Though new product introductions plunged across the CPG sector with the onset of COVID-19, private label has rebounded in various categories while national brands have continued to decline, according to digital marketing and media firm Catalina.
Own brands launched 29,385 new UPCs in 2021 and 39,530 in 2020, down 53.5% and 37.5% respectively, from 63,201 in 2019, before the pandemic, according to data from Catalina’s Buyer Intelligence Database. From 2020 to 2021, the decrease in private-brand new product introductions was 25.7%.
Meanwhile, national brands debuted 87,149 UPCs in 2021 and 121,821 in 2020, dropping 66.9% and 53.8% respectively, from 263,465 in 2019, Catalina reported. National brands’ product introductions decline over the past year, 28.5% from 2020 to 2021, outpaced that for private labels.
A range of categories saw strong new-product growth in 2021, Catalina noted. For example, new UPCs in ready-to-eat cereal jumped 66% last year after sinking 48% year over year in 2020, compared with national-brand decreases of 35% in 2021 and 53% in 2020. In cookies, own brands gained 60% in new product launches for 2021 after seeing new UPCs plummet 66% in 2020, whereas national-brand cookie product intros were down 22% in 2021 following a 57% drop in 2020.
Dry cat food experienced a 44% decline in new products for private label in 2020 but recovered with a 13% increase in 2021. However, national brands had less flux in the category over the same time spans, with new UPCs declining 5% in 2020 and down 8% in 2021.
“Overall, retailers are seeking to engage shoppers who may once again be turning to private brands, as they did during the early days of the pandemic, when name-brand shortages prompted trial,” according to Phyllis Johnson, senior director of private-brand development at Catalina. “I predict this could be a second chance for those retailers to effectively demonstrate the value of private brands and convert shoppers to loyal private brand buyers.”
But even as own brands reinforce quality and value in key categories, amid elevated grocery inflation, the price differential with national brands in some categories has lessened, Johnson noted, citing the tissue and paper towel segments.
In 2021, the average price across all package sizes of bath tissue came in at $5.25, up 31% from 2019. Yet versus national brands, the price advantage for private-label bath tissue shrank from 45% in 2019 to 30% last year, Catalina’s data indicated. The price gap dissipated even more in paper towels. In that product segment, the average price across pack sizes was $4.65 in 2021, up 58% from 2019, while the price difference compared with national brands narrowed from 140% to 80%.
The trend was reversed in facial tissue, as the price edge for private versus national brands widened from 53% in 2019 to 76% in 2021. Catalina said the average price for facial tissue across package sizes last year was $3.15, up 24% from 2019.
St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Catalina added that some product categories posted triple-digit private-label sales growth in 2021 compared with the pre-pandemic period. They included frozen potatoes (+191%), pre-packaged breakfast sausage (+173%), disinfectant cleaners (+135%), home health testing (+120%) and baking ingredients (+115%). Home health testing figures include COVID-19 test kit and face mask sales. Another segment, contraceptives, had 97% sales growth in private brands.