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Private label groceries growing in popularity

According to Market Force study, milk, cheese and chips are most prevalent private label purchases

More shoppers are purchasing private label (store brand) products this year compared to last year, according to a recent study of more than 6,200 consumers by Market Force Information (, a worldwide leader in customer intelligence solutions. The study revealed that 98% of shoppers purchase private label food or cleaning products at least some of the time, on the rise from 96% in 2013. Dairy, specifically milk, is still the most frequently purchased private label product of the categories studied, followed by cereal, snacks and cleaning products.
Market Force’s grocery study was designed to uncover how consumers think about and purchase private label grocery products. It also looked at consumer preferences and buying behaviors across specific types of private label food and household products. 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. 

The study showed that few shoppers are unaware of private label brands and as many are aware of them but never purchase them – both categories down 1% 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. See Graph 1.

Got [private label] milk?
According to the study, 60% of consumers 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. When asked which dairy products shoppers purchase at least once every two weeks, milk came out on top at 82%, with cheese not too far behind with 67%. Yogurt, butter and sour cream are also common private label dairy buys. See Graph 2.
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. When they do reach for private label cereal, most are choosing non-organic varieties over their organic counterparts. More than half said they buy cold, non-organic cereal at least semimonthly, while just 8% buy cold organic. See Graph 3.
Cents-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. Private label chips were far and away the most popular snack, followed by crackers, cookies and granola bars. See Graph 4.

“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,” says 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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