Natural and organic Private Brands are striving to further engage consumers, and a first-of-its-kind study identifies opportunities to drive differentiation and build loyalty.

The study and a unique brand score metric were unveiled during a presentation at Velocity Global called “Private Brand — A Question of Trust, Love and Worth?”

“These brands are on the edge of greatness,” said Christopher Durham, President of My Private Brand, referring to some of the biggest natural and organic Private Brands in the U.S. “With some more investment — such as in product development, branding or marketing — these brands can really take share and win.”

The study was fielded exclusively for My Private Brand by the research firm Voccii. Durham spoke about the research along with Gayle Ireland, CEO of Voccii. One key aspect setting this research apart is the non-traditional way it probed consumers. It never used the terms private brand or private label, and didn’t ask about performance aspects like good or better. Instead, it sought to understand the engagement and value each brand brings to each retailer.

The findings are based on a national consumer survey of more than 1200 adults who buy retail own brands. The study explored consumer engagement with national and organic brands from retailers including Whole Foods, Ahold Delhaize, Aldi, Kroger, Publix, Safeway/Albertsons and Wakefern Food Corp. Private Brands were compared to each other and to national brands.

Private brands include:

Brands Perform Well on Key Measures

The research measured consumer awareness of these brands, with three of the product brands (non-store brands) —Simple Truth from Kroger, 365 Everyday Value from Whole Foods and O Organics from Safeway/Albertsons — scoring highest in unaided awareness.

“Those three brands did as well in unaided consumer awareness as some national brands in the natural and organic sector,” Ireland said.

Many of the Private Brands performed on par with the natural and organic national brands on measures such as aided awareness, brand impressions, purchase intent and willingness to recommend — while failing to meet the scores of the biggest mainstream national brands.

Research Reveals Gaps and Disconnects

When the research looked beyond these standard measures, however, natural and organic Private Brands encountered some challenges. Many were found to have similar names incorporating words like simple and nature, a factor that reduced the ability for differentiation. Likewise, marketing descriptors tended to overlap between brands, including healthy, good for me, and good for the planet.

“It’s interesting that for food brands, there aren’t food or flavor words used,” Durham said. “For example, they don’t say tastes great.”

The research found consumers ran into challenges associating many of the Private Brands with the correct retailers, which likely results from lack of branding differentiation, Ireland said. An even bigger challenge for consumers was linking images of product packages with the associated store banners, which probably results from extensive use of similar package designs across retailers.

Data Enables Generational Insights

The research incorporated a wide range of other insights, including on the geographic and generational fronts. For example, while Gen Z consumers are among the biggest proponents of natural and organic Private Brands, many in this generation appear to have trouble making the link between brand and store banner.

“There is huge potential here,” Ireland said.  “The disconnect between the parent and the brand is huge, and this is an important demographic we need to capture.”

Brand Strength Score Points to Opportunities

A new metric called Brand Strength Score (BSS) was created to compare and track the progress of the brands. Brands were scored on a 1 to 100 scale, taking into account factors such as awareness and loyalty, with different weights given to various components. The highest scoring Private Brand was Simple Truth, at 46.2, followed by 365 Everyday Value with a 39.4 score, and Open Nature (Albertsons) at 38.4.

Durham said the results reflect limited branding investments so far by many retailers but indicate great potential.

“Retailers by and large haven’t invested in marketing.” he said “They’ve put products on shelves. So it’s pretty impressive that they are scoring as high as they are. What this means is the roots are strong and there are lots of opportunities.”

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