PREMIUM LINES SEEN AID TO PRIVATE LABEL

NEW YORK -- Premium private-label products have improved the visibility and the image of mainstream private-label items, according to Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association here."What we think is that the public has a much broader view of premium private label than the retailer," Sharoff told SN when discussing the results of a nationwide consumer survey conducted

NEW YORK -- Premium private-label products have improved the visibility and the image of mainstream private-label items, according to Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association here.

"What we think is that the public has a much broader view of premium private label than the retailer," Sharoff told SN when discussing the results of a nationwide consumer survey conducted for PLMA by the Gallup Organization, Princeton, N.J. The results of the study are being released today at PLMA's leadership conference in Tucson, Ariz.

"We think the consumer looks at mainstream Kroger, mainstream Publix, looks at the quality of the packaging and says, 'that's premium private label,' " Sharoff said. "That's a positive spillover of the impact of premium private label."

That spillover is resulting in increased awareness and purchasing of private-label items, the survey results suggest. The percentage of consumers familiar with store-brand products has risen to 91%, compared with 86% in a similar PLMA study in 1991. Meanwhile, the percentage of consumers who said they regularly purchase store brands has risen from 77% in 1991 to 83%.

"The gains are, for the most part, a reflection of specific major retailers expanding their commitment," Sharoff surmised. "Whether it's Kroger or Publix or Stop & Shop, in every region you'll find at least two or three key retailers who have decided to make private label a major strategy for themselves."

The survey results also reveal that most consumers no longer differentiate between store brands and their nationally advertised competitors, Sharoff said. "Of those surveyed, 76% agree that store brands are 'brands' just like national brands," Sharoff said.

An important goal of the study, Sharoff added, was to determine consumer loyalty to various store formats.

Of those polled, 86% shop at a supermarket at least once a week, while 99% visit a supermarket at least once a month. When asked to name their favorite place to buy everyday products, 94% of those polled said supermarkets are their first choice. Other rankings: beverages, 79%; snacks, 74%, and paper products, 53%. Drug stores were favored by 50% of the consumers surveyed for over-the-counter products and discounters, at 41%, were leaders for personal care products.