Discovering a New Industry

MU students attend Private Label Manufacturers Association University Outreach Program 

There’s most likely a few store brands tucked away in your pantry or refrigerator. Most people, however, probably don’t think about how store brands, various products that carry a retailer’s name, come to be.

College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources agribusiness management seniors Drew Cox and Caitlyn McGuire didn’t give much thought to this until they attended the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) University Outreach Program from Nov. 10-13 in Chicago, Illinois.

The opportunity to learn more about private labels drew both students to the program.

“I had little prior knowledge in private labels before this program,” McGuire said. “It was extremely informational with the lectures we attended. It was also a great way to get hands-on experience in the industry, through time with the exhibitors and retailers, as well as the store tours.”

“I thought it was interesting and I didn’t know much about private labels or anything like it,” Cox said. “I didn’t know if I had a career interest there, so when the application came out, I thought, why not.”

The PLMA University Outreach Program was created to bring young talent into the private label manufacturer’s industry. The program began three years ago, and this year, 20 schools from across the nation were present, bringing 80 students to participate in the program. During the first two days of the program, students attended informational sessions to learn more about private labels and factors influencing the industry. Then, students attended the PLMA annual trade show, where they received hands-on experience with a retailer and exhibitor. More than 1,500 companies from 40 countries exhibited their products at the trade show, which serves as an outlet to help buyers and sellers meet.

“This event opened up a whole new industry that I could have a career in,” McGuire said. “Private labels are quickly growing and there is a demand for new employees. This event also gave me more knowledge in agribusiness that I can use in any career, and it made me a more educated consumer. The most interesting thing was to actually meet the growers who produce the food that is sold to private labels, so their brand is never seen.”

“It’s pretty valuable to see how those deals come to creation,” Cox said.  “I didn’t quite realize how the private brands were distributed, so knowing that and seeing the process from start to when it ends on the shelf is pretty neat.”

This was the first year MU sent students to the event. Clarke Blodgett, a Mizzou junior studying agribusiness management, also attended the program along with agribusiness management advisor Jill Moreland.

McGuire encourages other students to attend PLMA’s Student Outreach Program to open themselves up to another industry.

Students interested in attending the event in the future should visit PLMA’s website here to learn more and apply.