/ Food & Drink, Shopping

What is it that influences you to buy certain brands?


Do you find yourself sticking to the same brands in your supermarket shop? Would knowing the owner of that brand make you think differently?

Sparked by a number of requests from Which? Convo community members to discuss brands, we’re wondering what influences your purchases?

Personally, when I’m out shopping I feel that there are a number of considerations I make when buying certain products. There are cost factors, convenience, and then there’s the brand too. I feel quite drawn to certain brands.

Branded and brainwashed?

MarmiteAs the Marmite adverts go, you either love it or you hate it. Well I love Marmite. In fact, I even have my own personalised Marmite jar.

Visually I feel quite drawn to the brand, I even have a water bottle with the Marmite logo on. I really do feel quite loyal towards Marmite.

But I’m not sure if I’d apply the same loyalty towards its parent brand – Unilever. In case you’re interested, Unilever also owns Hellmann’s, Colman’s and many other brands.

Influencing factors for a brand purchase

When we surveyed Which? members last year, 84% felt that it’s important for a brand ownership to be made clear on the packaging. That’s why we revealed in our news story at the end of last year the small brands who are owned by huge companies.

As Which? Convo regular Ian commented:

‘Many consumers buy goods for ethically-determined reasons. This becomes an impossibility if we don’t know the ultimate trader. It doesn’t matter if that trader makes, buys, swaps or re-paints the product: if any aspect of the business owned by that ultimate trader is in breach of what the consumer concerned feels is ethical, then by derivation that taints the brand.’

I’ve never really considered who ultimately owns Marmite. And I suppose that regardless of whether Nestle, Pepsico, or Mars owned Marmite, I’d still buy it.

And that’s the power of a label, as John explained:

‘The practice of putting a quality/classic/traditional brand badge on substandard products has already gone too far on everything from socks to washing machines. Companies are bought up not because the acquirer wants their production lines, or their designs, or their engineers, but because they want their labels.’

But many of our taste tests over the years have shown that the big brands don’t necessarily mean a better quality product. Take the recent Convo on supermarket chocolate for example: our taste test found that supermarket own-brands can be just as good as branded chocolate.

So is it the brand, the cost or the convenience? What is it that influences you to buy particular brands? Would you make a different decision if you knew the owner of your favourite brand?


I try to steer clear of Nestle products because of ethical issues (see Wikipedia), though I confess to having bought a lot of their instant coffee over the years, but that’s changing. I also try to avoid heavily promoted products, simply because I don’t see why I should pay for advertising.

I have been wondering why Marmite seems to have disappeared from the shelves of the local Tesco. I’ll look for a jar of ‘Lauren’ next time. 🙂


I read the Wikipedia entry for Nestle and they certainly have a chequered past. They do appear to be improving ethically but only time will tell.

Nestle are one of the few owners to put their name on the front of many of their brands, something I think should be on all products.


Anything containing chemicals ,except for the known ,and of long standing preservatives .I still have a very keen sense of taste and anything with a multitude of chemicals actually makes me ill ,feeling of sickness etc. I try to buy products containing natural ingredients -ie- plant products for colour ,additives etc so in a supermarket I reject a multitude of products, even my eggs are organic, outdoor , chickens eggs not barns etc. the local farmer labels them “happy hens ” as they are not restricted in their roaming abilities . I notice the EC (European Commission ) has laws to label GMO products which I never buy BUT I know the labeling law is going to change , if TTIP get their way , the power of Monsanto etc . While some will deny this I have info that will allow it to appeal European Laws under a whole list of “excuses ” which I can post if needed ,very devious indeed ! Have a look at what the Indian government is doing to the 90 % monopoly of its products supplied to farmers there , Monsanto are “upset ” ,its just a pity they arent so “upset ” here .


Conglomerates hide behind brands and I have long wanted to see the name or logo at the top of the brand tree displayed prominently on all products. They are usually in small print at the bottom of the back label so you have to pick up the product and search for it.

But after doing some research, I now don’t know what the answer is.

Take Associated British Foods plc who market brands like Twinings, Jordans, Dorset Cereals, Ryvita, Ovaltine, Kingsmill, Allinson, Pataks, etc. According to Wikipedia, the parent company of Associated British Foods is Whittington Investments who own 54.5% of which 79.2% is owned by the Garfield Weston Foundation and the other 20.8% by the Weston family.

