COSTCO WHOLESALE introduced Kirkland Signature products more
than 20 years ago.
The reasons for investing in the company’s own private-label products are pretty straightforward. In cases where the right product isn’t
available—either because it hasn’t been created yet or because it doesn’t
represent the best value to members—Costco creates its own. It’s happened with everything from men’s dress shirts and pet food to facial tissue and health care items. Just about every product category and
department has some Kirkland Signature representation.
“The working rule followed by Costco buyers is that all Kirkland Signature
What’s in a name?
products must be equal to or better than the national brands, and must offer
a value to our members,” says Ron Vachris, executive vice president and
chief operating officer of merchandising of Costco. “We know we have met
this goal when consumer groups consistently rate Kirkland Signature highly
compared with national brands.”
Another rule is continuous improvement. “We’re constantly looking at
Kirkland Signature items, revisiting them with an eye to making them
better,” explains Jeff Lyons, Costco’s senior vice president of fresh foods.
“With Kirkland Signature, the focus is always on quality.”
Over the years, the Kirkland Signature brand has grown by embracing
these simple foundations. The following pieces provide a look into the
care and detail behind how Kirkland Signature products are developed by
Costco’s buying teams. We’re showcasing a few of the departments
behind these products and how Kirkland Signature has evolved over the
years.—T. Foster Jones
legacy of quality
IT’S REFERRED TO as the “salmon story”
within company walls: Costco employees are
often told how buyers over the years improved
the company’s fresh salmon offering as a
prime example of Costco’s commitment to
quality and value. What started as a skin-on,
bone-in fillet (with belly, collar, fins and tail
still intact) evolved into a thick, neatly
trimmed fillet of only the meatiest part of
the fish—and for a lower price than the original offering.
In 2001, Costco began offering frozen
seafood under the Kirkland Signature label,
following the same quality standards that had
made its fresh fish program a success; the frozen items kicked off with farmed Atlantic
salmon, which remains Costco’s top-selling
frozen finfish item.
Adam Matkin, frozen seafood buyer at
Costco, says Costco’s fillets are top quality.
“We like to think of frozen fish as fresher than
fresh,” he says, explaining that the fish is
immediately chilled upon catching and flash-frozen within one to two days (if not less),
which stops the clock on spoilage. Costco
trims frozen fillets for a consistent cooking
and eating experience.
Over the past 15 years, the Kirkland