CHICAGO — Private-label foods and beverages are benefiting from today’s tough economic times. But according to The NPD Group, private-label usage has been growing over the last decade. A new NPD study entitled "Private Label Perceptions, Usage Patterns, & Intentions" states last year 24% of all food and beverages served in American homes were store brands, up from 18% in 1999. Today, 97% of all households consume private-label foods on a regular basis.

"There is no question that private-label foods have become an integral part of American life," says Harry Balzer, NPD chief industry analyst. "Furthermore, we do not hide private-label foods as an ingredient or as an additive to another dish. Today, over half of all store brand food eatings are the end dish."

Consumers purchase private label or store brands primarily because of their price and value, according to an NPD survey of grocery shoppers. Most respondents, however, also feel that the quality of store brands is often equal to, or in some cases better than, name brands. Users of private-label foods and beverages span all income levels and demographic profiles.

"The bottom line is that private-label foods can offer a great value to budget-minded consumers," said Dori Hickey, director of product management at NPD. "If a consumer is working with less disposable income, stretching the food dollar and finding value will naturally gain importance. Name-brand and private-label marketers will each need to focus on differentiating their products while finding ways to effectively address consumer needs, as the lines between the two are blurring in the minds of consumers."