Top 50 Scottish Brands 2020: An extraordinary year

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken up grocery retail trends in 2020



Lesley Ann’s overview

smaller-lesley-ann-of-kantar-headshotLESLEY Ann Gray, strategic lead for Scotland at market research company Kantar – which provides the listing of the top 50 Scottish non-alcohol brands in Scotland and the top 25 Scottish alcohol brands in Scotland – analyses the year for the leading Scottish brands in Scottish food and drink retailing.

HOW many of us have looked back on this year and still need to pinch ourselves?

At Kantar, we have witnessed changes in shopper behaviour with causes and effects we have never seen before. I promised myself I wouldn’t use the word “unprecedented” so instead will go with “extraordinary.” It’s been an extraordinary year.

The double-digit increase in national take-home grocery spend each month has not been seen before and when we compare Scotland to the rest of the UK we are following the same trajectories – with a reduction in the number of shopping trips but with us all buying more each time we do.

As Scotland’s Covid-19 restrictions diverged from the rest of Britain after the initial national lockdown in March, we were able to track the impact on Scotland in comparison to the other home nations, and see the direct impact of government policy on our retail landscape and how we shop.

We found bigger shopping baskets and shopping less frequently to be the most notable behaviours resulting from stricter restrictions.

One of the biggest changes that we have watched closely is the impact on both the convenience and the online sectors, as shoppers either shopped locally or embraced online grocery delivery, many for the first time.

The increase in sales in convenience stores has been 25%, with spend gained from supermarkets, high street stores and in some periods the discounters. Both the convenience and online channels have recruited new shoppers across all age groups and the growth of online is the equivalent of five years of progress delivered in the last six months.

This has also forced retailers to review their often unprofitable online models to keep these shoppers coming back. Amazon is a growing threat, with 37% of the online giant’s shoppers already purchasing food and drink.

For brands, the challenge will be to break through the regimented and controlled structure of retailers’ online platforms. Some 42% of online shoppers agree that they will continue with this channel in 2021, and the longer the virus is with us the more these behaviours become ingrained and habitual.

For the first time we also saw discounters losing out to supermarkets and online retailers, resulting in a drop in share. That said, this has started to reverse as shoppers respond to economic uncertainty by seeking out value choices.

As we work from home and eat more lunches at home, this too impacts what we are buying, with tinned soup, sausages, burgers and biscuits all showing an increase. This is reflected in some of the movement we have seen in the top brands, as some have benefited from this boost in occasions. Likewise, our desire to treat ourselves is very apparent, with ice cream up 11% compared with last year.

Congratulations to all the brands that have made it to the top 50 list. The list is compiled by measuring value sales in Scotland, and covers all retailers including the online and convenience channels.

A warm congratulations to the five brands that appear in the ranking for the first time; Macleans Highland Bakery, Grants, Swankies, Castle Maclellan and Mackintosh of Glendaveny. Seriously has been propelled to number three and includes their regional cheeses of Galloway and Orkney.

It’s also been a positive story for 26 of the brands, which have improved their position having been positively impacted by changing behaviour as we spend more time at home. Seven have seen their position on the list slip.

Looking ahead to 2021, what challenges will these brands face? Shoppers are telling us that economic uncertainty is a key factor for them in 2021 with 24% saying that they feel vulnerable or extremely vulnerable in terms of their economic outlook.

Whilst we can look back and see how shoppers adapted in the last recession, today’s landscape has changed considerably and, with it, the measures that shoppers will use to manage their spend.

The quantity of product bought always remains constant, but it is the layers of shopper behaviour that sit underneath this data which give us the detail on what and why we choose to buy.

Supermarkets’ own label alternatives are now more sophisticated than they were in 2009, and will offer a threat to many of the brands featured on this list if consumers choose to switch.

The increase in the discounters’ retail share has also contributed to a pattern of trying and trusting an own label equivalent. Likewise, the impact of a suppressed out-of-home sector in 2021 may also lead to a desire to treat and trade up in the products we choose to consume at home, providing opportunities for premium products.

The last recession saw promotions offer shoppers a way to achieve good value for money, but these continue to decline as retailers’ focus moves towards lower everyday pricing, so is unlikely to be relied on this time around.

Whilst you might assume that sustainability and the environment have taken a back seat as we focus on living in a pandemic, our most recent global research shows that 56% of shoppers believe that all packaging should be recyclable.

The link between what a brand stands for and its impact on the environment will remain a focus.

In a year like no other, all the brands on this list deserve extra recognition for the work that goes into that achievement, and from everyone at Kantar I wish them all the best for 2021.

Top 50 Scottish take-home food and drink brands in Scotland – excluding alcohol


  Brand Rank 2020 Rank 2019 Moving up
1 Irn-Bru 1 1  
2 Graham’s the Family Dairy 2 2  
3 Seriously 3 10
4 Malcolm Allan 4 3  
5 Bells Food Group 5 4  
6 Baxters 6 7
7 Simon Howie 7 11
8 McIntosh 8 5  
9 Tunnock’s 9 6  
10 Mackie’s 10 9  
11 Barr 11 8  
12 Hall’s 12 13
13 JG Ross 13 14
14 Albert Bartlett 14 17
15 Scotty Brand 15 12  
16 Highland Spring 16 16  
17 Border 17 20
18 Scottish Blend 18 18  
19 Müller (formerly Wiseman) 19 19  
20 Nairn’s 20 22
21 Macb 21 23
22 Rowan Glen 22 21  
23 Genius 23 26
24 Marshalls 24 29
25 We Hae Meat 25 25  
26 Tarbert Fine Foods 26 30
27 Buchanan’s (Golden Casket) 27 33
28 Scotts Porage Oats 28 27  
29 Lawsons 29 31
30 Mackays  30 32
31 Highland Game 31 36
32 Paterson’s 32 28  
33 Mrs Tilly’s 33 35
34 Brownings 34 42
35 Macsween 35 39
36 Calder Millerfield 36 34  
37 Glenrath 37 38
38 Hamlyns 38 45
39 Big + Scottish 39 37  
40 Mrs Unis 40 41
41 Scottish Favourites 41 43
42 Dean’s 42 44
43 Macleans Highland Bakery 43 NE
44 Stockan’s 44 48
45 Grant’s 45 NE
46 Stoats 46 46  
47 Swankies 47 NE
48 Lees  48 50
49 Castle Maclellan 49 NE
50 Mackintosh of Glendaveny 50 NE


This list is compiled using total value sales for each brand for the 52 week period to 6 September 2020 for Scotland. It is produced for the Scottish Grocer and is different to the Kantar Brand Footprint which measures brand frequency and penetration (consumer reach points). For this year’s list the Kantar data used for Seriously includes the performance of Seriously, Galloway and Orkney cheeses and this was due to the Kantar data used and not at the request of Lactalis themselves.