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The Demise of Insurgent Brands or the Silver Lining?

Changes brought on by Covid-19 could offer new opportunities to insurgent and incumbent brands.

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The Demise of Insurgent Brands or the Silver Lining?
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Insurgent brands’ decade-long run of capturing an outsized share of growth across a range of consumer product categories came to an abrupt halt over the past six weeks as the Covid-19 pandemic introduced dramatic changes to the sector. In March and April, insurgent brands, defined as brands having achieved more than 10 times category growth over the past five years, gained only 5% of the annual growth in categories in which they compete, compared with 35% annual growth in January and February. Insurgents were hurt by three key factors:

  • an inability to rapidly increase supply when demand was at its highest;
  • retailers’ reactionary moves to simplify assortment and focus on larger manufacturers to ensure that their shelves remained well stocked; and
  • consumer shifts to larger pack sizes and at-home consumption occasions, which are less favorable to insurgent brand offerings.

Despite big brands’ sudden gains, it is far too early for incumbents to declare victory. While near-term growth will slow for insurgents, these nimble brands have the agility to pivot swiftly, the capabilities to connect with consumers through digital channels and the authenticity to build consumer intimacy during this time of crisis. In the longer run, changes in consumer needs, shopping behaviors and channel dynamics brought on by Covid-19 will offer new opportunities to disrupt categories with new offerings and business models, sparking the entrepreneurial innovation that is the hallmark of insurgent brands’ success. For large consumer goods companies that are experiencing unprecedented levels of demand, converting new households into longer-term repeat buyers and convincing them of their brand value will be paramount to emerging from this crisis stronger.

The information contained herein is based in part on data reported by IRI through its Market Advantage service of unit sales as interpreted solely by Bain & Company, Inc.  Any opinions expressed herein reflect the judgment of Bain & Company and are subject to change.

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