During the past 12 months or so our industry has seen a steady increase in the sales of value lines from all retailers. With the downturn we will continue to see these products increase in popularity as consumers 'trade down' in search of better value.

The whole own label versus brand debate will intensify this year - and it has got me thinking - do the two markets demand two different skillsets?

Within the sectors I operate in - fresh produce and meat - most products are sold in own-label format. There is a distinct lack of brands. Suppliers do not have a brand to market and have to rely on their ability to sell a product at a competitive price without really having any option to build consumer loyalty on the back of a big budget marketing campaign.

Own-label suppliers have been cynical about the ability of a national account manager with a pure brand background to actively 'sell' a product that is not a household name. Equally, clients with big brand pedigrees are cynical about the level of sophistication an own-label sales person might possess - yes they can sell but do they understand the consumer, can they analyse the market, spot trends and respond accordingly?

When I was MD of an own-label horticulture and fresh produce marketing company I used to think that branded sales people lacked the ability to trade, that they just weren't used to rolling up their sleeves and fighting with the multiple buyers for every bit of category space. I continued with this belief for the first few years in my recruitment business. However, I now have a much better understanding of the requirements of the classic branded fmcg market and the efforts they make to protect their core values, the integrity of their brands, and the effort and expense that goes into NPD, marketing, advertising and analysis of consumer buying trends.

It is as equally true to say that our brand clients, who only a few years ago would be very 'snooty' regarding non-brand candidates, now recognise that the leading own-label suppliers also spend a lot of money, time and energy analysing the market and product innovations to ensure that their client's brand - i.e. the retailer's good name and reputation - is protected and that customers get the quality and value they want .

However, at the end of the day, whether you're a brand or an own label person, you've still got to deliver the goods and in today's market more than any other, it's all about listening to your customer and talking to and understanding consumers. If you can do that and make a profit then you should be able to operate successfully in either sector.

Guy Moreton is director of recruitment practitioner MorePeople.