Consumers Choose Private Brand in the Double Digits

The recession may have ended in the summer of 2009, but U.S. consumers in the first half of 2010 continued to shift to less expensive Private Brands in all product categories, including the hard-to-penetrate personal care and baby care segments.

According to an August survey by Epsilon Targeting, the leading provider of consumer information for targeted marketing solutions, an increasing number of consumers switched to store brand products in the previous six months. Most surprisingly, 61% said they switched to Private Brand personal care products, including shampoo and facial moisturizers, while almost 18% of the respondents said they moved to Private Brand baby goods, including diapers, child pain relievers and baby shampoo. These categories historically have a higher perceived cost of switching, because consumers feel they are sacrificing on quality.

The brand shift is a marked increase over Epsilon Targeting’s last survey, in May 2009, when 51% of respondents said they purchased Private Brand personal care products, and 13% bought baby items.

The gain by store brands in the personal care category is especially noteworthy because consumers tend to be more loyal to national brand shampoos, facial moisturizers and other “appearance” products. For instance, an unexpected 37% of respondents said they moved to Private Brand shampoo and conditioner in the past six months, based on Epsilon Targeting’s research. Traditionally, this is a small category for store brands – less than 3% of all shampoos and 1% of conditioners purchased at supermarkets in the third quarter were store brands, according to the Private Brand Manufacturers Association (PLMA), through The Nielsen Co. Among drugstore shoppers, the figures were 5% and 4%, respectively.

But Epsilon Targeting’s findings are supported by PLMA data that show unit sales of store brand shampoos and conditioners did rise in the third quarter, by almost 71% and 13%, respectively, at drug stores alone.

Still, national brands linger in the minds of shoppers, as indicated by the research. At least 45% of respondents said they would definitely purchase their usual label of personal care, food or household products again if they had a coupon. More than 44% said they would buy their usual brand of health products.

For the makers of national brands, this continued trend is a call to action, said Epsilon Targeting Vice President Warren Storey. There is less of a stigma associated with trying to save money today, and if consumers have a good experience with a low risk product, such as dryer sheets, they are inclined to move into higher risk areas, such as detergent.

“This is an opportunity for national brands to turn to their vast resources and find new ways to engage their customers one-to-one” according to Storey. “National brands have the ability to leverage rich data in new ways, across all communication channels from direct mail to mobile. The information is there – where their shoppers buy, when, and how they respond to promotions. As the economy returns, national brands must leverage this intelligence and apply it to pricing, product placement and special offers. Marketers must leverage this data to identify and provide incentives, such as coupons and samples, to consumers who would switch back”

Among other findings of the survey:

  • 75% of respondents switched to store branded household products, with the highest number buying paper towels (49%), followed by bathroom tissue (43%), storage bags (42%) and laundry detergent (39%).
  • 74% purchased private-label food products. Ranking high in this category are bread (42%), cheese (36%) and cereal (35%). With food prices continuing to rise, as recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, these figures are poised to increase.
  • 59% swapped to store-brand health products, including adult pain relievers (33%) and multi-vitamins (27%).
  • 27% of respondents moved to private-label pet care products.
  • In the personal care category, more than 28% of respondents replaced their deodorant with a store brand and almost 16% did so with their facial moisturizer. Almost 24 percent switched on women’s shavers.
  • In the children and baby category, 9% of respondents traded to store-brand pain relievers, 6% shifted their baby shampoo brands and 5% changed diapers.

Epsilon’s online survey was launched in the U.S. on Aug. 5, with 1,452 total respondents and a margin of error of +/- 3.3 points. For more information, please visit

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.