Shoppers looking for smart deals on everyday groceries, to moderate the impact of price increases, are turning to private labels for better prices and excellent quality and value
BRACKNELL, UK – 16 May 2023 – Circana, formerly IRI and The NPD Group, today launched its latest biannual “FMCG Demand Signals” report for Europe. Covering France, Italy, Germany, Spain, UK, and Netherlands, the six largest markets in Europe, the report reveals that the sector has reached a tipping point: private labels outpaced the popularity of national brands across nearly all categories. Private labels now make up 38% of total fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) value sales in Europe (€229 Bn).
The report forensically unpacks the impact of the pandemic, inflation, and the cost-of-living crisis on over 230 FMCG categories, more than 2000 product segments, and over 10 million SKUs. It reveals strong private label growth across all six of the largest markets in Europe, with the highest penetration in Spain (47%) and Germany (41%), and the lowest in the UK (37%), where shoppers continued to buy the national brands they trust to deliver good value.
“Private labels have come a long way since their arrival on the shelves 40 years ago” said Ananda Roy, global SVP, strategic growth insights, Circana “Retailer investments are paying off, as more consumers perceive private labels to be innovative and as good, or better than, many of the national brands that they compete with. As a result, they are no longer the ‘cheap’ alternative. Shoppers buy them because they offer something new and of good quality.”
Key findings from the report include the following:
- Private label loyalists equal national-brand loyalists. The share of consumers who say they are loyal to private labels now equals those who say they’re loyal to national brands. Notably, 60% of all consumers surveyed said private labels are as good as national brands in innovation, quality, delivering on claims, sustainability, good image, and other areas. One-quarter of respondents thought private labels were better than national brands in those areas. Crucially, 21% of undecided consumers who buy both – many of whom are middle-income cohorts – said they now think private labels are better than national brands.
- Shoppers are choosing more private labels for edible goods. With the highest price inflation almost entirely centred on food categories, the penetration of private labels in chilled, fresh, and ambient foods has been particularly high. Among non-food categories, there has been greater penetration of private labels in household care, especially staples, such as laundry and hygiene items.
- Alcohol and some baby food items have been less vulnerable to private label growth. Consumers have stuck to trusted, well established national brands for these products. Retailers are trying to counter this trend by introducing innovative products around new trends, such as zero- or no-alcohol beers, or high-quality artisanal products made with locally sourced ingredients that were previously only available from national brands.
- There has been a significant transformation in consumers’ perception of private labels – 66% of consumers consider them innovative, making them a huge demand driver. In fact, private label shoppers are seeking a balance of price (78% are actively looking for the lowest prices) and quality (72% pay attention to product labels and 63% check product claims) on every shopping trip.
- National brands aren’t necessarily losing loyalty, but shoppers are buying less volume – These brands need to keep innovating to maintain momentum and stay ahead of competition. For example, shoppers are balancing their desires to purchase with the demands on their purses, making it a business imperative for national brands to focus their sales strategies on good pricing and healthier plant-based options.
“Retailers have transformed private labels into strategy-led, consumer-focused, well-differentiated and data-driven alternatives to national brands,” Roy said. “National brands are now having to regard many retailers as significant competition that they can no longer ignore. Retailers are clearly winning on many fronts. While not always the least expensive on display in the minds of shoppers, private labels offer good value, quality, a range of benefits that meet shopper’s dietary choices or lifestyles and can be trusted as much as national brands with high equity sitting on adjacent shelves.”
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