A strong majority of the snack producers and bakers I meet with have some level of business interest in private label—and for good reason. Retail brands today often help set the pace for snack and bakery categories across the board, as I noted in a recent analysis of the current market (see “Strategies in retail branding”). This is true of core pantry staples—but also categories that require strong innovation, like frozen snacks & appetizers. As retailers invest more effort and capital into retail branding, the playing field grows more competitive—particularly since retailers largely control decisions about shelf space and merchandising.

The PLMA show hits Chicago this weekend, always a strong event to review current trends across the highly diversified (and often complicated) private label supply chain (see “Private Label Trade Show returns to Chicago area” for more details). One aspect of the show that always captures my attention is the Idea Supermarket, a review of leading private label products from across the U.S., with some international examples thrown in for flavor. Along those lines, PLMA just released its 2015 “Salute to Excellence” awards, which showcase some fantastic examples of forward-trending snacks and baked goods—not just for private label, but for the industry overall. Here are some highlights:

ALDI Southern Grove Salt & Pepper Cashews

Trader Joe’s Crispy Green Curry Shrimp Gyoza

Gordon Food Service Honey Corn Muffin with Roasted Peppers

Delhaize America/Food Lion Cinnamon French Toast Bites

Metro Richelieu Irresistibles Dark Chocolate Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

ALDI Village Bakery Kitchen Sink Cookies

Topco Papa Enzo’s Take & Bake Supreme Pizza

Rexall Nosh & Co. Thick Cut Barbecue Chips

Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Wholesum Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew Bar

7-Eleven 7-Select Go! Smart Cranberry Cashew Yogurt Drizzled Bar

Many of the retailers releasing these products have a strong hand in developing the specifications for these foods, and seek to release original foods, not value-priced carbon-copy competitors with national brands (although that has its place, as well…)—and an increasing number of retailers are growing into bona fide manufacturers themselves.

Moving forward, snack producers and bakers who invest in this segment will find strong, lasting relationships retailers seeking manufacturing partners—particularly as more private label brands continue to gain market share.