Private Brands Are The “New Normal”

The just completed wave of shopper research on Private Brand usage conducted by Perception Research Services (PRS), shows the vast majority of shoppers still purchase some Private Brand products on a regular basis (86% – on par with the 84% seen in November 2010).  This is true across income groups and other types of classification.

The latest data shows more types of Private Brand being purchased as significantly more shoppers claim to have bought more Private Brand products than they did in 2010 (38% vs 32%), and reported purchasing 54% more product categories (7.4 vs. 4.8).

High levels of Private Brand purchases continue for paper products, cereals, cleaning products and canned and frozen vegetables. And for the first time, cookies and salty snacks have now moved into the top tier of regularly purchased private label products as well.

Overall, the largest gains seen for Private Brand penetration were for:

  • soft drinks (carbonated & non- carbonated)
  • salty snacks
  • frozen meals
  • vitamins/medicines
  • cookies

Importantly, shoppers report feeling good about buying Private Brand products. Over half (51%) say they feel smart/savvy when they buy private label products; and very few – only 11% – say they feel self-conscious, with almost none – 3% – saying they feel embarrassed when doing so.

In some cases, shoppers are willing to go out of their way to buy some Private Brand products. This is especially true at specialty stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods – known for high quality, distinctive offerings. This suggests that with the appropriate level of product innovation, private label products can turn a retail chain into a shopping destination.

However, within typical channels, there are some categories for which shoppers are resistant to buying private label, as roughly one third stated they would not buy Private Brand versions of each of the following:

  • personal products
  • vitamins/medicines
  • frozen meals

It would seem these types of products represent a bit more “risk” if the product quality is sub-par and in standard venues such as Grocery and Mass (where most private label purchases are made), the perceived quality seems lower in these categories.

“In the major economic decline of the late 1920’s, the rallying cry was ‘a chicken in every pot’. In these days of ongoing financial difficulty and uncertainty, it’s more like ‘a private label product in every cupboard,'” according to Jonathan Asher, Executive Vice President of PRS.

“It used to be that buying private label products was a way to save a little money during the grocery trip – with many of these products bought by those in severe economic straits, or just a handful of them bought by many. Now, these products offer both cost savings and product quality across many categories, increasing their penetration and frequency as shoppers feel good about buying them – even if they don’t feel the need to do so for economic reasons,” he continued.

Mr. Asher states, “It seems as if creating product innovations is the key to success – for Retailers to achieve additional growth in those categories that have been met with some resistance, and for National Brand Manufacturers, who must give shoppers a meaningful reason to pay more for their offerings. In the long run, increased innovation will be a winning formula for all.”

This latest wave of research was conducted in April 2012 across the U.S., among roughly 600 primary household grocery shoppers aged 18-64.

Don’t miss Jonathan Asher, Executive Vice President, Director of Account Management, Perception Research Service at the PLBuyer: Private Label: the Next Generation Conference next week June 5-7, 2012, at the Hilton Chicago. He will be presenting with Todd Maute, Partner, CBX:

Packaging as a Marketing Tool
The Next Generation of Private Label uses packaging as a key marketing tool to convey brand essence and image. Learn how research and design are the foundation of building strong brands.



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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.