SALES of many of Ireland's best-known brands have been hit hard as cash-strapped consumers increasingly opt for retailers' own-brand products.
New research reveals just how much the growing popularity of supermarkets' own-brand products – which tend to be significantly cheaper – is impacting on the sales of household names like Kellogg's Special K and Volvic.
Brands that make household staples, where there is lots of competition, have suffered the most.
In the study of the country's top 100 best-selling brands by sales, losers over the past year included baking brand Johnston Mooney and O'Brien, which dropped eight places to 37th. Bottled water brand Volvic was down nine places to 47th, while Kellogg's Special K was down 13 places to 78th.
"Retailers' own-brand products performed exceptionally well in almost all categories – they are even beginning to take over in health and beauty, where branding has traditionally been very important," said Stephen Wynne-Jones, editor of consumer magazine 'Checkout', which commissioned the study.
Milk brands fared particularly badly. Premier Milk fell nine places in just 12 months to 57th place. Connacht Gold milk was down 14 places to 97th and Dawn milk, last year's 88th biggest-selling brand, fell out of the Top 100 altogether.
Nearly half of all milk sold is now own-brand, also known as "private label", compared to an industry average of 21.9pc.
"People just don't perceive the added value that a brand brings to product like milk," said Mr Wynne-Jones.
The only exception was Avonmore, which managed to keep its second-place ranking.
Mr Wynne-Jones said this was down to Avonmore's innovative new products, including its Heart Active range launched two years ago.
Confectionery and snack firms topped the charts, with names like Lucozade, Cadbury's Dairy Milk, Tayto, 7Up and Jacobs dominating the top 10. The biggest-selling brand was Coca-Cola for the ninth year in a row.
"The only way for brands to thrive now is to launch new products which private labels don't already offer, and to push very hard with advertising," said Mr Wynne-Jones. "Confectionary companies are doing this, because they operate in a hugely competitive market involving massive companies – Cadbury's, Mars, Nestle. They push each other to innovate – there is a constant stream of new ideas in this area."
Despite their obvious taste for sugary foods, the health concerns of Irish shoppers also markedly affected the results. Innocent smoothies rose 23 rankings to 30th place, one spot behind its closest rival Tropicana. Irish yoghurt brand Glenisk rose 13 places to 39th, and Cully & Sully, which sells homemade-style soups and ready meals, broke the top 100 for the first time.
The survey also showed that the horsemeat scandal had serious implications for frozen meat meal brands. After it was revealed early this year that some products sold as beef in Europe contained horsemeat, that category of goods fell 11 places to 89th.