Which House Brand Goods Do We Buy The Most?

Woolworths has said it plans to double the number of house brands it sells through its supermarkets, reigniting the longstanding battle between those who favour the cheaper prices that house brands bring and those who feel their range of choice is stifled as supermarkets favour their own products over others. But which house brand goods have the biggest market share?

Whether you call them house brands, store brands or the preferred term in the industry, "private labels", they make up a large (though not overwhelming) chunk of food sold in Australia. According to the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), 25 per cent of sales in 2010 were of house brand goods. Back in 2009, that figure was 23 per cent. Back in 2006, it was 18 per cent, and in 2003 it was just 15 per cent. However, the AFGC is predicting that that proportion could rise to as much as 50 per cent.

Lifehacker has always maintained a consistent position around house brands: they can be a great way to save money, but you need to work on a product-by-product basis. Some will be just as good as the pricier alternative: some won't. There's no way of knowing short of trying. It's silly to conclude that they're all rubbish; a study by Choice last year found that some tasted brilliant, and some didn't. I came to a similar conclusion during last year's Mastercheap experiment, where I had just $25 for food for the week. Under those circumstances, buying only house brands saved me a massive amount of money, and didn't represent a massive gap in quality.

If you don't like the concept of house brands at all, your choices may be slightly restricted, but not ridiculously so. ALDI, for instance, heavily favours house brands, and only carries non-private-label goods for a handful of categories. Woolworths, Coles and IGA have more options, but have given more space to house brands in recent years. But they obviously recognise the value of existing brands: as we noted recently, in many cases the packaging for house brand goods looks a lot like the branded counterparts, especially for the "premium" house brands (as opposed to the bargain ranges like Home Brand at Woolworths or Smart Buy at Coles). It's also often the case that house brands are displayed less prominently than the pricier options.

As you'd expect, staples make up a big proportion of what we do buy via house brands. The infographic below (from the AFGC) shows which categories of house brand goods make the most revenue in Australian supermarkets:

The fact that eggs outranks milk is a bit of a surprise. This data does predate the more recent discounting on milk and bread, though since those products are now being sold at lower prices, they wouldn't necessarily rise in the table (which is based on value sold, not volume). In other categories, I'm surprised the proportion of house brand sales isn't higher: with sugar, who is ever going to know?

One common argument against house brands is that they disadvantage local suppliers, and that's an argument that's going to continue to rage. But when the ACCC investigated the rise of $1 milk, it concluded that those prices were costing Coles and Woolworths rather than farmers. Whether that remains the case over other categories will be something to watch over the next couple of years.

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


Comments

    I buy CSR sugar because it is actually cheaper than the house brand where I shop (NT).

    cheap prices for inferior products. I am yet to find a house brand product of something processed (ie. not eggs, sugar etc) that is better than a named product. None of these brand names seem concerned that Coles/Woolworths is using decades of customer data to work out which products sell so they can rip them off.

    My biggest grips is that I object to the products shoved down my throat. It is hard to find some named products now. They are either hidden or 'out of stock'. When a new house brand product is launched, it's named competing products are always in short supply for a couple of weeks

      some goods are better than the private label. for example, homebrand oats is much more fibrous and protein-filled than the uncle toby's oats.

      House brand chocolate, specifically Coles chocolate contains higher cocoa butter content than most expensive labelled products.

      Established brands are worried Dave, but where else are they supposed to sell their goods?
      Coles and Woolworths have a stranglehold over the market and the only realistic competitor ALDI is almost exclusively Private Label!
      The manufacturers are caught between a rock and a hard place.

    I bought homebrand gummi bears once.

    NEVER again.

    My brother-in-law worked for a cheese factory as a chemist (one of the major ones, but I'm not saying which) and he claimed they supplied both home brand and their brand cheese - identical cheddars - to the supermarkets, just in different packaging, to be sold at different price points. Yet I know plenty of people who will swear black and blue that that specific cheese brand tastes much better than the home brand alternative.

      this is very much TRUE!

