Sustainably Yours, Tim King. Marketing Writer | Communications Specialist

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Damn, they did it again. Ahoy !! Pirates on Aisle 8 !

Man, it really bugs me when I go into my local supermarket and find that the product that I’ve bought for years has now suddenly disappeared…only to be replaced with a store-brand (private label) product.

After all, how many different inferior products have I invested in over the years before finding one that I like ?  All that time, money and effort that I’ve spent – never mind what the manufacturers have spent to develop and market it – more and more I am finding these products fall victims to their own success.

Just this week it happened when I went to buy a specific multi vitamin that is made by One-A-Day. The specific vitamin is called Essential and it is small, easy to swallow and has never given me any of the side effects I’ve experienced with other larger Complete, For Men, Extra Energy, etc. flavors that have popped up over the years.

Essentially, they are all the same, right ?

Essentially, they are all the same, right ?


So I saunter up to the pharmacy counter and look to grab a new bottle – and its nowhere to be found. I spend more time looking up and down the shelves. Maybe they moved it ? My eyes focus and refocus on the sea of colors clogging the shelf. Dozens of multivitamins to be sure, but no sign of the one I want. “It’s like having 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.”

Finally, I stoop down to take a closer look at where the One-A-Day Essentials are usually stocked. And lo and behold, there’s a benign store brand bottle sitting in its place – branded Healthy Accents ™. The bottle then goes on to openly taunt the manufacturer it has supplanted on the shelf by not only ripping off its name: “one daily essential(r)” but then blatantly using them to reassure customers that it’s OK: “Compared to Ingredients in One-A-Day(r) Essentials.”

Could you imagine the same thing happening in other pirated industries where knock offs are actually illegal ??

Now Introducing Red Wagon LEGGOS (r) building blocks for kids. “Made from plastic comparable to LEGO (r).” Don’t you think that a swarm of LEGO Lawyers (real people, not lawyers made out of LEGOS) would swarm down on the Red Wagon folks faster than you could say Ninjago !

Lego Battles: Ninjago

Lego Battles: Ninjago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s why I can’t figure out how these stores are able to get away with it? Are there different laws for consumable goods?

Now, the stores will tell us that they do these things to deliver a better “value” to its customers. Hogwash!! That argument only holds water if you still provide (and promote) both branded and private label products side by side.

Instead, these businesses  just seem to cherry-pick their top selling skus, send them to a lab to copy and then turn out a “similar” product with a much lower price – and a much higher profit margin for the store ! I’ve seen this in every section of the store. From the deli to the cereal aisle, frozen foods to health and beauty.

Maybe I’m just paranoid. I don’t want some Big Brother Supermarket Buyer deciding what’s best for me…this is still America, isn’t it. If I want to spend more for a Hershey Bar, then dammit I want to spend more on a Hershey Bar, and not a Hershee Bar**Made with similar ingredients found in Hershey Bars.

While I will agree that there are just too many choices of just about everything in a typical supermarket, the solution isn’t to reduce choices by simply replacing top sellers with more profitable knock offs just because you can. Here’s a little secret – every time you pull a switcheroo on a product I am loyal too and replace it with something you think is a “better value” for me, I think a little less of your store.

For all the good will you work for by promoting Buy Local produce and reusable shopping bags, a little bit of your true “commitment”  to customers is chipped away.

This is not communist Russia or Orwell’s 1984. Give us back the freedom to overspend if we must…reward the hard men and women of companies that have developed these products in the first place. If I Want My MTV … don’t offer me VH1 because it cost less and its all just music anyway. It’s not. It’s Milli Vanilli and we’re not going to take it any more !

What do you think ? Are supermarkets Sovereign Nations when it comes to brand rights ?

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