Shopper looking at meat labelling

Brands are regarded as more healthy than discounter food and drink products, according to new research, which argues suppliers can use this perception to their advantage to grow sales.

However, the report argues that brands need to do much more to stress their health credentials on areas such as fibre content, and accuses suppliers of being “stuck in the headlights” of the war on sugar.

The report by MMR Research Worldwide shows that when it comes to quality, consumers see little difference between Aldi and Lidl own-label products and supermarket brands.

Of 150 consumers interviewed, less than a third of consumers said they regarded branded food and drink products as better in quality versus discounter products; with a further 60% regarding the situation as a score draw.

However, when it came to health, the news was better for brands with 41% of consumers saying they regarded them as healthier than discounter products.

“This offers brands a glimmer of hope and something that must be capitalised on - particularly as more and more consumption occasions are being driven by health,” said MMR insights director Andy Wardlaw. “Brands must seize the initiative in the health arena, and to do this well they need to be ahead of the curve.”

Wardlaw said one major opportunity was for brands to do more to market their nutritional value, such as fibre content, following the recent SACN report, which recommended that the average UK diet must double its intake of fibre.

“In my view, the food and drink industry is caught like a rabbit in the headlights with SACN, Public Health England and Action on Sugar on the attack,” said Wardlaw. “I guess what I am saying is, see the bigger picture. By all means focus on reducing sugar - but the bigger goal must be to drive up the overall ‘nutritional punch’. Those brands that recognise the potential to gain the high ground in health can fight back. Certain categories, like bread, for example, need to think long and hard about how they can reinvent themselves to improve the perceived nutritional value of the category. Consider driving up the fibrous properties of bread and shouting about it.”