Shoppers around the world took many steps to stretch their budgets during the recession such as eating at home more frequently or cutting back on vacations. While improving economies may prompt consumers to return to restaurants or take a vacation, one trend that looks likely to remain—and perhaps even grow—is the shift to private label goods.
A 2010 global online survey conducted by The Nielsen Company reveals that 60% of consumers across 55 countries from Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America and Middle East/Africa (consisting of countries from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and South Africa), say they are stocking cupboards with more store brands as a result of the economic downturn. Across the regions, Latin America led the way at 66% and the Middle East/Africa/Pakistan area trailed at 51%.
The highest levels of private label purchase intent during the economic downturn were reported by consumers in Colombia, Spain, Portugal and Greece at 80%, 79%, 74% and 70% respectively, reflecting recessionary realities, depressed export activity and raging deficits. Meanwhile, the lowest reported drift toward private label came from consumers in Sweden (70%), Thailand (62%), Hong Kong (60%) and Denmark (59%) who indicated they did not purchase more store brands during the recession.
While econometric pressures are driving many value-oriented consumer shopping decisions, it is just one factor influencing private label purchasing. A strong push from retailers and improvements in both quality and selection are contributing factors. It should also be noted that not all private label categories are alike. Store brand share varies widely by category and they still represent the minority stake when compared to premium brands.
Store brand share is typically strongest in commodity categories like milk, fresh eggs, rice, edible oil, vinegar and sugar/substitutes or in those with little differentiation (first aid and wrapping materials). Store brand share is usually the lowest among categories where there is strong marketing support for top brands (e.g., candy, gum, beer) and those where a high-level of innovation occurs (e.g., detergents, deodorant, cosmetics).
Fully 88% of shoppers globally said they intend to keep buying private label even after the economy improves, suggesting that store brand quality has reached parity with national brands and delivers on consumer expectations. While Latin American and Middle East/Africa levels were slightly less than the global average at 83% and 79% respectively, the overwhelming majority still intended to pursue a value strategy.
Countries with the most value-conscious consumers on the private label dimension included Austria, Germany and Sweden, all registering a better than 95% intent to continue purchasing private label, while more than one-quarter of shoppers in the Ukraine (31%), Pakistan (28%), the United Arab Emirates (27%) and Venezuela (27%) had no intention to buy private label in the future.
The economic downturn prompted many consumers to try private label goods for the first time, and once they did so, they discovered that not only was the pricing right, but the quality of the goods met or exceeded expectations. Regardless of the pace of economic recovery, retailers continue to have a tremendous opportunity to convert shoppers to private label for the long term.
In most Asian markets, private label is still relatively undeveloped with only Hong Kong having a share above 5% overall. There has been significant investment by many leading retail chains into launching new private label products over the last five years and they are gaining acceptance particularly in the basic commodity categories. In these categories, such as cooking oil, rice, bathroom tissue, market shares can reach up to between 20% and 30% in some countries.
Asian consumers are still largely brand loyal and retailers will need to increase their private label marketing support to build consumer trust in their own brands. During the economic downturn in 2009, there was strong private label growth in many countries. For example, in Thailand, private label grew by over 25%, as shoppers increasingly looked for value when buying grocery products.
In the Pacific markets of Australia and New Zealand, private label is much more established with the majority of households regularly purchasing private label products, which account for up to one-quarter of all supermarket sales.
Private label continues to have a stable presence in the region. In Chile, store brands represent 8.4% of the market as of April 2010. Market share remained relatively flat in Argentina and Mexico, reporting shares of 7.6% and 6.6% respectively during the rolling year ending April 2010. While Mexico's private label market share was flat, sales grew 23% compared with the previous period (April 2009). Store brands in Brazil have 4.9% of importance (YTD April 2010).
The categories where private label market share are strongest varies dramatically by country. In Argentina, the top five categories are dominated by foods such as fish, pasta, ice cream and vegetables, while in Chile, four out of the top five are non-food categories (clothes hooks, candles, pots/pans and cotton swabs). In Mexico, sugar and pies hold the greatest market share, but disposable plates, glasses and place settings round out the top five.
Private label continues to show solid performance in most European nations, with Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Germany leading the way reporting 2009 store brand value shares of 46%, 43% and 32% respectively. While year-over-year growth was relatively flat or minimal, Turkey and Spain boasted the biggest year-over-year increases of 2.7% and 2.5% respectively.
Private label has taken off in the U.S. For year ending July 2010, store brand unit sales reached an average 22% share across all departments, with share gains in all but dairy. Store brand unit shares range from a high of 40% in the dairy department to a low of less than 1% in alcoholic beverages.
In Canada, private label represented $11.4 billion in national sales for year ending July 2010, which is 18.3% of overall consumer packaged goods spend. Over the past year, private label share has declined slightly with overall dollar sales flat, while the total market increased +3%.
Middle Eastern consumption patterns often run counter to the West for a variety of reasons, and respondents in the region indicated the least likelihood of purchasing private label today or after economic recovery. However, as awareness has increased over the last few years, volume is growing—albeit from a very small base. While only 18% of shoppers in the United Arab Emirates perceive private label as a better value for the money, certain categories such as household cleaners are regarded more favorably. Fully, one-fourth (26%) of shoppers in Saudi Arabia consider these store brands as worthy.
Note about online survey methodology
While online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides the perspectives on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. Where noted, the Nielsen Global Online Survey data is supplemented with measurement of private label consumption by market.