PLMA: Private label sets sales records in 2020

The PLMA 2021 Private Label Yearbook and NielsenIQ data showed a 12% sales leap for store brands last year — totaling a record $158.8 billion.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Total private brand sales in 2020 increased by 12% over 2019 and accounted for 23.4% of all units sold for 52 weeks ended Dec. 26, 2020, per NielsenIQ data and the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s annual yearbook.

The Nielsen data includes total U.S. supermarket, mass, club, dollar and drug chain sales, and the numbers demonstrate that store brands are continuing to keep pace with national brands, according to PLMA, even if the pandemic served up an unusual year.

For example, the yearbook noted that store brands clearly gained from a restaurant industry hobbled by closures and dining out restrictions, citing National Restaurant Association statistics showing foodservice sales fell by $240 billion in 2020 from an expected level of $899 billion. The organization further said that more than 110,000 eating and drinking businesses closed temporarily or permanently.

“Analysis needs to take these anomalies of the 2020 data into account, but comparisons to pre-pandemic trends and projections notwithstanding, store brands maintained their well-established position in the marketplace, as retailers and private label manufacturers succeeded in supplying the country with critical food and essential nonfood products in the face of extreme volatility,” said PLMA president Peggy Davies. “The 2020 sales figures bear that out."

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The NielsenIQ data showed store brands increased across all retail outlets to hit a record-high $158.8 billion in private label sales, as sales for all brands reached a record $816 billion. Private label’s market share for all outlets remained steady at 19.5% of sales volume and 23.4% of all units sold.

A breakdown by channel revealed:

  • Mass merchandisers, club and dollar stores channels saw store brands sales increase by a combined $8.1 billion in 2020, up 11.7% year over year, to a total of $77.8 billion, and total own brands unit volume was up 8.2%. National brand manufacturers saw gains of 8.5% in dollars and 4.9% in units;
  • In U.S. grocery outlets, store brand sales increased by $8.5 billion to a record $27.3 billion, up 13.2% over prior year, while units were up 7.1%. National brands still climbed, too, jumping 16% in annual sales to a record $403.6 billion; and
  • Drug stores didn’t boom like the other channels in private label, reporting a $130 million drop in store brand sales in 2020, a decrease of 1.7% versus prior year, and national brands recorded a loss of more than 6% in unit volume in drug channels compared with a year ago. National brands sales did increase by .8%, which PLMA said is likely an indication that price inflation may have been a factor as private label market share for units remained unchanged. 

Kara Sheesley, vice president of retail engagement and U.S. industry relations, NielsenIQ, said the Chicago-based company’s household panel data for 2020 was proof that purchasing private labels has become a firmly established U.S. consumer shopping behavior. 

“Fully 99% of households told us they bought private label last year,” she said.

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For further data on categories and more, the PLMA 20201 Private Label Yearbook is available here. 

Some of the top categories in 2020 private label sales volume were clearly impacted by the pandemic, and were similar to what was reported in the Store Brands State of the Industry report. Household paper and plastics products topped all categories in private label dollar volume at $10.7 billion for the period ended Dec. 26, 2020, a 37.4% dollar share of the market. Dairy cheese and milk products followed up with $8.5 billion and $7.5 billion in dollar volume respectively. Milk products represented a 56.8% dollar share. Fresh meat, frozen seafood and bakery products were the only other products to have more than a 60% share of market.