7-Eleven goes upscale, sort of. They're selling their own private-label store brand

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You see them in a lot of grocery stores, private labels -- the in-store brands that are on the shelves with well known products. For instance, Walmart has Sam's Choice. The grocery store chain Kroger has For Maximum Value, the name of a brand attached to sugar, flour, bread and canned goods up to Private Selections, which covers the high-end foods like organics. Walgreen's has Finest Natural, which covers natural foods. Safeway has Eating Right as a private label covering healthy foods. Well, you get the idea.

And now 7-Eleven, a convenience store that I'm betting almost every American and Canadian has visited at one time or another, is firmly in the act. They have a brand called the 7-Select line. It's been around since 2004 on 32 products, but they're expanding to cover 180 items, from cookies and candy to beef jerky and chocolate covered pretzels.

It's a smart move for 7-Eleven. According to BusinessWeek, this is an $81 billion business and has risen more than 10 percent in the past year.

10 Top Store Brands

    7-Eleven's new private-label snacks include items like beef jerky, trail mix and gummi worms that will be available for hungry snackers who want a treat for their wallets as well as their stomachs.

    7-Eleven, Inc. / AP

    The new 7-Eleven line joins a host of upscale private label store brands that are giving a new life to generics, which used to signal "low quality" to consumers. Shoppers at stores like Whole Foods regularly choose the store's house brands, especially its 365 Organic line, over name-brand products.

    Jeff Haynes, AFP / Getty Images

    Trader Joe's house brand items even regularly win awards and notice, from its Two-Buck Chuck wine, to items like chicken noodle soup low fat canned or refrigerated. Consumer Reports picked its granola as one of the top supermarket products last year, along with its canned peaches.

    Cassandra Shie, AOL

    Supermarkets have long been the haven of private label brands, but rather than just sticking to things like paper towels and rice, markets like Publix are offering upscale items as well.

    Luis M. Alvarez, AP

    But supermarkets also still stick to the basics, like paper towels. Here, a shopper passes by Kroger brand paper towels inside the a Kroger Food & Drug store.

    David Kohl, AP

    Wegman's and many other supermarkets and drug stores rely on generics for over-the-counter drug sales. There's also a price war going on for generic prescriptions, with Wal-Mart, Target and CVS -- to name just three outlets -- offering 90-day supplies for $10 or under.

    Cassandra Shie, AOL

    Wal-Mart's profits have been going up and up during this economic crisis, and one key ingredient to that success is relying on house brands like this glass cleaner, but also for organic foods, paper goods, toiletries and household staples.

    Cassandra Shie, AOL

    Target also relies heavily on its house brands to appeal to cost-conscious consumers. Here, Target's house brand cereal shares shelf space with countless other cereals in the Super Target store in the east Denver suburb of Glendale, Colo.

    David Zalubowski, AP

    Costco has long had success with its Kirkland Signature brand, which offers everything from paper goods to meat at a much lower price than brand names.

    Tim Boyle, Getty Images

    BJ's has had great success with its Berkeley & Jensen brand, which it says allows it to offer prices 15 to 60 percent off name brands.

    Mike Groll, AP

It's also a nice move for the public, especially regular customers who shop at 7-Eleven. Private labels are generally almost always cheaper than the other brands in the store. Reportedly, these 7-Select products will be 10-20% less than everything else on the shelves.

It's been interesting how this has all developed. I have a lot of memories of grocery shopping as a child in the 1970s and seeing the ancestors of private labels: generic brands.

The packaging was always white, with big black lettering, and instead of saying something like Crest, it would say Toothpaste. Instead of Tide, it would read, Laundry Detergent. Yeah, the marketers didn't exactly put in a lot of effort naming the products, but you did always know what you were getting.

These generic brands were always significantly cheaper than the other products, but that was the problem. The box that said Rice on it, also screamed the message: this is really cheap. And nobody bought them, or not enough people, anyway. But dress up the packaging a little, and suddenly there's nothing generic about store brand foods, especially these. 7-Eleven will be selling their own gummi worms, espresso beans and Kettle cooked potato chips. I'm guessing 7-Select will be a hit.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale). He admits he's pleased his publisher didn't decide to name his book, Book.
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