Know the Difference: White Label vs Private Label


white label vs private label

Although they are mentioned quite often at the same time, white-label and private-label strategies are different. They cater to distinct small business objectives and needs. Understanding white label vs. private label and the difference between the two strategies is key for leveraging the position of your brand.

Brian Cairns, a seasoned industry leader who holds the role of CEO at ProStrategix Consulting based in New York, explained the overlap: “The distinction between white label and private label is subtle,” he writes. “That’s why these terms are so easily confused.”

For example, private-label products boost brand loyalty and let businesses tailor products to specific preferences and markets. A white-label approach allows companies to buy generic products and brand them.

What is White Label vs. Private Label?

White-label goods are generic and produced specifically to be rebranded and sold by different retailers. The most significant characteristic is that the product remains unchanged without customization–only the branding differs.

With private-label products, the manufacturer and retailer have a closer relationship. Retailers commission private-label brands to sell customized products with unique presentation, design, and packaging. This allows for better control over the product, its attributes, quality, and pricing. There are other differences between white label and private label.

What is Private Labeling?

One of the big benefits of private labeling is the higher profit margins. Intermediate costs are lower because private-label products are sourced straight from the manufacturer. There’s a bigger margin between the cost of production and the retail price, which works out in small businesses’ favor.

“Small businesses should opt for private label services if they make a unique product,” Calloway Cook Founder Illuminate Labs  writes.

Private labeling allows companies to dictate more specific characteristics. The control extends to packaging design and even production volumes and timing. Customers associate unique features with the company’s own brand name. Private label products offer distinctive characteristics.

What is White Labeling?

White labeling is when products are manufactured by one small business but sold branded by multiple retailers. White-label products are generic and designed specifically to fit the branding requirements of different companies.

It’s a good strategy for a small business looking to break into a new market without big investments and product development. Testing, research and development and product design can be bypassed.  White labelled services allow businesses to focus more on marketing and branding.

Private Label Vs White Label Examples

Ikea supplies home and office furniture and is an excellent example of a private-label brand. Tesco Everyday Value highlights groceries. Whole Foods Market has a white-label product in the retail sector called “365 Everyday Value.”

Halogen is a private-label fashion product from Nordstrom. Those are just a few examples of white vs private-label products.

Benefits of Private Labeling

Private label products offer benefits like brand loyalty and uniqueness. Retailers get higher profit margins.

Benefits of White Labeling

White-label products also have advantages, like cost-effectiveness. This budget-friendly option reduces marketing, distribution and R&D costs. Selling white-label products with a unique brand boosts customer loyalty. White-label products are more agile and responsive to market demand.

Challenges of Private Labeling

Private labelling has challenges like higher upfront costs for inventory, manufacturing and product development. Outsourcing production can be a challenge to make sure you get consistent quality.

Challenges of White Labeling

White labelling can also have its shortcomings. Generic products leave little room for customization, and there’s more competition because they’re available from several retailers.

FactorWhite LabelPrivate Label
Brand Vision AlignmentSuitable for businesses focusing on scalability and quick market entry.Ideal for those aiming to build a strong, recognizable brand with unique products.
Initial InvestmentLower upfront costs, as products are pre-made and only need rebranding.Higher initial investment required for product development, customization, and branding.
Profit MarginsGenerally lower profit margins due to standardization and competition.Potentially higher profit margins through product uniqueness and brand value.
Target MarketEffective for rapidly entering diverse markets with a broad product range.Best for businesses focused on building long-term customer loyalty and brand identity.
Product CustomizationLimited to no customization options, as products are standardized.High degree of customization possible, allowing for unique product offerings.
Control Over ProductionLess control over product specifications and production quality.Greater control over production, quality, and specifications, enhancing brand integrity.
Speed to MarketFaster time to market since products are ready-made and only need branding.Longer time to market due to the need for product development and customization.
Market CompetitionHigher competition due to the availability of similar products under different brands.Lower direct competition, as products are unique to the brand and can stand out.

