A nationwide study of buying behavior and consumer preferences in deli, dairy and fresh bakery departments shows that shoppers want more fresh food options and less work in the kitchen.

Commissioned by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, the study was conducted by Surveylab, a specialist in online market research, and covered attitudes of 800 primary grocery shoppers in the United States.

One big beneficiary of the trend, according to the results, would be store brands. More than half of respondents say that they buy more private label now than they did five years ago, and 44% of the survey say that they currently buy store brands either always or frequently. Frequency of buying is even higher in deli, dairy and bakery where it reached 47%.

“Consumers are making it clear they want convenience and speed in meal preparation,” said PLMA President Brian Sharoff. “And this is creating highly profitable opportunities for retailers’ store brands to respond with their own brands.”

In the PLMA study, shoppers for deli, dairy and bakery were asked “Which products would you like to see more of?” In deli, convenience was the No. 1 demand, with four in 10 respondents opting for “more items that can save me time at home.” Following closely, were “more restaurant-quality items” and “heart-healthy items, such as low sodium.”

In the dairy department, a better assortment topped shoppers’ desires, with 35% of survey respondents wanting to see more variety in general, and 38% saying they would like greater variety of cheeses in particular.

When it came to the bakery, shoppers had an eye on freshness and health issues foremost, with 31% saying they would like more items baked on-site and 31% likewise opting for products containing “less fructose, sugar, corn syrup and bad fats.”

Also in demand by one in four shoppers were more nutritional and freshness information, greater variety of portions, and more emphasis on healthy ingredients. Among improvements shoppers would most like to see at the supermarket perimeter, product sampling and demonstrations ranked high across all three departments. In the deli, faster service and more nutritional information about deli products were wanted improvements.

The study is part of PLMA’s plan to spotlight store brands deli, dairy and bakery at this year’s Private Label Trade Show, to be held Nov. 15 to 17 near Chicago.

“Deli, dairy and bakery are among the fastest growing sections at the annual show,” Sharoff said. “We are seeing more companies in these categories who are interested in exhibiting than ever before. One thing we have learned from past shows is that when companies want to exhibit, it usually means growth in the categories at retail.”

According the latest industry sales data compiled by The Nielsen Company, private label accounts for one out of every five dollars in supermarket sales and unit market share exceeds 23%. Total private label sales in the United States last year surpassed $115 billion.  

—Submitted by the Private Label Manufacturers Association


 [Editor’s note: See Nuestro Queso meets the needs of Hispanic buyers on the East Coast and in the Midwest for a profile of Nuestro Queso, Rosemont, Ill., a maker of branded Hispanic-style cheeses as well as private-label dairy foods, and an exhibitor at the Private Label Trade Show.]