So what name would go as the name at the top?

The intro goes into the power of the label and Companies are bought up not because the acquirer wants their production lines, or their designs, or their engineers, but because they want their labels.

I also love Marmite but would it more ethical to be labelled Unilever Marmite? I think so and I would still buy it.

Take Cadbury. They have taken the brand, changed the recipe, closed production lines, should they still be allowed to name their products Cadbury? I don’t think so. There comes a point when the original intention of the product has gone and another company is just using the brand name. Should Cadbury be renamed Kraft Cadbury?

Then there is Anchor butter. It used to be made in New Zealand and was my favourite butter. It is now made in the UK by Arla and no longer tastes the same. But on the front of the label it says Original Butter Co. Since 1886.

There is a whole minefield of names associated with products, some meant to deceive us, some apparently for tax-dodging purposes, some from mergers and acquisitions.

As the intro says When we surveyed Which? members last year, 84% felt that it’s important for a brand ownership to be made clear on the packaging.


Brands are obviously hugely important and in times of the adulteration of food [oops not last year] in the 1800-1900’s they were a guarantee of a quality.

Some brands still have a quality attached however as noted above many companies by a brand to run cheaply on its historical value. The question is separating the wheat from the chaff. Which? who you might think would be hot on this do not test for durability nor provide a serious attempt at enlisting the 800,000 or so subscribers.

Fundamentally people what goods that last, food that tastes right, and also not to be made a fool of. This last category is for those people who are buying the “latest” gizmo which ends up unsupported in software up-dates or in parts availability.

I have been shopping at Aldi and Lidll pretty much since they came to the UK and they are consistent as to quality standards. The veg and fruit being a weakness. John Lewis are good but have lost brownie points for a sub-standard legal insurance – in the sense it was franchised and it did not deliver to one Which? subscriber what it promised to do. Mind you it did buy Which?’s food guide.

I am a staunch believer in firms having histories so that you can be happy that they are not ripping off the tea-pickers in India to commercial advantage in the UK. The BBC has done both radio and a TV programme on the famous names much advertised here who keep their workers in abject poverty.

There is a small UK charity Ethical Consumer which does good in this area by naming and shaming, and recommending the least bad. As for banks etc there is corporate watch: corp-research.org/barclays

Basically I do not expect every decision to be made with ethical as the main guide in my life but it sure helps to have an idea what some firms get up to. Which? need not beat an ethical drum but they darn well ought to improve the testing/ or long term reporting so that we can have confidence in the long term value of a product.


If you are concerned that perhaps you are aiding the disparity between rich and poor this report may make you think. So there is the brand you see on TV and written up in the media and then the actual business practices so much appreciated by multinationals who gain competitive advantage by dubious tactics.

I have not bought Mondelez chocolate since they bought Cadbury and decamped to Switzerland.


The gap between rich and poor is reaching new extremes. The richest 1% have accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world put together. Meanwhile, the wealth owned by the bottom half of humanity has fallen by a trillion dollars in the past five years. Just 62 individuals now have the same wealth as 3.6 billion people –half of humanity. This figure is down from 388 individuals as recently as 2010. These dramatic statistics are just
the latest evidence that today we live in a world with dangerous and growing levels of inequality.

This inequality is fueled by an economic and political system that benefits the rich and powerful at expense of the rest, causing the gains of economic growth over the last several decades to go disproportionately to the already wealthy.”

….. ” Profits disappear from countries where real economic activity is taking place to exist only in
tax havens. In 2012, for example, US companies reported $80 billion of profits in Bermuda –more than their reported profits in Japan, China, Germany and France combined.”


That report is mind-blowing and I only read half of it !!!

Things have to change.


Supermarkets own brand products have no accountability. It is just not good enough to say on the packaging Produced for Tesco, or whoever.

I found an interesting thread on moneysavingexpert forums entitled Great ‘disguised Own Brand’ Hunt. It is a few years old but gives an insight into who might make what for whom. I once worked the school holidays in a food factory where the line was stopped to change brand packaging and the same product went in at least 6 different boxes.

But with the adulteration of food being highlighted in recent years, and supermarkets trying to produce cheaper and cheaper food, they need to be forthcoming with their products. Who makes it? Where did it originate?