By: Steve Markenson, Director, Research, FMI 

Private BrandsI know when Smokey Robinson wrote the lyrics to the hit song “Shop Around” in 1960, he was not singing about grocery shopping. But, based on FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends research, “shopping around” definitely describes todays’ grocery shoppers. Leading up to the pandemic, the average number of channels (4.1) and banners (5.1) shopped by U.S. grocery shoppers reached a new high. And we have seen during the pandemic, after an initial decrease, shoppers are still averaging almost five banners shopped in the previous 30 days (albeit many are doing so online).


What is it that drives grocery shoppers to “shop around?” 



1. Private Brands Means Quality & Selection

For many grocery shoppers it is private or store brands. Private brands, according to Trends, are a key driver of perceptions that the store meets a shopper’s needs. Grocery stores that deliver strong private brands are also seen as having great product selection and variety, which is a top driver of satisfaction. 

2. Private Brands Means Customer Service

Private brands can fulfill a similar role of those also important fresh perimeter categories, such as meat and produce, in attracting shoppers.  Further, stores with strong private brands are perceived as open and honest and providing accurate information, signaling to shoppers that they stand behind their private brands.  

Since the pandemic, consumers acknowledge that they buy more private brands. Based on FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker, three in ten shoppers in July said they were buying more store brands than they were before the pandemic. 

3. Private Brands Means Price Location
For some the explanation for buying more private brands was simply availability. Shoppers were buying whatever was available. This may have been the case as, even in the beginning of June, more than half of those buying more private brands said that these products were often the only ones available. However, as we have continued into July, we find more than half say their reason for buying more private brands is that they are less expensive, a fact that cannot be ignored as we watch the impact of the pandemic on the economy. But, one-third of these shoppers have discovered that these private brands do indeed offer higher quality. Plus, two in ten say they are buying more private brands to explore new and different products.

What will be the lasting impact of the pandemic on perceptions and sales of private brands? 
In FMI’s most recent U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker, we asked shoppers how they expected their food purchases to change compared to before the pandemic. One-third said they expect they will purchase more private brands. Thus, the future is a bright one for private brands.  

To learn more about the future of private brands, participate in the Private Brands Summit this year. In fact, we hope you’ll be part of the FMI private brands community all year round as the industry faces its biggest hurdles and opportunities.