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September 30, 2022 | Lauren Grainger

White Label vs Private Label Cosmetics – Differences Explained

Read time: 7min

If you’re looking to create your own range of personal care or pet care products, you’ll need to find a private label or white label manufacturer to help guide you through the process and who can manufacture these products for you. But, with the two terms often used interchangeably, it can be difficult to understand which one is the best option for you. We’ve put together a simple article to help you understand the differences between the two and included some tips on how to choose the right manufacturer to work with.

What is a white label product?

A white label product is an off-the-shelf formulation which is put into your own branded packaging. This type of product will be formulated and tested before it’s even on offer to you so it’s ready to go to market once it’s been branded. It’s ideal for small businesses who are looking to sell branded products but don’t need to create their own formulations.

Let’s take a local hairdresser or dog groomer, for example. They want their own shampoo that they can sell to customers to promote their brand and extend their product offering. Using a white label manufacturer, they’d be able to pick their preferred product from a selection of ready-made shampoos. They would then choose what quantity they’d like and submit their design for how the product is labelled.

White label products can be sourced quickly and with low minimum order requirements, but may not be suitable for ambitious startups, established brands or retailers. This is because the formulation is owned by the manufacturer, not the brand. This means that competitors can be on the market with the exact same product under different branding and can also make changing supplier extremely difficult, if not impossible, and can hold brands back when attempting to grow their business.

Essentially, a white label is a ‘blank label’. You can’t change what’s inside, and you don’t own it, but you can customise how the product looks and brand it as your own. This option is perfect if you’re looking to start small, if you’re looking to sell direct to consumers and if you’re looking to not invest funds upfront in large quantities. However, if you aim to sell your products through retailers in the future, or have a totally unique product, private label could be a better solution for you.

What is a private label product?

A key difference between white label and private label comes down to how the product is developed. When working to produce a private label product, this would be formulated by a development chemist specifically based on the customer’s brief and designed specifically for them. This is perfect for brands and retailers who want to take a new product to market where they have full input on the product claims they want to make, the ingredients they want to include and where they can also be part of the process to determine texture, scent and product cost. Most products on the shelves of health and beauty retailers and supermarkets are contract manufactured by private label experts like Group55.

Let’s take a skincare brand as an example here. They want to launch a new vegan moisturiser that’s made in the UK and is totally unique to them. They know which functions they want the product to deliver, and how they’d like it to look, feel and smell, but they don’t have the facilities or expertise to develop, test and manufacture it themselves. A brand like this would choose to work with a private label manufacturer to take the project from an idea to a finished product. This process would typically include a formulation and development stage where sample formulations will be created and tweaked until the customer is happy. The customer would have full input as to the texture, colour, fragrance and packaging that is used for this product based on their vision and specification. This product would then go through a testing stage where the stability of the product is tested in different temperatures and environments and its compatibility with packaging is also tested – this process typically takes around 12 weeks. Once the product has passed testing, it would then be scaled up to be manufactured in bulk ready to be packaged and shipped off to its retail destination.

Being involved from the start of the product development process means that you have a unique product designed specifically for your brand, but it does take approximately 9 months from idea to a physical product ready to sell. You would also likely have minimum order quantities (MOQs) to meet and depending on your manufacturer, this could be somewhere from 5,000 units to 100,000 units per SKU, but this does mean that with the economies of scale you’ll have a lower unit cost than if you were to work on a white label basis.

Private label projects require more upfront investment and have a longer lead time to hitting shelves than white label, but the beauty of private label manufacturing is that it allows brands to sell their unique products without any risk of there being the exact same product on the market. In most cases with private label manufacturing, you’ll also own the formulations which means that you have greater flexibility in working with a manufacturer of your choice at any point moving forward – just be sure to ask this question as some manufacturers will retain ownership of the formulations.

In simple terms, a private label product belongs to your brand but is formulated, developed and contract-manufactured by specialists+ on your behalf. You (most likely) own it, have total control over what’s going into it, how it looks and feels, but you leave it to the experts to make it for you.

How to choose which is best for you

The terminology can often be used interchangeably, and it may be confusing when deciding which route you need to go down and what’s best for your business, you may think you’re looking for white label, when in fact private label could be much more suitable for your needs. Here’s a handy list of pros and cons to help you establish which is best for your brand.

infographic demonstrating the differences between white label and private loabel manufacturing

How to find white label products

Here’s a simple step-by-step process for sourcing a white label product.

1. Set out your requirements

Think about which products you need, the quantities you require and your budget.

2. Consider your claims
Your manufacturer must be able to support any product claims you wish to make, such as UK made, vegan and cruelty-free.

3. Seek out suppliers who meet your requirements

Once you’ve shortlisted some manufacturers, request samples so you can compare product quality.

How to find private label products

The process for sourcing a private label manufacturer is naturally a bit more complex as there are lots of different elements to consider. Luckily, we’ve written a blog which tells you everything you know about choosing a private label cosmetic manufacturer.

If you have a private label project that you’d like to discuss with us, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch here

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