The most chosen brands in the UK this year

What are consumers using, buying, eating and drinking… and what can brands learn?
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Fraser  McKevitt

Head of Retail and Consumer Insight, Worldpanel Division, UK

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Kantar has released its seventh Global Brand Footprint report, ranking the most frequently chosen brands in the world along with some of the overarching trends and reasons for growth. This study found that Coca Cola was the most chosen brand in the world for the 7th year running, and that Colgate was the brand with the highest penetration.

There are also reports available for five sectors specifically focussed on the UK, assessing brand choices over the last year: food, beverages, dairy, homecare and health & beauty. These reports include the top 20 brands chosen by consumers in each sector, as well as important sector trends. Looking at the five levers of growth, we identify examples where brands have tapped into these trends, or even created new ones.

So what’s happening in the UK? Warburtons comes out top once again, Alpro is the biggest riser (customer reach points or CRPs are up 14%) and there were some other success stories: Pringles managed to climb 11 places (to #35), Robinsons found 1.7m additional shoppers, and Coca Cola increased CRPs in the UK by a massive 21m. Doritos, Pot Noodle and Napolina also found new shoppers, and entered the UK top 50 for the first time.

But 18 of the top 20 most chosen brands are actually in decline – most are being chosen less frequently than the year before (only Nivea and Mr Kipling are in growth). Of the top 50, just 18 grew. Brands in every category have had to face a relentless focus on value, with the twin threats from own label and discounters making growth hard to find. In the UK, the value of branded sales grew 2% in 2018, while the value of own-label sales grew by 3%. Brands have also had to deal with changing expectations from consumers and regulators on our health and environmental impact.

We say frequently that finding more shoppers is the key lever for growth. Of the fastest growing 10 brands, 9 of them are outside the top 20, which makes some sense as clearly they will enjoy more headroom to grow – but if Coca Cola can still find new shoppers, your brand can too. Just 3 brands managed to reach more than 80% of the UK population (Warburtons, Heinz and McVities) and 93% don’t reach more than 40% of households. Let’s look at each sector in more detail.


As mentioned, Coca Cola keeps the top spot in beverages, having grown consumer reach points by 9%. Pepsi comes second, with Nescafe in third. Beverages was the healthiest sector for brands that we looked at: 11 of the top 20 beverage brands managed to grow CRPs, including a 20% growth from both Irn Bru and Vimto. Kenco was also chosen 20% more, having tapped into the appetite for premium café culture.

Dominating the conversation in beverages has been the idea of taking stuff away – of reformulating with less sugar, offering low or no sugar variants, and reducing or removing the alcohol from alcoholic beverages as part of a wider cultural and political shift. At the same time, brands are adding things like vitamins and natural ingredients to play into this health trend. And as adults move away from straightforward/sweet drinks, we’ve seen the adult soft drinks category hit £202 million.

 Soft drink


Seven out of the top 20 dairy brands in the UK managed to grow CRPs in 2018, including Alpro – which jumped up 3 places to come third in the ranking. Mueller was first (with 60% penetration in the UK) and Cathedral City was in second place. Arla (#16) was the fastest-growing brand when it came to how often it was chosen – 22% more times last year, and 6 places higher in the table.

Responding to price pressures in milk, cream and butter, as well as the shift towards veganism (and dairy-free options even from non-vegans), brands have had to innovate and create new products – or even expand into new categories like Arla and Benecol have done. In our innovation list for 2018, three of our top new FMCG innovations were in the dairy sector – Nestle’s Extreme Filled Cone, Lurpak Softest, and low-calorie ice cream Halo Top.

 grated cheese


Despite not growing customer reach points (like 17 of the top 20 food brands), Warburtons held on to its title as top UK brand in food, with DOUBLE the CRPs of second place Heinz. Heinz enjoys the highest penetration of all UK brands, at 88% of UK households, thanks to a broad category coverage. Third place was McVities, and Aunt Bessies, Galazy and Maltesers were the only food brands that managed to grow this year.

Snacking brands were in luck, as the popularity of this eating occasion is on the rise – there were 538m extra occasions, perhaps as Brits treat themselves to cheap, quick luxuries in these uncertain economic times. Again, food has seen new products and innovations capitalising on the healthy (or healthier) trend, and a practical approach to food waste is possibly behind the rise in value of the frozen food sector.


Health & Beauty

Colgate, the brand with the highest penetration in the world, comes number 1 in this ranking, despite not increasing CRPs this year. Nivea (#2) did, by 4%, as did Dove (in third place). Worth a mention is Sure (#4) who are up 10% on the back of their support for male and female sporting occasions.

Trends in this sector also reflect a health and wellness shift – natural ingredients are key, and food trends are bleeding into this sector, such as turmeric and Himalyan salt. But at the same time, Love Island and social media are influencing consumers towards an ‘always perfect’ look, and indeed Nivea can attribute some of its success to new male shaving products… for the whole body.



Fairy, increasing CRPs and bought by 60% of the UK, is in the top spot for homecare, with Andrex second and Comfort third. Neither Andrex nor Comfort has grown CRPs, but 10 of the homecare top 20 have – making it a pretty successful category for brands. Domestos (#11) grew by 11% while Harpic (#16) was up 13% thanks to multi-functional products. Air Wick jumped 2 places to number 10, partly thanks to its new ‘V I Poo’ product range – a totally new subcategory within homecare, catering to a ‘new’ need.

The homecare category has benefited from ‘cleanfluencers’ like Mrs Hinch gathering a huge following on social media, and sharing not only product recommendations but advice on a number of ways of using one product – Zoflora being the main beneficiary. While natural and sustainable products continue to do well, this is one category where plastic and chemicals will continue to play a big role.


Download all sector reports here.

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