    You have to pick your marks... somethings like tomato sauce, I prefer to pay for the Heinz Ketchup, but tissues, and "panadol", freezer bags, milk, I will buy house brand happily and save heaps. Some cereals the house brand is equivalent or better, but some are just awful. You really have to play around and try things to find the ones that matter and the ones that don't.

    Muesli Bars, Milk, Bread, Gravy Powder, Liquid Stock (for soups etc), Frozen Vegetables.. basically the bread-and-butter items.. I even buy my bottled water from the house brand.

    a few years ago a friend got a temping job in a factory that bottled bleach. He said using the same batch, they would bottle 3-4 different brands. I imagine bleach/vinegar which are just chemicals are all the same. If your using them for mopping or cleaning, then does it matter? I find the no brand dishwashing powder and rinse aids, work better then the tablets, and waaaay cheaper.

      This is a bit like FREE RANGE Eggs
      I had a client who had say 10 000 free range (barn) chickens and 30 000 cage chickens. I asked him how he collected the free range vs the cage and then boxed them. He said thats easy. 1/4 of my eggs I sell as Freerange and 3/4 as Cage ie you dont actually necessarily get free range eggs what you get is that you are buying into the concept that chickens should be free to lay their eggs

      To spell this out further. They all go in a big pile

      Dont you think alot of food manufacturers do this????

        oh my god I am shocked and disgusted that people are allowed to get away with that! I am a single mother on a very tight budget, but I still pay the extra for the free range eggs and have done for 10 years! All this time I have been maybe only getting the free range 25% of the time? I am peed off! I wonder if they do this with free range chicken meat too?

    We tend to purchase house brands for raw ingredients. However, when it comes to normal grocery items or toiletries, we use branded products. For example, I certainly wouldn't be spraying Home Brand under my arms!

      Why the hell not?
      After-all, the Active Ingredient is going to be exactly the same.. the perfume might be different, provided you';re not too fussed by the perfume they use it'll certainly perform similarly.
      I agree with the above comments.. Quality can vary, I also check country of origin.. So much Private Label stuff is Imported these days.
      In my experience, working in a Food Manufacturer, if it's a processed item, the Home Brand will have a different and inferior recipe, more fat, more sugar, more Chinese (or other Imported) ingredient. Just cause it's Product of Australia simply means that more than 50% of the total cost of the product was generated in Australia - including labour. So a product can still be 80% Imported Ingredients and be labelled Product of Australia (if labour makes up a very large proportion of the cost of manufacture).
      If it's Made in Australia, it can be 100% imported ingredient and simply processed and packed here. Packed in Australia is pretty obvious I would hope.

    I worked at Coles. And basically, the only eggs people bought were smart buy. in milk there was a larger variety and more shelving space even for branded milk.

      As others have said (and the article stated) you need to try the store brand and decide for yourself.

      Has anyone else noticed that there are less of the super cheap Home Brand and Smart Buy products now? Coles and Woolies seem to be cutting them back in favor of their premium store brands.

      I miss Bilo supermarkets. I liked a lot of their store brand products and haven't found decent replacements at either Coles or Woolies. Their tomato sauce was second only to Heinz Ketchup and about 1/3 of the price. I've bitten the bullet and buy the heinz now. Meat was a lot cheaper at Bilo too.

      Has anyone else noticed that there are less of the super cheap Home Brand and Smart Buy products now? Coles and Woolies seem to be cutting them back in favor of their premium store brands.

        Oops - that was ment as a stand alone comment, not a reply to Paul.

    I've tried a lot of store brand products and whilst some I would never buy again (eg. toilet paper, tomato sauce, wafers), there are a few which I happily repurchase. The store brand cling wraps and freezer bags are obviously thinner and lower quality but they're sufficient for what I need it for (especially seeing as it is thrown away and rarely reused) and so much cheaper.

    Home Brand lasagne is delicious. I've tried all the brands and it is hands down the best. It's probably made of really disgusting ingredients but damn it tastes good.

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