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More Consumers Find Little Difference Between Private Label Products and National Brands: Survey

NEW YORK -- According to double-blind taste tests conducted in 10 locations across the country by Meyers Research Center for the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA), consumers by a 51-percent-to-49-percent say the prefer the taste of private label items over their national brand counterparts in 12 popular categories.

"[T]he nationwide survey underscore[s] the growing popularity of store brands offered by the nation's supermarkets, drug chains, and discount stores," noted PLMA president Brian Sharoff in a statement. "It demonstrates how private label is leading a revolution not only in the way consumers shop today, but also how retailers are now stocking their stores in response to their changing demands." Sharoff also cited an unscientific "taste test" of Hoboken, N.J. consumers conducted by the ABCNews program "20/ 20" and broadcast nationally in April, which similarly found that consumers "had a difficult time determining which was the store brand and which was the national brand" in the six categories tested.

The Meyers Research survey additionally revealed the following:

--For a "typical" raisin bran cereal, consumers preferred the private label version by a 62-percent-to-38-percent margin. A majority also favored store brand orange juice and French Roast coffee.

--Among snack foods, consumers scored private label about the same as national brands across several categories. While store brand chocolate-chip cookies were favored by a 56-percent-to-48-percent margin, the consumers favored national brand potato chips by a 53poercent-to-47-percent margin.

--When deciding on a beverage, consumers gave Coca-Cola and Pepsi only a 52-percent-to-48-percent edge over private label cola; while the taste of store brand iced tea mix was preferred by a 51-percent-to-49-percent margin.

--About 300 consumers nationwide made the almost 1,800 "preferred taste" decisions among products. While one-third of those surveyed said they buy store brands in their supermarkets "always" or "often," fully eight out of 10 participants said they "regularly" buy national brands.

"This was clearly a universe of consumers that is pro-national brands in general," said Sharoff. "That makes the strong showing for the taste of store brands all the more noteworthy."

According to Information Resources, Inc., one out of every five products sold bears the retailer's name or brand. Total sales of store brands in the United States currently exceed $50 billion annually in supermarkets, drug chains, and discounters, excluding Wal-Mart.

In each market, the nationwide survey pitted top national brands against store brand products from such supermarket chains as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons, Publix, Shaw's, and Trader Joe's. Survey locations were Boston; Long Island, N.Y.; Baltimore; Atlanta; Tampa; Dallas; Chicago; Minneapolis; Tacoma, Wash.; and Los Angeles. Meyers conducted the survey during the last half of 2004, with final results tabulated in 2005.

The PLMA, founded in 1979, represents more than 3,000 companies globally and offers specifically designed industry trade shows, programs, and services.
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