Survey Says Consumers Buy Private Brands for Better Value, Not Just Price

Although 57% of consumers say their financial health is good, fears of a recession are driving slightly less consumer confidence in Q3 2019, according to the latest IRI Consumer Connect Survey. Expecting to face a recession — or, perhaps more likely, a “semi-recession” — consumers are increasing their savings as a precaution for maintaining financial stability. IRI examined how such shopping behaviors and attitudes are affecting private brand sales in its Q3 2019 Consumer Connect report, “Beyond Price, Consumers Find Value in Private Brands.”

Joan Driggs, vice president of Content and Thought Leadership

“While shoppers across generations and income groups in 2019 are undoubtedly more price conscious, they are turning to private label because of their positive perceptions of the value,” said Joan Driggs, vice president of Content and Thought Leadership. “Shoppers are buying private brands because it makes them feel good to save money without sacrificing taste, selection or quality. The improved consumer perception of private label value is having a growing influence on store choice, with many leading retailers offering premium private label selections.”

The Consumer Connect Index, which monitors consumers’ financial health and CPG behaviors for factors such as brand loyalty, attitudes toward organic/natural food and beverages, perception of national compared to store brands, and frequency of using retailers’ and manufacturers’ coupons, decreased by almost three points in Q3 2019. However, consumers feelings about their household’s financial health in Q3 2019 is on par with sentiment in Q3 2018. Despite that fact, consumers are increasing their savings to maintain financial stability as a precaution in the event of an economic downturn. Consumers report they are saving more in 2019 (42%) compared to a year ago (38%), and 56% of households earning $100,000 or more say their savings have grown in the past six months. The rate of increased savings is fairly consistent across all generations but is most common among Generation Zers.

Across generations and income groups, consumers are buying private label, with 99.9% of shoppers buying private brands today. Faced with a vast selection of consumables in a typical store, consumers see private label as a go-to solution in the stores they trust. As a result, traditional retailers are doubling down on their store brand strategy and are offering more premium selections.

Younger, senior and low- to middle-income consumers are key targets for private label growth. Millennials demonstrate the highest adoption of private label products, increasing 10% in 2019 from 2018, outpacing their adoption of national brands. Millennials are moving into higher-spending years, so demonstrating value, quality, and innovation will be key to continued adoption.

Among categories, home care is showing above-average growth, whereas other nonedible departments’ growth rates are slowing. Across edible departments, private label unit sales growth slowed, but frozen and beverage are outpacing total category and national brand sales in Q3 2019.

“Private label is experiencing growth that outpaces that of national brands and has increasing influence on store choice among consumers, especially among Gen Z,” continued Driggs. “However, there remains room for improvement. Packaging image has been found to be a purchase barrier among millennials and light buyers. In addition to packaging, retailers should continue to find ways to innovate. Don’t wait for national brands to lead with trends, such as plant-based, functional and wellness products.”

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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.