WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — A J.D. Power and Associates' analysis of 50,000 store-brand blog entries, posted over the course of a year, revealed that only 11% of sentiments expressed were negative, nearly four in 10 (39%) were positive and half were neutral.
Close to three in four (73%) comments made about Whole Foods Market's private-label products were positive. That's the highest percentage achieved by any retailers' store brand. With 45% of comments related to its store brands being positive, Safeway took the No. 2 spot, followed by Trader Joe's (41%), Sam's Club (40%) and Kroger (39%).
“Whole Foods drew positive buzz for its higher-end flavors and tastes,” said Janet Eden-Harris, vice president of J.D. Power and Associates' Web Intelligence. “Condiments from regular grocery stores aren't necessarily regarded very highly, but Whole Foods condiments definitely are.”
Authors noted Roasted Chipotle Salsa and Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Safeway's positive buzz was driven, in large part, by its O Organics brand. “It's been really well received by consumers looking for healthier options,” noted Eden-Harris.
Organics from Kroger and Trader Joe's also received a lot of positive attention.
“We not only saw that consumers regarded these products positively, but they're actually willing to pay a premium for them,” Eden-Harris said.
One author said: “Items of note: 1/2 gallon of Kroger milk $2, but why buy that when you can buy Private Selection organic milk for $2.99.”
Retailers with larger footprints like Wal-Mart and Target received the greatest amount of attention; collectively, they generated almost 60% of total mentions.
Likewise, certain categories were talked about more than others. Dairy received 25% of all mentions, followed by breakfast foods (13%), and ready-made drinks and sweet snacks (11% each). Salted snacks (6%), canned goods (5%) and frozens (1%) received the least.
Target drew accolades for its designer apparel, while wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam's Club got a lot of attention for paper goods and household cleaners. Yogurt marketed by natural retailers like Whole Foods were another hot topic, while store brands from Publix and Safeway sparked a higher than average amount of ice cream conversation.
“I've discovered a new ice cream — Publix brand Lemon Sugar Cookie. It's even low-fat. It's amazing,” said one blogger. “Gingerbread Cookie Ice Cream — Also Safeway brand. It's a super tasty ice cream with soft little gingerbread cookies in it. I think I'm becoming addicted,” said another.
Researchers determined that bloggers fall into one of four consumer segments: resigners (15%), who are most price conscious, but often disappointed in private-label quality; mixers (50%), the most value conscious, and they switch between store brands and national brands; loyalists (24%), willing to try new things, but most loyal to store brands; and avoiders (11%), who avoid private brands.
Eden-Harris suggests that retailers convert avoiders to mixers by improving the quality of their packaging.
“Private-label brands that appeared to consumers as name brands, did better overall,” she said. “Smart designs really helped support the image; it helps consumers feel they're buying a higher-quality product.”
An emphasis on value messaging will appeal to resigners, she added.
Retailers should also innovate around unique flavors, and promote health benefits.