Chris Wisson, senior food analyst at the research firm, told BeverageDaily.com that the reputation of own label alcohol (within a private label market worth ₤37.4bn overall in 2011) was not as strong as it was for food and non-alcoholic drinks.
For instance, 32% of consumers surveyed by Mintel said they were more prepared to try own-label alcohol now than a couple of years ago, which Wisson said was "a good result showing progress”, but there was still some way to go.
“Wine is one exception, and even own-label cider and beer are becoming more credible. But the spirits categories are still heavily dominated by the brands. Look at whisky, for instance. There’s a stigma attached to private label in alcoholic drinks,” he said.
‘Me too’ Jack Daniels won’t wash…
He added: “With wine it’s hard to distinguish between a branded bottle and private label. With categories like whisky you have really big brands that invest heavily in positioning: the likes of Jack Daniels or even Smirnoff in the vodka category.
Such a quality image does have an impact, and prevents people trying own-label whiskies. There’s still that stigma attached. Also spirits have more specific recipes [than, say, lemonade or biscuits] that are harder to replicate.
“People like the taste of Jack Daniels and wouldn’t consider anything different, whereas if you take rice, it’s very hard to distinguish between Uncle Ben’s and own-label in a blind tasting.”
Wisson said Mintel had asked adult alcohol drinkers whether they agreed with the statement, ‘I am more likely to buy premium over standard own-label drink’, and 39% agreed.
Best chance saloon
“That’s quite a significant indication of where their interests are I think. But only seven per cent said they liked the look of own-label, so it’s that image problem.”
“The best chance for own-label alcoholic drink is in the premium segment. Saying, ‘look, it’s a reputable drink – but it’s a little cheaper than the brands might be,” he said.
Wisson added: “So if own-label could find a premium way of attracting people – there are opportunities there I think. Marks & Spencer has done a lot of work in this area, I believe.”
Venture brands – such as Tesco’s own super-premium ice cream Chokablok, were another interesting market development that could attract alcoholic beverage NPD, Wisson said.
“Chokabloc is competing quite closely with [Unilever brand] Magnum and is even slightly more expensive.
“So private label is not necessarily restricted to a lower price – but I’ve noticed recently that Chokabloc has been promoted quite a lot, which suggests the best route is a slight undercutting of brands on price.”
Wisson added: “There’s certainly potential for an alcoholic brand of this type in the premium sphere – a cider playing up ‘freshness’ or fruitiness’, would have a good chance for success, I think.”