Research Once Again Says Private Brands Are Growing in Popularity

Generic CanMore shoppers are purchasing private brands this year compared to last year, according to a recent study of more than 6,200 consumers by Market Force Information. The study revealed that 98% of shoppers purchase private brand food items or cleaning products at least some of the time, on the rise from 96% in 2013.

According to the press release Market Force’s grocery study was designed to uncover consumers’ awareness of private brands, as well purchasing trends for private label grocery products. Unfortunately the research does not appear to address any of the individual brands but instead lumps them all into one generic “private label” category. And not surprisingly private label products continue to be popular options for budget-minded shoppers, though there is still substantial opportunity for grocery brands to increase wallet share in certain categories. It is time to stop researching – generic private label and start researching BRANDS that just happen to be owned by a retailer.

The study shows that a small percentage of shoppers are unaware of private brands, and as many say that they never purchase them – both categories showing a 1% drop from 2013. The percentage of consumers who sometimes opt for private label is up 1% from 2013, as are the number of shoppers who always reach for private label.

 Overall Private Label Purchases Graph 1 Overall PL PurchasesBuying Private Label Until the Cows Come Home
Most shoppers are familiar with their supermarket’s private label dairy products, and most are frequently purchasing them. Seventy-eight percent of shoppers indicated that their primary grocer offers private label dairy products, 8% said they do not and 14% don’t know. This high level of awareness appears to translate into frequent purchases, as 60% of consumers indicated that they buy private label dairy most of the time or always, and another 35% said they sometimes purchase it. These were the highest percentages of any category studied, suggesting that consumers perceive the taste quality to be similar to national brands, but at a lower price-point.

Frequency of Private Label Dairy PurchasesGraph 2 - PL Dairy

Fewer Serial Cereal Purchasers
Private label cereal is a less common private label grocery purchase, and shoppers don’t seem to be reaching for it as frequently as they did one year ago. This year, 27% of participants said they purchase private label cereal most of the time or always, a slight dip from the 30% who reported doing so in 2013. What’s more, 31% said they never buy private label cereal – the highest of any grocery category studied. See Graph 3. When asked if their primary grocer offers private label cereal, 76% indicated “yes,” 6% said “no” and 18% were unsure.

Frequency of Private Label Cereal Product Purchases Graph 3 - PL CerealCents-able Snacks
Similar to cereal, 27% of consumers report buying private label snacks most of the time or always, while 53% sometimes buy them and 19% never do. These findings shifted very little from the 2013 study. Sixty-eight percent of shoppers said that their primary grocer carries a private label snack brand, while 25% were unsure and 7% said their grocer doesn’t offer one.
Frequency of Private Label Snack Product Purchases Graph 4 - PL Snacks
Awareness Low for Private Label Cleaning Products
Market Force also looked at consumer behavior around the purchase of private label cleaning products and saw some growth from last year. Twenty-six percent of shoppers said they opt for private label most of the time or always, up from 23% in 2013. In this category, private label awareness was particularly low, as 39% of respondents said they don’t know if their grocer sells a private label cleaning product – that is nearly 15% higher than any other category studied.

Frequency of Private Label Cleaning Product PurchasesGraph 5 - PL Cleaning Products“While private label purchases in general are trending upwards, there is significant opportunity to capture additional wallet share, particularly in the categories with longer shelf-lives such as cleaning products and cereal,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of strategy for Market Force. “Shelf promotion is key, as shoppers often report trying a new brand because they noticed it on the shelf.”

Survey Demographics
The survey was conducted in March 2014 across the United States and Canada. The pool of 6,247 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with nearly 60% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 73% were women and 27% were men, and 50% have children at home.

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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.