Are Britons buying own-brands or known brands?
March 29th, 2023, Christien Pheby

Are Britons buying own-brands or known brands?

The price of Bisto has apparently increased – and, as the headlines have it, it’s not all gravy. But are consumers that bothered about branded products in the first place, when cheaper own-brand options are available?

New YouGov Surveys data shows that, among the British public, 34% buy mostly own-brand goods, 29% buy known brands, and another 34% say they buy both in equal proportion. But whether own-brand or known brand win out very much depends on the product in question – and on the kind of shopper we’re talking about.

Snacks and cupboard products

Items such as Lurpak have generated controversy in recent months for what have been considered severe inflationary price rises. Our data shows that consumers are evenly split as to whether they generally buy more branded butter and spreads (45%) or own-brand (49%).

But break it down by supermarket type and a different picture emerges. Among shoppers at the traditional “big four” retailers – Tesco, ASDA, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s – half buy more branded butter and spreads (52%), while just over two in five buy own-brand (43%).

The differences become even more stark with discount and premium supermarkets. Among the budget operators – think Aldi, Lidl, and Iceland – seven in ten (69%) buy these products off-brand, with just over a quarter (27%) buying the branded versions. The reverse is true with premium supermarkets such as Waitrose (31% own-brand; 64% branded).

And if Bisto is another cost-of-living bête noire, it may be for good reason: two in five Britons preferred branded gravy (40%), with slightly fewer preferring the own-brands (36%). A similar dynamic can be seen with discount and premium supermarkets: the former (52% own-brand; 29% branded) prefer the off-label versions, with the latter (16% vs. 52%) opting for the providers they know and love. Big four shoppers also demonstrate a slight preference to buy known brands (46% vs. 41%).

For crisps (37% own-brand; 50% branded), chocolates and sweets (26% own-brand; 60% branded), branded products win out. Given the strong opinions Britons have on the contents of Quality Street, Celebrations, and other treats, this is perhaps to be expected.

The nation’s pet owners have also decided that generic pet food won’t do the trick for their cats and dogs: a third of the public (32%) buy it branded, and less than half as many buy it off-brand 14%). Nothing’s too good for Fido or Tiddles.

Soft drinks, smoothies, and caffeine

In Series 5 of Breaking Bad, Walter White explains the virtues of classic Coke compared to “tepid […] generic cola”. Not the best brand ambassador, perhaps, but the public broadly take his side: by 47% to 27%, they’re more likely to buy a recognisable product when it comes to soft drinks. This is true among all groups except shoppers at discount supermarkets, who are more likely to buy the supermarket’s own colas and lemonades (40% own-brand; 37% branded).

It's a comparable situation with coffee and tea (29% own-brand; 63% branded), which wins out in every category of supermarket shoppers – although again, those who shop at discount providers are much more likely to pick up the store-brand product.

Juices and smoothies buck this trend, with half buying own-brand (48%) and a fifth buying branded (18%) products.

Dairy and eggs

A simple enough story here: the public largely prefer own-brand eggs, cheese, and cream to their branded equivalents.

Yoghurt is the only exception here, with the public evenly split on whether they buy more branded (42%) or supermarket-brand (40%) products. Big four shoppers (31% own-brand vs. 52% branded) are an exception, as are premium shoppers (31% vs. 49%).

Frozen food and ready meals

Even less dramatically, Britons are more likely to favour buying the supermarket’s own frozen food (55% own-brand vs. 34% branded) and especially ready meals (51% own-brand vs. 10% branded) over products like Birds Eye and Fray Bentos.

For ready meals, the difference among supermarket shoppers is negligible; for frozen food, the difference is very pronounced (74% vs. 18%).

Own-brand vs. branded medicines and household goods

Beyond eating and drinking, Britons are over five times more likely to buy supermarket-brand medicines compared to their branded equivalents (76% vs. 14%). This overall preference doesn’t change too much if we look at each consumer group, although a quarter of premium shoppers (61% own-brand vs. 26% branded) are more apt to pick up a pack of Nurofen than the generic ibuprofen. For toothpaste, the reverse is true (12% own-brand vs. 84% branded). Even with a cost-of-living crisis raging on, toothpaste brands may be deeply embedded in the minds of Britain’s shoppers – making them more likely to pick up a tube of Colgate or Aquafresh than the Tesco or Sainsbury’s version.

The public also exhibit a general preference for branded shampoos and conditioners (23% own-brand; 69% branded), as well as laundry products (37% own-brand; 57% branded).

The public are divided when it comes to washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets: 46% mostly buy an own-brand, while 48% mostly buy a known brand. As is typical, big four shoppers are broadly more likely to buy brands (42% own-brand; 53% branded); premium shoppers are substantially more likely to buy brands (25% vs. 66%) – and the opposite goes for discount shoppers (61% own-brand; 25% branded).

The list of products above is non-exhaustive, and we have not explored consumer preferences for every product on supermarket shelves – but if public demand for data on off-brand toilet paper, bug spray, and prophylactics is sufficient, we will answer the call.

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YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on 13 March 2023, with a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults in Great Britain (aged 18+ years), using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, social grade and education to be representative of all adults in Great Britain (18 years or older), and reflect the latest ONS population estimates. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.