For the second year in a row, Canadian grocer Metro has injected a Gen Z sensibility to its Private Brand through a unique university student design competition.

The competition drew new design ideas for Metro and helped raise the Private Brand industry’s profile with this emerging generation of potential employees, according to a presentation at the virtual My Private Brand Design Summit.

“We have to start looking at the newer generation as we think about growth,” said Marie-France Gibson, Vice President of Private Brand for Metro, a 2021 Vertex Awards winner.

How the Competition Worked

The competition was outlined in a Summit presentation by Metro and its design agency PIGEON Brands. University design students in Toronto and Montreal were invited to create elements including packaging design and communication assets, said Christina Essue, Director, Strategy — Brand + Creative, PIGEON. Schools involved in the program included OCAD University, College Salette and George Brown College.

Some 130 students have participated over two years. The first-year’s design focus was on kombucha, and the second year on coffee.

“Students had the opportunity to work with a real agency and a real client, and to have check-ins with our design team,” said Essue. “It gave them the ability to understand what a real project like this would involve.”

Finalists presented their ideas to a judging panel comprised of university and industry experts, including Christopher Durham, President, My Private Brand. The grand prize was a paid internship in the Toronto and Montreal offices of PIGEON.

How Gen Z Differs

Metro and PIGEON found that the students brought valuable new perspectives.

“We saw a bold Gen Z design sensibility,” said Essue. “This is a generation with social media in mind. They want a narrative”

She added that Gen Z views Private Brands as regular brands.

“These are digital natives who spend a lot of time online, so brands need to use design to stand out,” she elaborated.

Program Becomes Recruiting Tool

Metro’s Gibson said the competition was motivational for the retailer’s internal teams and made the students aware of new career paths. It even helped in attracting new entrepreneurs for Private Brand products.

“It’s so helpful for me with recruiting entrepreneurs,” said Gibson. “We can say that a lot of new minds are thinking about your product. It gives us an edge versus competitors.”

Thumbs up from Summit Attendees

Summit attendees expressed excitement about the program in comments submitted through the Summit’s interactive chatbox.

“I appreciate you working with students and opening them up top real-world experiences,” said one attendee.

Said another, “Great client/agency collaboration with the community!”

All of the Presentations from the Summit are now available on-demand.


The Design Summit is the second in a series of My Private Brand 2021 Summits — The My Private Brand virtual Innovation Summit (9.22-23) will spotlight how Private Brand can lead in the future and better engage tomorrow’s shoppers. FREE VIP TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE NOW.