Branding your custom product

sauce label


We use a co-packer who has developed the rubs used by both Corky’s BBQ and Rendezvous in Memphis, Tenn. Can we use their name in our label, such as “used by Corky’s BBQ”?

– Kay Allison, Co-Owner, Southern Sisters Gourmet, Pontotoc, Miss.


I think there are two ways to look at this question:

  • Can you indicate who else is using the same private-label product you are?
  • Should you?

In both cases, my advice is no.

The point of a private-label product is that either an off-the-shelf formulation can be labeled for use by multiple brands or a custom-designed product can be manufactured for your exclusive use. In the former case, it defeats the purpose of private label to indicate who else is using the private-labeled product and could even get you into some legal trouble unless you have their express permission to use their name and logo or are paying a licensing fee.

Beyond what you may or may not be allowed to do, there is also the question of why you would want to mention another brand, even of a well-established restaurant. Having your own label gives you an opportunity to build your own brand and have it stand for the ideas and ideals you most value. Referencing someone else in the same business draws attention to their brand over yours.

If you want to add strong brands to your label, think about aligning with suppliers rather than competitors. For example, a co-branded hot sauce, spice rub or pickle collaboration can draw attention to both brands without highlighting potential competitors.

As always, run the private-label contract and label by your attorney. More on private label here.

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