The Rise of Private Labels in Grocery Retail

With 51% of consumers shopping at a specific store for their own brand products, leveraging this rising trend could be the winning ingredient for building customer loyalty and remaining relevant within today’s competitive grocery market.

Private labels are certainly capturing the hearts and wallets of consumers, with 81% buying private brands during every shopping trip.

While this may sound great, what exactly is behind this trend and how can grocery retailers respond?

Join us as we explore the private label market, why consumers prefer private labels and how to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Private Labels — A Changing, Global Phenomenon

While private labels date back as early as the 19th century, they were originally associated with low-standards and only purchased as a way to save money.

However, changing consumer attitudes have created an opportunity for retailers to produce popular own brands, resulting in a 4% sales growth for private brands in 2018, 6x the growth of national brands. 20% of this growth comes from premium, trendy, or organic private brands.

Clearly, private brands are no longer synonymous with low quality or cost-cutting. Producing private brands that offer something unique, like Trader’s Joe's, or healthy good-for-you options allow retailers to drive sales and significantly boost revenue.

Some reports claim premium private labels like Kroger’s Simple Truth line generates over $2billion a year and in general account of more than 30% of retailer’s sales volume.

US Attitudes Towards Private Labels

Interestingly, private labels haven’t had the same success in America with big brand names continuing to reign supreme. American consumers’ attitudes differ significantly from other countries. Only 58% of US consumers believe private labels are a good alternative to more established brands, compared to 75% of EU consumers.

While Americans are still loyal to big brands, this attitude is starting to change as retailers produce higher-quality private labels. Goods that help consumers cut costs without compromising on food standards. Research shows that Americans are beginning to come around with 76% saying that private label quality has improved.

As a market developing slower than the rest of the world, American retailers could learn a thing or two by looking at similar private labels in the EU and UK.

Introducing the World’s Largest Private Label Market

When it comes to private label brands, Swiss consumers are leading the way. Switzerland represents one of the largest private label markets in the world, with retailers like Migros paying attention to their consumer’s preferences, lifestyles and food preferences.

In 2018 alone, this Swiss supermarket launched 750 new own-brand products and successfully implemented private label brands into their strategy to boost sales, improve customer retention and remain competitive.

Migros are focused on delivering private labels, specifically in fresh food, and reducing their range of branded goods. A technique that allowed them to streamline inventories and improve availability without expensive overheads.

The Benefits of Private Labels

From a grocery retailer perspective, private labels offer many benefits like better cost and price management, brand loyalty and higher profits. Here are just a few of the many benefits:

  • Higher Gross Margin. By cutting out the middle-man, grocery retailers can achieve a higher gross margin, which produces higher profits.
  • Cost Management. Private label products give retailers complete control over product cost and quality as they can issue specific directions on the ingredients and processes manufacturers use.
  • Price Management. Likewise, grocery retailers also have complete control over product expenses and final price point. When combined with cost management, this allows grocery retailers to adequately regulate and manage profitability.
  • Customer Loyalty. Own brand products allow grocery retailers to create a completely original product that, unlike branded products, is only available in their store. When done correctly, this offers a unique opportunity to capture customers and stand out amongst competitors.
  • Ability to respond to trends. By having more control over their brands, retailers can respond to market trends and offer innovative products quicker. So, grocery retailers can capture and leverage the latest trends like recyclable packaging or the keto diet.

How to Optimise Your Private Label Strategy

Many grocery retailers are starting to realise the growing benefits of private labels and are keen to optimise own brands.

However, it’s not as simple as creating and distributing a private label product. These products need to be supported by an underlying strategy to ensure they provide good value to consumers while still providing financial wins to retailers.

What Do Consumers Really Want?

Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to get insights into your customers’ needs and preferences with data analytics platforms like ours. Analysing this data allows you to determine the most popular categories, frequent purchases and preferences. Leveraging this information will then allow you to deliver on quality and create products that customers love.

A recent survey shows that more than 70% of consumers consider private label products to provide similar or better quality than national brands. 83% of Millennials, some of the top consumers of private labels, agree.

When optimising a private label, you need to move away from the negative view of low-quality, knock-off products. Consumers want the same quality, if not better, at a lower price point.

Take, for instance, Consumer Reports study to determine the tastiest bacon on the American market. While you might think Hormel or Oscar Mayer would be obvious winners, blind taste-testing produced surprising results. The Kirkland Signature bacon, only available at Costco, claimed ‘best in show’ amongst consumers, outranking well-known big brands.

Your Private Label Strategy: One Own Brand or Many?

After you’ve narrowed in on what your consumers want, you need to consider whether you will have multiple own brands or rely on one signature brand. Companies like Costco provide only one private label brand — Kirkland Signature — while others offer various choices.

Amazon offers over 150 private labels, including AmazonBasics, Solimo, and Happy Belly. With so many options, Amazon needs visibility into product performance and relies on a bespoke Amazon Brand Database.

Most retailers, however, use a three-pronged attack to achieve the best results. Offering three private label brands:

  1. One low-cost option for penny-pinching customers who care less about quality and more about savings.
  2. One organic or unique private label that caters to a specific customer segment, like eco-friendly shoppers or health-focused families.
  3. One premium private label that delivers on high-quality at a higher price point than option 1, but lower than other big brand premium options.

Adapt Your Customer Strategy

Each private label option is catered to reach a specific customer audience and meet their unique needs.

Grocery retailers must think about how they can adapt their customer strategies to fit with the rise of private label purchasing. Customer loyalty data can be used to identify specific customer segments and help retailers adapt their strategies to accommodate for changing behaviours.

With more and more consumers choosing private labels over national brands, grocery retailers must strike a balance between catering to their customers’ individual needs and pushing for private label to become the new norm.

Importance of Data-Driven Decisions

Regardless of whether you choose to offer one private label brand or many, your private label strategy should be firmly founded on data. Data allows you to understand customer’s preferences, top choices and frequent purchases.

By looking at this information and comparing it to national brand expenses, you can tailor your private label strategy to provide the most significant cost-savings while also delivering on quality.

Our insight platform makes it easy to access this type of information and implement it into your strategy. With cutting-edge, customer-oriented data at your fingertips, you’re perfectly positioned to capture the latest trends and positively impact your bottom line.

Find out more about the Insights Platform