Consumers are sticking to brands in the recession despite the best efforts of own-label, which is actually losing market share, Nielsen data shown exclusively to The Grocer reveals.

At the start of the year, own label food accounted for 48.2% of the market by value and 52.7% by volume. However, these figures seem to mark a high point and sales growth of promotion-fuelled brands has since outstripped that of own label.

Nielsen Scantrack data for the categories where consumers have a full choice between brands and premium, standard and budget own label shows own-label growth lags substantially behind brands.

In the year to the end of May, value sales of standard own label grew just 6%, premium a paltry 1% and healthy own-label sales actually fell 7%.

By contrast, branded sales were up 9%, a growth rate beaten only by budget own label, which grew 25% year-on-year, albeit from a very low base.

"There is more private label being bought by volume, but a good deal of it is being bought at lower price points," said Nielsen senior retail services manager Mike Watkins.

"This goes back to moves like Tesco's discounter range and to the discounters themselves. Discounters now have a 6% market share and a substantial majority of their goods are private label."

The flurry of promotional activity was fuelling the branded boom more than brand loyalty, said Watkins, adding that consumer appetite for deep discounts showed no sign of waning.

Nielsen's findings fly in the face of predictions last month by the Private Label Manufacturers Association that own-label value sales would pass the 50% share mark by the end of the year, fuelled by the rivalry between discounters and the major multiples.

"Retailers are using their own brands to meet the growing demand for value from Europe's shoppers," claimed PLMA president Brian Sharoff at the time. "Their success is reflected in the market share gains for own label."