NielsenIQ identifies categories poised to sell beyond the pandemic

The analysts also shared with Store Brands yearly data on how store brand sales have matched up to national brands.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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The spikes in hand sanitizer purchases were huge last year during the peak pandemic shopping months, up as high as 357% in online purchases, year over year; however those sales did eventually level off, according to NielsenIQ. The analysts released data that aimed to identify which categories demonstrated a consistent level of increased buying that could last beyond the pandemic.

NielsenIQ studied millions of brick-and-mortar and online shopping occasions over 14 four-week periods from when COVID-19 began, finding categories like multipurpose cleaners and bathroom cleaners had the most consistent increased selling periods, up 32% and 29%, respectively. The analysts said this differed from products such as toilet paper and paper products and hand sanitizers which showed that sales were normalizing.

Other categories that stood out as a consistent seller: seafood, plant-based meat alternatives, fresh herbs and marinades.


And with work-from-home becoming a new normal, eating breakfast at home rose in relevance. Breakfast foods were up 28% and coffee climbed 27% for the 14 weeks ending April 13.

Outside of food, the beauty category saw an interesting climb in online orders for DIY categories like nail grooming (up 144%) and hair removal (up 158%) but cosmetics and fragrances showed steep declines, the company said.


Store brand vs. national brand
Additionally, the Chicago-based analysts shared with Store Brands how private brands have fared for a 52-week period ended May 1, finding a consistent level of growth that could extend well beyond the pandemic; however, the growth was slightly behind that of national brands.

Laura McCullough, EVP, North America client success, NielsenIQ said private label showed elevated growth for the 52 weeks up 4.1% but national brands showed 6.8% growth.


Shoppers more often turned to name brands versus private label throughout the pandemic as they sought out highly trusted products,” she said. “In addition, large name brands were able to more efficiently handle supply chain challenges than most, meaning their products were more likely to be in stock. Taking notice of consumer demands for high-value and high-quality products, retailers have been revving up their private label offerings to engage and accommodate the 61% of Americans who are now considered financially constrained. In many markets, private label offerings are becoming a local alternative to premium, and as retailers move into premium, they’re positioning private label much closer to multinational brands.”

NielsenIQ reported for the 52 weeks sales for national brands exceeded $773 billion to store brand’s $169.2 billion. In two categories, heath and beauty care and household care, national brands took a larger lead. Private label actually registered a decline of 5.6% for the period in health and beauty care items compared with a 3.4% gain for national brands. Household care products rose 2.6% for private brands and 5.8% for national brands, a result of more than $49 billion for national brands and $16.3 for own brands in household care, and $81.9 for national brands and $16.4 for store brands in HBC.

Per McCullough, the opportunity for private brands could be in organic and natural products. “Even before COVID-19, shoppers were growing increasingly interested in organic and natural products, and this sentiment has drastically accelerated throughout the pandemic. Across the brick-and-mortar space, leading fresh departments (bakery, deli, meat, produce and seafood) have become destinations for consumers, and retailers with well-established fresh departments are using these offerings as differentiators to drive growth across the entire store — something all retailers can take note of. As the rise in omnichannel shopping continues to impact overall trips to the store, it will be critical that retailers use the fresh departments (and the variety within them) to create experiences their customers will want to come back for.”