Brands struggle as own-label dominates

Meat brands are struggling to make a mark in the marketplace where own-labels dominate, the latest research from Mintel has shown.

Across wider food products, supermarket own-labels have taken over branded for the first time. However, the majority of meat products and categories revolving around meals are dominated by own-labels, and brands are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves from the competition.

This has been particularly true of expensive chilled ready meals, where the barriers are high to new entrants. Mintel’s research pointed to examples such as Bernard Matthews, which axed its widely publicised Marco Pierre White brand of ready-to-cook meals last August, only six months after its launch.

Around 74% of new meal centre products and 65% of processed meat, fish and egg products were launched as private-label products, with meat and poultry product launches featuring heavily in the economy end of the ready meal market.

Meat products were the fourth most popular premium launch, as well as being the second most popular economy launch.

Private-label’s share of the market varies widely, with around 96% of red meat being own-label, 93% of poultry and 87% of chilled ready meals. Frozen ready meals and frozen burgers and grills were more receptive to the branded labels, at around 44% and 41% respectively.

The research showed that fresh meat brands stand the best chance of differentiating themselves in the marketplace, either by tapping into consumer interest for higher welfare or breeding to justify a price premium or by adding a tangible difference, such as Weight Watchers or niche products. It pointed out that smaller players had benefited from offering convenience or associations, such as Elliot’s Prime Cuts’ Coronation Street meat range.

It said that Tesco’s launch of ‘venture brands’, which bridge the divide between brands and own-labels by removing any reference to the retailer, had added a new dimension to the market.

Among the worst-performing private-label products was canned meat.  

Chris Wisson, senior food analyst at Mintel, said: “Retailers are appearing to put greater weight behind their own-label ranges in attempts to encourage consumers to switch into using them.

“Times have changed and there is no longer a perception about own-label equating to lower quality. Our research shows that many affluent consumers do not necessarily dismiss own-label products out of hand, but in fact they appear to be keen users in certain categories.

"The increasing credibility of private-label products which, crucially, often undercut brands on price is a warning for brands that are under increasing pressure from consumers who are becoming more open to the idea of buying own-label groceries.”

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