I really enjoy some assignments, and one of them is serving as a judge on the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) Salute to Excellence Awards, which honors the best private label products in a range of categories from cookies to household cleaners. Sure, sitting around and filling my face with a tableful of tasty treats is reward enough, but the PLMA panel always includes a good mix of editors, experts and especially consumers. When regular folks start spraying air fresheners, applying skin creams or talking about shampoos, they’ll say stuff that makes even a non-scientist like me cringe.
After several hours spent extolling the nutritional value of chocolate-covered granola bars (I’m not kidding), panelists began contemplating the virtues of household and personal care products.
“This looks toxic,” said one panelist as she reached for a shampoo.
“Everyone with children watch out. Spray sunscreens are dangerous,” warned a middle-aged woman.
That one, I couldn’t let go. I asked, “Why are they dangerous?”
“Because they’re flammable. Didn’t you see that man in Massachusetts catch on fire?” she asked.
Oh yeah, that story spread like wildfire and was picked up by The New York Times last month.
Apparently, a middle-aged man didn’t realize that he shouldn’t stand by a hot grill after applying an alcohol-based spray. I wonder if he smokes a cigarette while pumping gas, too?
But consumers weren’t the only ones who got it wrong during that PLMA panel event. After ripping through dozens of snacks, frozen foods and mystery meats with little difficulty, things hit a snag when we reached HABA.
Sprays didn’t spritz, dip tubes clogged and tops didn’t open easily. Fortunately for the contestants, the intrepid panelists popped the tops and spread the lotions on by hand. If it had been solely up to me, I would have chucked the entries and given the guilty parties a big fat zero.
Still, there’s no denying that private label is making inroads in nearly every category. To see how the national brands are staying ahead of the competition, read The Top 50, which starts on p. 56 in this issue.