The solution: rolling all private labels into a single revamped and improved line called America's Choice. But it was a radical step, requiring what Mr. Rourke calls "probably the biggest product launch ever done when you look at the variety of products."
A&P managers were concerned consumers would have trouble converting from their old store brand to America's Choice, Mr. Rourke says. "To build awareness and credibility and the quality image we were after, we felt we needed to take off with good advertising," he says.
So, in an 18-month rollout through the chain's 850 stores, A&P tried something uncommon for a private-label brand-a $3 million ad campaign including prime-time spot TV, radio and print by Sillery & Partners, Stamford, Conn.
For Mr. Rourke, 61, a 20-year veteran of A&P, that meant overseeing a media campaign devoted strictly to private-label products for the first time.
The introduction also included revamped packaging that Mr. Rourke calls "as good or better than most national brand packaging."
The results have been gratifying. Private label has grown from 18% of A&P's volume before America's Choice to nearly 23% now, including A&P's existing premium Master's Choice label and Eight O'clock Coffee.
"The campaign was developed to launch the product line and get it across quickly, and television and radio really did its job," he says.