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Growth has been the stalwart of the condiment category through the recession. As more shoppers have been eating at home rather than eating out, Mintel Group Ltd. says they have spent more money on condiments to accompany their meals.
The category is a $5.6 billion one, according to Mintel’s report of 2011 sales, and has grown 5.5 percent since 2008. It projects growth continuing, at a slower rate, through 2015.
And although much of the new products launched in the category are geared toward ethnic food flavors and restaurant-style products, make no mistake about it. Ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish are still driving sales.
With that in mind, PLBuyer sent out our secret shoppers in the beginning of November to take a look at condiments sales at stores in Colorado and North Carolina. We asked them to evaluate how their local grocers market and merchandise their private label condiments.
In addition to looking for in-store merchandising, shoppers recorded prices of comparable private label and national brand ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and relish, then conducted their own taste tests in one of those categories.
Here, we provide you with the insight we’ve gleaned.
QUIET SIGNS AHEAD
Both of our secret shoppers this month reported an absence of in-store signs or ads for the private label condiments.
Christina R. said the Safeway she shopped at in Colorado Springs, Colo., did not have ads and did not have shelf tags comparing private label and national brand prices, either. She did say the sale items – both private label and national brands – had tags with the Safeway card price attached to the regular sales tag.
Bill K. visited the Ingles in Ashevile, N.C., and said that he saw shelf tags that compared private label and national brand prices, even without other in-store ads or signs for the products. Both said that private label condiments were shelved next to their national brand counterparts.
Both saw fairly significant differences in price, with the private label condiments at a heavy discount compared with the national brands.
The margins were shown in each category. Both shoppers compared the private label ketchup to the Heinz ketchup, all in 36-ounce sizes. Christina R. reported a 44-cent difference between Heinz and Safeway, while Bill K. said a sale on the Laura Lynn brand made the difference a whopping $1.41 between the two.
That continued for Bill K. in mustard, where the Laura Lynn brand was 88 cents, nearly half the $1.54 for the French’s brand. Christina R. said she found a 90-cent savings with the Safeway brand.
In mayonnaise, Christina R. compared light mayo versions and saw a $1.60 savings for Safeway compared with Best Foods. Bill K. reported a $1.02 difference between the Laura Lynn and Hellmann’s brand.
In relish, Christina R. saw a 70-cent difference between Safeway and Vlasic in sweet relish.
Christina R. said she regularly buys private label ketchup and mustard if the national brands are not on sale. So she tried the Safeway light mayo.
“It did not taste great at all,” she said. “It tasted too sour.”
Bill K.,meanwhile, tried the Laura Lynn ketchup after saying he does not regularly buy private label condiments. His reaction? “Sickly sweet,” he said.
Bill K. saw that the private label packaging and labeling were similar in the products, and Christina R. said she saw the same.
“The store brands looked almost like the national brands in size and quantity, but were just labeled with the store brand.”