Choosing Between White Label and Private Label

Choosing between white-label and private-label strategies is a significant decision that can impact your business in the long run. Here are some key factors to consider when making this choice:

  • Alignment with Brand Vision:
    • Private labeling is ideal if you aim to build a strong, recognizable brand with products that consumers associate directly with your company.
    • White labeling suits businesses that prioritize scalability and speed to market over brand recognition, allowing you to sell generic products under your brand name without the need for extensive customization.
  • Investment and Profit Margins:
    • White labeling typically requires a lower initial investment, making it a more accessible entry point for many businesses.
    • Private labeling, while demanding a higher upfront investment for product development and branding, often yields higher profit margins due to the unique nature and perceived value of the products.
  • Target Market Considerations:
    • If your goal is to quickly penetrate various markets with a broad range of products, white labeling can be an effective strategy.
    • Private labeling is better suited for businesses focused on building long-term customer relationships and brand loyalty, as it allows for more control over product quality and branding.
  • Product Customization and Exclusivity:
    • Private label products offer the opportunity for customization, enabling you to create unique products that stand out in the market.
    • White label products are generally standard offerings from manufacturers that multiple retailers can rebrand, leading to less differentiation.
  • Control Over Production and Quality:
    • With private labeling, you have greater control over the production process, quality of the products, and their specifications, which can be crucial for maintaining brand reputation.
    • White labeling offers less control over production and quality, as the same products are often sold by multiple retailers under different brands.
  • Speed to Market:
    • White label products can be brought to market more quickly, as they are already developed and only need rebranding.
    • Private label products require more time for development, customization, and production, which can delay market entry but result in a more tailored product offering.
  • Market Saturation and Competition:
    • White label products may face higher competition since similar or identical products might be available under different brands.
    • Private label products can help you stand out in a crowded market with unique offerings that competitors do not have.

Each of these factors plays a crucial role in determining which strategy—white labeling or private labeling—best aligns with your business objectives, brand vision, and market demands. It’s essential to carefully evaluate these aspects to make an informed decision that supports your long-term goals.

White Label vs Private Label Brands: Key Takeaways

Choosing between white-label and private-label strategies means considering a business’s needs and market conditions. There are also some legal considerations.

White-label products are cost-effective and quick to market. Private-label products provide greater control over branding, quality, and a product’s specifications.

Regardless of the one your small business chooses, you’ll need to consider contracts with manufacturers, adherence to regulatory standards, and intellectual property rights. Specific legal regulations could apply to the products you’re interested in. Of course, companies need to do market research.

Bernadette Kelly is the Media Director for ActiveWin Media. She sees the differences in terms of legal requirements.

“The massive advantage is the white label provider typically has secured regulatory licenses or legal requirements to operate an e-commerce site. Unfortunately, many start-ups fail to consider the legal hoops they have to jump through to sell online,” she writes.

FAQs: White Label vs Private Label

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about white vs private-label products

Can a business use both white-label and private-label strategies for different products?

White label vs. private label isn’t a one-or-the-other choice. Using both allows a small business to leverage the advantages of either one and diversify its portfolio. One scenario involves using white-label products first to test new markets and then moving into private-label products when they pan out. That way, these white label services pay off.

How does one’s own branding impact customer perception in the private label product market?

Private label manufacturers should take advantage of this branding because it separates them from the competition with their customers. This type of branding allows a small business to control product quality and branding and elevate the value of their products.

Unique products with their own brand foster loyalty, and they can differentiate your products in crowded marketplaces.

What are the first steps in becoming a private label manufacturer?

The process is different from that of white label manufacturers. When learning how to start a business with a private label strategy, you must conduct market research and develop a detailed business plan.

Product development must consider regulatory requirements, production manufacturing techniques, and market demand. Developing a good brand identity means considering package design and a logo with a striking brand name.

How can a business go from selling white-label products to developing its own private-label brand?

Private label companies can begin this process by taking a look at the white sales and formulating branded products from the numbers.

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Image: Envato Elements

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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.

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