One finding in particular from The Grocer’s Top Products Survey 2010 will have given Andrew Lansley food for thought. Or rather, something to put in his pipe and smoke, as they say.

Just a few weeks after the health secretary tossed a curveball into the smoking debate with his proposals for plain cigarette packs, research for The Grocer’s exhaustive annual survey of brands shows that price, rather than shiny packaging, is the key factor in tobacco purchasing decisions.

The finding casts some doubt on how effective his plain-pack plan might be – although, of course, there are also plenty of doubts over how much difference the original display ban would make.

Elsewhere, our survey suggests that brands have regained the initiative from own-label, which has seen a decline in sales since last year.

But the picture is more complex than that. New research for the IGD placed branding as low as eighth in a list of factors driving purchases. A vast majority of those in the body’s new monthly ShopperTrack poll cited price as a key factor, while health, product longevity and even ‘smell’ were all seen as more important than branding.

“It’s about what the product will do for the shopper,” says ShopperTrack insight chief Ben Miller. “The brand isn’t important. It’s the value equation that’s key.”

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the survey found branding to be more important among lower-skilled, lower-income shoppers.

“It’s about trading up,” Miller argues. “For these shoppers, a brand is seen as more aspirational, whereas aspiration doesn’t come out very highly as an overall driver.”

Plenty for brand owners and politicians alike to ponder over the Christmas break.

Meanwhile, the next two editions of Daily Bread – the final two of the year – will exclusively bring you a sneak preview of next year’s headlines, several months before they happen. Just don’t hold us too tight to the predictions.

More slices of Daily Bread