Private Label Buyer
A Walk Down the Aisle - Frozen Foods

Chill Out

October 12, 2012
Private label offerings

When it comes to frozen pizza, some manufacturers did experience growth, specifically smaller brands and private label, according to a report from Mintel

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International Group titled Pizza at Retail — US, July 2012. Private label, while still small, has experienced dollar share growth of 12.4 percent and increased its market share by 1.5 percentage points to 13 percent in 2011.

As for ice cream, private label makes a strong second place showing with 21.5 percent share of the market and sales of $1.6 billion, according to a report from Mintel titled Ice Cream and Frozen Novelties — July 2012. It is positioned for further growth as retailers continue to develop their own portfolios and consumers gravitate to the lower prices.

The frozen handheld food sector generally appeals to a younger, less affluent consumer base, and as such, is accessible to many consumers, according to a report from Mintel titled Frozen Handheld Food — US, June 2012. Renewed interest in breakfast also has sparked growth in the handheld (breakfast) segment. Most leading companies have performed well in the last year, and the expectation is that this will continue in the short term. Smaller brands and private labels face stiff competition here.

PLBuyer sent three of its secret shoppers to check out the frozen food aisle of food retailers in Kansas, Arizona and North Carolina in September, and asked them to evaluate how their local stores market and merchandise their private label frozen items.

In addition to looking for in-store merchandising, shoppers recorded prices of comparable private label and national brand frozen pizza, frozen handheld entrees, frozen potatoes and ice cream, and conducted their own taste tests.

The goal of our walks down the aisle is to provide our readers with market intelligence and insight you can use.

Marketing Varies
Private label marketing in the frozen food aisle varied from retailer to retailer. Shopper Bill K. reported that he saw quite a few in-store ads or signs for private label products, and that there were also shelf tags comparing private label prices with the national brand prices, and the private label products often were shelved directly next to similar national brand products.

Sarah C. saw in-store ads or signs for private brand products in her store, but she didn’t see any shelf tags comparing private label prices with the national brand prices. She also noted that the private label products were shelved directly next to similar national brand products.

Mike G. did not see any in-store ads or signs for private label products in this category. He also did not notice any shelf tags that compared private label prices with national brand prices. In this category, the private label products were shelved next to similar national brand products in only one instance.

Most of the price gaps between the private brands and the national brands were fairly small, with a few notable exceptions.

The biggest price difference was a $2.20 difference between the DiGiorno brand pizza and the Laura Lynn brand pizza at the Ingles in Asheville, N.C.
Also at the Ingles, there was a $1 difference between the Breyers ice cream and the Ingles Best brand ice cream.

The only product that Michael G. could find a private label comparison to the national brand was frozen potatoes. There was a 74-cent difference between the Ore-Ida brand French fries and the Best Choice brand French fries.

At the Target in Mesa, the Market Pantry private label brand ice cream cost 5 cents more than the Breyers ice cream.

Taste Tests
Secret shopper Sarah C. tried the Market Pantry brand ice cream from Target and said that the ice cream tasted good. “Generally, the national brand tastes slightly better, but I would buy the private label brand if it was less expensive than the national brand,” she said.

Secret shopper Bill K. bought the Ingles Best brand ice cream and didn’t notice much difference in the taste. “The Ingles Best brand is not substantially different in taste from the Breyers brand,” he said.

Michael G., who occasionally buys items in this category, couldn’t find any private label ice cream offerings at the store he visited, so he bought the Blue Bunny brand ice cream. He said the packaging design, which had an oval, snap-top carton design, helped influence his purchase decision.

When he does purchase private label brands in this category, he says that he considers the Best Choice brand often is fair to good quality.

Other Observations
Bill K. noticed that the packaging is sometimes designed to mimic national brands, but not as often as in other categories such as breakfast cereal.

Shopper Sarah C. said she noticed that the packaging in this particular category looked nice.

Michael G. noted that the store he visited, Price Chopper, part of Kansas City’s Associated Wholesale Grocers cooperative, offered few private label items in this category.