Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do food brands mean anything?

According to this study, only one-third of Americans (and even smaller numbers in Europe) think brand name is important in buying food.

Taste, quality and price are the dominant factors in choosing food in all of the countries except China, where foods' health benefits are most influential, according to the study, "Food 2020: The Consumer as CEO." On average across the countries, 74% cited taste, 73% quality and 70% price.

There were certainly some variations by country. For instance, price was cited by nearly as many American and U.K. consumers as taste and quality, and price had a slight edge over these other two factors among Germans.

I'm not so sure that the results really support the article's headline (Brands Lose Relevance in Food-Buying Decisions). Putting aside price for the moment, if the major factors are taste and quality, then doesn't that pretty much equate to brand? I might, for example, tell the pollster that taste and quality are how I decide on my food purchases, but when I'm shopping in the canned vegetable aisle and reaching for a can of creamed corn, my decision will be determined by which brand has in the past delivered the best taste and quality.

And then, of course, price enters the equation, and I might ask myself whether Del Monte creamed corn tastes enough better than Jewel's store brand to justify the price difference.

So I think the survey, while probably accurate, is misleading. Of course we buy food based on taste, quality, and price. But the brand names are shortcuts in that process.

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