NEW YORK — Consumers trying to maintain or improve their health are increasingly seeking specialty food and non-food alternatives. Whether they are organic, gluten-free, dye-free or lactose-free, these products can be costly, but a new survey of special-needs store-brand items shows significant savings for consumers.
The research, conducted by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, assembled a market basket consisting of 27 typical specialty products that consumers might purchase as healthy alternatives or for special dietary needs. These products include gluten-free items like pancake mix and chicken broth; organics such as milk and pasta; even non-food allergy-free items like dye and perfume-free laundry detergent.
For every category in the study, a leading national brand product was compared to a similar store brand product when available and prices were adjusted to account for all known discounts, coupons and promotions available for each of the four shopping visits in the study.
The PLMA survey discovered that many organic products on the shelves had a private-label product but sometimes did not have a national-brand counterpart. However, when a national brand was available for comparison, private-label products saved consumers 15%.
When comparing gluten-free products, the PLMA market-basket study found the private-label products cost 17% less on average when compared to their national-brand counterparts, while some store-brand products saved shoppers as much as 41%.
Consumers who choose to buy store-brand soy burgers, lactose-free milk and low-salt chicken broth, among other specialty food products, would save almost 30% when compared to national brand products.
The study comes as organic food sales overall continue to grow. Presently they represent a $26-billion market, but sales are projected to reach $60 billion by 2020, according to a report from Packaged Facts. A recent Gallup survey found 45% of consumers actively try to include organic products into their diet, and for consumers under the age of 29, that jumps to 53%.
The sale of gluten-free products in the U.S. have grown 63% since 2011, and gluten free sales will top $8 billion this year, according to Mintel. Mintel also projects sales are expected to reach $14 billion by 2017.
Beyond organics and gluten, the Food Allergy Network reports 15 million U.S. adults and children suffer from food allergies, while another 5 million are allergic to various chemical products. In a recent survey by Datamonitor, 20% of consumers said that they avoid certain foods due to an allergy or intolerance most or all of the time.
The Private Label Manufacturers Association, New York, is the industry trade association devoted exclusively to store brands.