Generational Differences
in Private Label Shopping:
How to Win Over Every Customer

Understanding how different age groups shop private label can help you tailor your offerings to their needs and win over a wider customer base in an increasingly competitive market. The days of generic store brand labels are fading fast. Today’s private label products are often indistinguishable from national brands in terms of quality, and sometimes even surpass them in innovation.

  • Overall Trend: More and more people are buying private label brands (store brands). In fact, according to a recent study by PDG Insights [reference PDG Insights study], 98% of U.S. households purchase at least one type of private-label product. This trend is expected to continue as consumers seek value and quality without sacrificing taste or convenience.

Top Categories:

The most popular private label categories are household staples like canned goods, beverages, dairy, paper products, and bread. These are all essential items that consumers consistently purchase, making them prime targets for private label innovation. Here’s how grocers can win in these categories:

    • Canned Goods: Offer private label options with unique flavor profiles or organic ingredients to stand out from national brands. For example, a grocery store could develop a line of gourmet canned beans in interesting flavor combinations like chipotle lime or fire-roasted garlic, or offer organic chickpeas and lentils to cater to the growing demand for healthy and plant-based protein sources.

    • Beverages: Develop private label craft beers, sparkling waters with unique fruit infusions, or kombucha with innovative flavor combinations to cater to millennial and Gen X preferences for specialty drinks. For instance, a store could create a private label line of hard seltzers in trendy flavors like watermelon mint or passionfruit hibiscus.

    • Dairy: Provide private label plant-based milk alternatives like oat milk or almond milk, or lactose-free options to meet the growing demand for dietary restrictions. This could include private label almond milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D to directly compete with national brands on both price and nutritional value.

    • Paper Products: Invest in sustainable materials and eco-friendly packaging for private label paper products to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. Consider offering private label recycled paper towels or toilet paper made from bamboo, highlighting the environmental benefits on the packaging.

    • Bread: Create private label bakery lines with artisanal breads like sourdough boules or baguettes, or healthier options like whole-wheat sourdough or flaxseed bread. This could involve partnering with local bakeries to develop unique private label bread recipes that cater to a health-conscious clientele.

Shifting Preferences:

Younger shoppers (18-35) are more likely to choose a grocery store based on the quality and variety of their private label offerings, compared to older generations who prioritize value. This suggests a changing perception of private label brands, which are now seen as offering competitive quality alongside affordability.

Generational Breakdown:

  • Older Generations (35+): These shoppers buy private label products more frequently and across more categories (8.4+ on average). Value is a key driver for them. They tend to be familiar with established private label brands and trust their quality.
    • Marketing Tips: Highlight the budget-friendly aspects of your private label lines alongside promoting their reliability and consistent quality. Feature comparisons between your private label staples and national brands to showcase the cost savings without sacrificing quality.

  • Generation X (35-54): This group is embracing private label, likely due to the perception of improved quality. They may have previously avoided private label due to stigma, but are now more willing to try them.
    • Marketing Tips: Showcase taste tests or product comparisons with national brands to assure Gen X shoppers of the quality improvements in private label offerings. Offer in-store samples or coupons to encourage them to try your private label products.

  • Millennials (18-35): This generation is just starting to consistently seek out private label options. They’re particularly interested in private label beverages, possibly due to their budget-consciousness and focus on convenience.
    • Marketing Tips: Promote private label options through social media campaigns with trendy recipes or focus on the convenience and affordability of these products. Partner with millennial influencers to create content highlighting your private label selection. Develop eye-catching packaging for your private label beverages that resonate with this demographic.

Staying Ahead of the Curve:

    • The private label landscape is constantly evolving. Here’s how grocers can stay ahead of the competition:

      • Track industry trends: Monitor what other retailers are doing with their private label offerings. Look for innovative products or packaging that you can adapt for your own store brand. For example, if a competitor launches a successful line of private label plant-based yogurt alternatives, you could explore developing your own private label options in this growing category.
      • Invest in product development: Don’t just replicate national brands. Develop unique private label products that cater to specific customer needs or dietary preferences. Here are some examples:

        • Gluten-free baking mixes: Perfect for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, private label gluten-free baking mixes can allow customers to enjoy familiar treats without the worry.
        • Single-serve snacks: Appealing to busy lifestyles, portion-controlled private label snack packs can offer healthy and convenient options for on-the-go consumers.
        • Ethnic cuisine options: As demographics diversify, grocers can develop private label lines featuring popular ethnic cuisine items like pre-marinated fajita skillets or frozen dumplings.
      • Focus on transparency: Consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it’s produced. Highlight the quality and sustainability practices behind your private label products. This could involve:

        • Sourcing local ingredients: Partnering with local farms to source ingredients for your private label products can resonate with customers who value freshness and supporting local agriculture.
        • Fair trade certifications: Promoting fair trade certifications on your private label coffee or chocolate can attract customers who are ethically conscious about their purchases.
        • Clear labeling: Clearly labeling private label products with information about ingredients, allergens, and production practices builds trust and transparency with consumers.
      • Embrace technology: Utilize data analytics to understand your customer base and tailor your private label offerings accordingly. Consider offering private label subscription services or online ordering options for added convenience. Here are some ways to leverage technology:

        • Loyalty programs: Develop loyalty programs that reward customers for purchasing private label items. This can incentivize repeat purchases and encourage brand loyalty.
        • Online ordering with private label options: Allow customers to easily add private label products to their online grocery orders for convenient pickup or delivery.
        • Use social media to target specific demographics: Utilize targeted social media advertising to promote your private label offerings to specific customer segments, like highlighting healthy private label options for millennials interested in wellness.

By understanding these generational differences and implementing strategic marketing tactics, grocers can effectively compete in the growing private label market and win over customers of all ages. However, staying ahead of the curve requires continuous innovation, responsiveness to customer trends, and a commitment to offering high-quality private label products that are not only affordable but also cater to the evolving needs and desires of today’s consumers.

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