UK shoppers are among the most brand-loyal in Europe - but are more likely to buy branded food for their pets than themselves, an exclusive European-wide survey has revealed.

Some 56% of UK shoppers bought branded food for their pets, more than any other EU country surveyed. In contrast, only 36% of German shoppers and 41% of French shoppers said they would fork out on branded pet food.

When it came to their own food, only 40% of UK shoppers said the majority of what they bought was branded. Spanish and Italian shoppers both bought more branded food than their UK counterparts, who in turn were more brand-loyal than the Germans or French.

The Harris Interactive poll, shown exclusively to The Grocer, quizzed 260,000 internet users in five European countries on their shopping habits.

"With the recession beginning to bite, many more shoppers are tightening their belt and saving a few pennies by choosing the own brand name," said Harris Interactive head of consumer research Lucia Juliano. "However, the UK is bucking this trend slightly, and preferring to stick with what they know. This could be due to supermarkets' increased discounting of brand names, making them more affordable."

In times of uncertainty people often sought comfort in the long-established brands, she added. "The purchase decision is made all the easier when those products are sold at a bargain price."

Three-quarters of UK shoppers said they bought predominantly branded cosmetics, more than any other country, while 63% stuck to branded drinks and 42% picked brands over own label when it came to cleaning products - a figure topped only by the Italians.

The Germans were the least brand loyal. Only 20% mainly bought branded food, 35% bought branded drinks and 27% paid extra for branded cleaning products. "Respondents from Germany were the most likely to choose the cheaper alternative in all five categories," said Juliano.