TN Sofres Superpanel's client services director Allan Breeze attributes the recent decline in own label growth to a wider range of brand names A fter decades of growth, own label is showing signs of slowing down. The decline may be slight ­ 0 .5% between 1998 and 2000 ­ but it is indicative of a long-term trend. Why? All the major retailers have become well versed in category management in the last few years, an approach that focuses on consumer needs, and how best to meet them. It has led retailers to offer more choice and to make a wider range of branded lines available. The trend is most marked at Sainsbury, which at one time had the highest own label share ­ 55% of turnover ­ but since the mid 1990s, this has fallen by 10%. Its current own label share is 44.6%. A similar picture can be seen at Iceland. Recently, Tesco, Asda and Safeway all followed suit, reducing their own label contributions, though the decline is less marked. (Kwik Save and the Co-ops have enjoyed good growth.) Another force for change is brand power. Over the years, brand leaders have held on to their share with marketing muscle. Own label's growth has been at the expense of secondary and tertiary brands with which it has competed and won on price. However, looking at various categories paints a different picture. Own label's share varies widely, from 18% in petfood to 60% in bakery in the current year. It is clear, too, that the downward trend is concentrated in a limited number of sectors, namely household products, soft drinks, pickles, sauces and ketchups, hot beverages, biscuits and some toiletries. In other areas, own label is strong and growing. In areas of decline, own label is being driven down by two key factors, namely a high level of product innovation and heavyweight promotional activity such as multibuys. In household products three companies have driven manufacturer growth: Lever with its successful Persil Tablets; Benckiser with its Vanish range; and Kimberly-Clark with its large scale multibuys on Andrews. For soft drinks the biggest single factor is Procter & Gamble's Sunny Delight launch. However, Coca-Cola has done well with strong consumer promotions. In pickles, sauces and ketchups, brand growth stems mainly from the success of cooking sauces where there's been a great deal of innovation. For biscuits the fact that Kellogg's Nutri-Grain is classified in this sector has been a major factor in brand growth. Multibuy activity is intense, with Fox's doing particularly well. At the moment own label is at the crossroads, advancing in some areas and receding in others. Which way the market will go is an open question. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}