little. After all, I don’t know anyone from “them” who could tell me about it and quench my thirst for knowledge.

Thoughts about the private labels of the food chains, the criticism of Amazon to animal welfare.

It strikes me increasingly, the (for my perception) rapid increase of private labels just at Billa and yes, well, Billa Plus, Merkur halt. But it doesn’t really matter, because we get the same things everywhere anyway. On the Canaries like in Vienna, from the Spar then halt.

Spar and Rewe can probably not be compared directly, maybe that’s why I have few private labels from Spar in mind. Differently than with Billa & CO. Yes, of course – I had assigned it to Merkur, the green packaging of Merkur butter made from hay milk – does it still exist at all?

Alnatura – I found (find) that good, it disappears from the shelves, replaced by the Billa logo, the private label.

The photo – the “Gurkerl” (“small Gherkins”) – of course from Billa – Yes, of course 😉
Why did I choose this product? The price-performance ratio for what looked to me like the small, crunchy cornichons. Well okay, that’s where the comparison to what I call cornichons lags, but then it’s not sold as such. Produced by Machland, a company with 40 years of experience in processing fruits and vegetables. Clearly Billa can offer it cheaper through its own distribution channels, a clear decision to buy. Also, the Machland company itself advertises “private label” and contract production.

Nestle, Unilever, Mars, … Sure, the private labels can also convey something “sympathetic” to me, if these become a counterpoint to such gigantic structures. But to possibly “exploit” a dominant market position against “small” producers, well, I see that critically. Where will this lead? An unfair fight.
Frozen peas of the Billa brand just come to mind as something (for me personally) positive. From Austria. Price between Iglo and a cheap brand. The cheap brand with origin of the peas absolutely not traceable. A no-go. For me at least. A perfect product at a good price. At least if you want to eat a lot of vegetables.

To be there once, at a meeting on the “master plan”, that would be something. With the bright minds that are planning a future. How many of the hundreds of thousands of employees are thinking about this?

But now to Amazon, no, best of all directly to Jeff Bezos, “you know him” – they, yes THEY are evil! Why? Because something so powerful has been created in such a short time? Because Amazon analyzes sales data and copies products to sell as its own brand? Um, well, where is the difference to “our” retail chains? And can corporations whose structures were created in the war and post-war years even keep up? Or will Amazon be gone sooner for this, as Bezos himself often enough imagines.
Do I associate Billa with the name Karl Wlaschek as often as I do with Amazon and Bezos? And do I even still see a Wlaschek who built something and laid the foundation for something great? Well, yes, I obviously still do, but how many others? In the end, it’s become a big corporation, so in terms of Rewe now above all, some kind of a life form, so to speak.

Can we (out-)live without Amazon? Sure! Without the “food” chains rather not. Just a pandemic and lockdown time has shown us that. Systemically relevant.
Whereby just, but not only, in the big cities something “new” (again) blossoms. The many small stores run primarily by immigrant families. Our old “Kreisler” revived by families with structures, which are to be found in such a way perhaps only with the immigrant family. I suspect it once.

Back to the own brands – what if the original suppliers quietly, gradually lose their presence? Disappear from the shelves? Will the private label then still be able to spoil us consumers with the lower price, or do we rather ask: want to?

Who will the established brand still be able to supply? The gas stations? Ah, the gas stations, they have already been strategically seized in good time. Merkur, Billa, Spar “direct”. Sure, perfect for me as a consumer. Personally, I can’t complain here.

I haven’t even looked at the discount stores yet. They do it differently with their own brands.
Choceur in the confectionery segment, for example. A fantastic chocolate at a very reasonable price. These “brands” are floating around in space, so to speak, not directly attributable to a grocery chain as a private label, but also not particularly well established as an independent brand. This is different with Storck, of course only in my individual perception. Choceur, as cheap chocolate of the best quality from Storck.
Storck, from Berlin just how it is 😊 just like the 13 years earlier founded Manner from Vienna.
At least compared to Milka, for example, I personally see it that way. But well, with 50% discount on Milka, which is still priced quite a bit higher than the standard price of Choceur, the extra trip to the discount store is no longer worth it and I just wanted chocolate. It will not be “bad”… At normal prices it may then rather be chocolate from Zotter, that’s clear.

They are clever, the discounters, you have to give them that. As a consumer, you have to watch out like hell. Come in and buy cheap, get a bargain. And sometimes, yes, you get really good quality. Quality that you can’t get anywhere else at 5 times the price. Since just Hofer (Aldi) has for me personally the nose in front and the probably the right nose again and again …

You still have to be careful not to fall into the subjective “cheap trap”. The organic linseed oil, what have I pondered. My head was right, next door at the dm at a third of the price, also organic. Yes, they are all good in their strategies, damn good even. Learning from them, not so easy.

The Rewe Group with its supermarket branches, is somewhat different, I think, from Spar & Co and the discounters. I don’t see so many TVs, washing machines and the like there.

That now brings me to the conclusion, animal protection. The naively positive thinker, the idealist in me may come up here. Because it would be a chance, a chance to take responsibility, a chance to change something. That makes me think of Billa and yes, okay, Merkur halt. Let’s stay with Billa.

First of all, I don’t trust them with “organic”, no one. Not a discount store, not a Rewe, not a Spar. Too many negative reports. But I don’t blame them either, they just have to get the customers into their stores. We are all involved in this. Consumers, retailers, politicians. It’s not easy.

The pack of chicken fillets, at Merkur, back then, in Vienna still.
Pack 1 for the price of X, the cheapest option. Next to it, pack 2, twice the price. Next to organic fillets, again double the price or 4 times the cheapest product. Free market economy, as a consumer you can only admit defeat. And I can distinguish farm of origin labels and calculate in units, thank you. Meat as a private label, potentially and in theory there would be positive opportunities.

Something has to change here. If someone sells you a huge box of chips for X price, half of which, if any, is only filled, then I consider that to be successful marketing. That’s how it should be. With animal products I lack any understanding for (possible) “fooling around” We must not lose confidence in organic and you dear chains, you have the power to control and punish that.

Ah, yes, the AMA (AgrarMarkt Austria) comes to mind. There I can remember a documentary. Must be a good 15 years ago again. A report about chicken keeping. Definitely not in accordance with animal welfare. How can an AMA employee say “the consumer wants a cheap price” – that’s why such “conditions” exist. That may be, but does it not miss the task of such an organization? To judge this is not in their area of responsibility, I would think.

Well, enough for this dull day. My fascination about the topic “own brands” somewhat satisfied and my brain again somewhat freed.

Countries and politics also often make good decisions (e.g. Great Britain as a pioneer in animal rights: All animals with spinal cords get rights), so I guess retail chains can too. Tobacco companies, big oil producing nations, etc. – rethinking in time is probably more effective than wasting existing resources to hold on to something “expiring”. It is certainly not easy, but something is happening. It probably needs a “push” to move forward more quickly. This will only succeed if we work together, because the fear that the competition could take advantage of this and thus cause economic damage to ourselves will be omnipresent. But perhaps we are that fast again with the anti-trust law, for some commodity it needs probably own solutions, for the protection of humans and animals.


Dear spelling and grammar checker: I don’t think my education was that bad and your suggestions are always correct. Then please don’t present it that way either, but note for my sake that something “might” not be correct. Thank you.