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Private Eye: Store Brand Snack Attack

Our secret shoppers head to their local retailers to find out what’s happening with snacks.

February 3, 2014

Private label nutritional snacks/trail mixes was up 16 percent to $425 million with a 32 percent share, according to SymphonyIRI Group data for the latest 52

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weeks ending December 1, 2013. Private label pretzels were up almost 10 percent to $150 million, while potato chips took an almost 5 percent dive to $408 million. Private label RTE popcorn was up 10 percent to $34 million, while private label shelf stable microwave popcorn was up more than 4 percent to $102 million, accounting for a 16 percent share.

PLBuyersent four of its secret shoppers to check out snacks at a Walmart Supercenter in Colorado Springs, Colorado; a Giant Eagle in North Royalton, Ohio; an Ingles Markets, in Asheville, North Carolina; and a Cosentino’s Price Chopper, a member of the Associated Wholesale Grocers cooperative, in Kansas City, Missouri.

We asked them to evaluate how their local retailers market and merchandise their snacks.

In addition to looking for in-store promotions and advertising, shoppers recorded prices of comparable private label and national brand trail mix, potato chips, pretzels and ready-to-eat (RTE) and microwavable popcorn. They then conducted their own product tests in one of these categories. Here, we provide you with our gathered insight.

Side by Side

This month some of the secret shoppers reported seeing private label beverages shelved side-by-side with national brands sometimes, while Amy K. said Giant Eagle did not and Christina R. said Great Value products had their own shelves at Walmart. Only Bill K. at Ingles Market saw some shelf tags pointing out price comparisons.  None of the shoppers reported seeing private label ads in-store.

Regarding RTE and microwavable popcorn, Bill and Christina didn’t see a store brand version.  At Cosentino’s Price Chopper, Michael G. reported the Best Choice store brand had many more ounces than national brand Jolly Time and cost less. Giant Eagle’s Nature Basket popcorn was 3.75-oz. less than Popcorn Indiana All Natural Kettle Corn, but cost a dollar less as well.

In some cases national brand Lays potato chips were on sale, but store brands by Giant Eagle and Ingles mimicked with sale prices themselves.  At Cosentino’s Price Chopper, Michael said Always Save barbeque chips were more than a dollar less than Lays. He saw no store brand of pretzels though.

At Giant Eagle, the same size store brand pretzels were the same price on sale as national brand Rold Gold. At Ingles Markets, Bill said Rold Gold Thins were $1.61 more than Laura Lynn Classic pretzels normally.

At Walmart, Christina saw store brand Great Value Mountain Trail Mix, but couldn’t find a national brand option.  Bill reported that Laura Lynn Traditional trail mix was $1.36 on sale, while the same size Chex Mix Traditional was on sale for $3.18. Amy reported that Giant Eagle Happy Trails trail mix was $4.99 for 12 oz., while Eden Selected, was $3.99 for 4 oz., offering a lower price on the national brand, but significantly less mix.

Product Tests         

“I purchased the Giant Eagle Happy Trails Trail mix for my family who thoroughly enjoyed the product,” said Amy. “Seems a bit more salty then another trail mix we have tried in the past, but overall I would purchase this product again because the price is very good for the amount you’re getting in the package.  I like that they use brand name chocolates in the mix as well.”

“I tried the Great Value pretzels and they were not salty enough. I like Snyder's a lot better.”

Amy also said she has been satisfied with private label brand snack item and will continue to buy them. 

She also pointed out that at Giant Eagle store brand snack items have their own sections and packaging, “almost like there was more effort put forth for these items in the private labels.”

Bill tried the store brand pretzels at Ingles Markets and said they tasted okay, but were nothing special.

Likewise, Christina was unimpressed by Walmart’s pretzels.

“I tried the Great Value pretzels and they were not salty enough. I like Snyder's a lot better.”

Michael said at Price Chopper he regularly purchases the Always Save potato chips and finds them tasty.

 “Although they sometimes are more susceptible to being crumbled, we find that to be the case for most bagged potato chips.” 

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