Blog: Dean BestUS consumer study brings cheer to private label, concern for brands

Dean Best | 18 April 2013

US shoppers, historically some of the most brand-hungry on the planet, have become more accepting of own label during the downturn - and a survey suggests store brands will remain a key part of the basket even when the economy improves.

Deloitte's annual American Pantry Study, released this week, underlines how US consumers have adapted to the recession. Shoppers have become more frugal and smarter about what they buy since the onset of the financial crisis and Deloitte's survey showed such behaviour continues.

However, it is some of the more forward-looking data in the survey that will cheer the country's private-label manufacturers and cause furrowed brows at brand owners.

Deloitte said 94% of respondents claimed that even if the economy improves, they will remain cautious and keep their spending at the current level. And, notably, only 27% of shoppers say they will buy more national brands instead of private label when the economy improves. That figure is down on the 35% recorded in the last two of these surveys.

More shoppers are buying own-label lines in categories they hadn't before. Fewer consumers feel they are "sacrificing" when buying private label. And more consumers feel they have found store brands that are "just as good" as national brands.

"Prudent consumers and improving perceptions about store brands are squeezing national brands' position. The gap between the few must-have brands on shoppers' lists and others on the shelf may be widening, making it more important for brands to differentiate through innovation, quality and performance," Pat Conroy, vice chairman and consumer products leader at Deloitte, said. "Consumer product companies may also consolidate low and mid-level performers and shift investment to the category leaders."

The study, which surveyed over 4,000 consumers, obviously gives support to the strides ConAgra Foods - which owns brands including Hunt's ketchup and Banquet ready meals - has made in own label in recent years, including the acquisition of US private-label group Ralcorp Holdings.

However, it will cause concern for brand-owners in categories where the prevalence of own label is highest. Think cereal or soup. And therefore think Kellogg, General Mills and Campbell Soup Co.


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