White Label vs. Private Label: Differences Explained

By Danica Djokic

June 19, 2023

If you know anything about the eCommerce business niche, “white label” and “private label” are two popular terms you’ve heard, probably (incorrectly) interchangeably.

While they do share a lot of similarities, you also need to respect the differences. This white label vs. private label guide will help you decide which strategy will help you unlock the full potential of eCommerce. Here’s everything you need to know:

White Label and Private Label Definitions

The first question to ask when comparing these two terms is simple: What are they?

“White label” is a term that describes generic products sold by multiple retailers, often under their own name and branding. Several brands will receive the same product, but use their own brand on the packaging and leverage digital marketing to promote it to their respective audiences.

Conversely, the private label definition states that a product will be sourced from a manufacturer specifically for one retailer and is made to fit the retailer’s needs. For example, a product’s color may be changed to match a specific brand. Crucially, the products are unique to the retailer, thus being made for exclusive selling.

Both types of product sourcing can be very profitable and remove many of the costs and constraints linked to developing products from scratch by yourself.

White Label and Private Label Examples

Before looking at private label vs. white label dropshipping or product manufacturing, it is vital to understand how they work in practice.

Steel water bottles are a great example. A white label water bottle may be a standard steel water bottle subsequently branded with an adhesive wrapper. Therefore, two companies could sell essentially the same container, but charge different prices based on their brand positioning and audiences.

Conversely, the shape, color, and size of a private label water bottle are all designed specifically with the buyer company in mind. For example, private label manufacturers may emboss the retailer’s logo on the metal for a truly exclusive feel.

Private vs. White Label Pros and Cons

Both options are advantageous over manufacturing products from scratch, as the outsourced approach removes the need for on-site stock management and order fulfillment. Private label products made by small-business operations and enterprises now account for around 19.5% of the US market, but white label manufacturing is still vastly cheaper.

White Label Pros

  • Great for dropshipping
  • Often the cheapest solution on the market
  • Quickest approach as products don’t need to be exclusive

White Label Cons

  • Your product will essentially be the same as many others on the market.
  • No customization options outside of the branding elements
  • Mass-produced items with no real quality guarantees

Private Label Pros

  • Your products stand out from generic brands
  • Guaranteed quality
  • Easy to make improvements over time
  • Cheaper than in-house production

Private Label Cons

  • May take longer to produce
  • Some private label manufacturers have minimum order quotas.
  • More expensive than white label

White Label and Private Label Manufacturer Checking

Whichever decision you reach in your private label vs. white label debate, finding the right manufacturer will be essential before you start promoting your branded products on the eCommerce website you built. Otherwise, you could seriously ruin the brand reputation to lose existing customers and new sales alike.

Here are some simple steps to determine if your chosen manufacturer is a good fit for your brand:

  • Request a product sample first to verify quality.
  • Place two orders to different addresses – one with just a single item and the other with a whole batch.
  • Monitor the order fulfillment processes, particularly the communication and delivery speeds.
  • Review the total manufacturing and order fulfillment costs, including any hidden fees.
  • Conduct some research to see how they deal with defects or customer returns, as this will reflect on your brand.

Ultimately, the difference between white label and private label products will be rendered irrelevant if you choose the wrong manufacturer. As such, following the above steps is crucial.

Further Reading

The Takeaway

While many new eCommerce business owners think that white label vs. private label differences are negligible, the truth is that subtle changes can considerably influence your business growth. There is no single right or wrong answer, and your choice should depend on the products you want to sell and where consumer expectations lie for your brand. A private label inventory may stand out more, but can come at a premium cost and slower production. On the other hand, a white label production will save you plenty of money and time, but might make distinguishing yourself quite difficult, and leaves you little control over product quality.


What's the difference between a private label and white label?

White label products are generic items that a manufacturer makes for several businesses but can be personally branded to differentiate from the same products sold by your competitors. Private label items are exclusively branded, allowing you to request changes from the manufacturer. For a more detailed answer, read our guide above.

Is white labeling legal?

White labeling is a completely legal protocol that allows multiple businesses to customize and sell generic products under their own brands. However, eCommerce companies will often need permissions via a White Labeling Agreement. This is something all white label companies must research in advance.

Is white labeling profitable?

White labeling can be very profitable, as it reduces initial outlays and financial exposure. However, the products will only succeed if they (and the brand) are aligned to market demands and pricing structures. Likewise, the company must know how to drive traffic to its website and product pages.

Can you private label alcohol?

Yes. Alcoholic private label products include a range of spirits and whiskeys. However, any beverages must be made by a registered distillery. At the same time, the product will need to provide the same information regarding ABV percentages and related factors as any other alcoholic beverage.

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