Private label branding in China: what do US and Chinese students think?

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

IT and Administrative Management

Publication Date




This exploratory research paper aims to contribute to the international marketing and brand development literature by demonstrating that significant cross‐national differences exist between Chinese and US university students regarding beliefs and perceptions of private label branding.


A total of 1,070 usable surveys were collected in the USA and 252 in China. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS data analysis software. The US student sample was collected from a comprehensive university located in the western USA. The Chinese sample was collected from a large university in Hefei. Hefei is the capital city of Anhui Province and a center for higher education.


The researchers compared US and Chinese university students in four areas: important attributes when purchasing food‐related products; beliefs about private label brands and price loyalty; perceptions about private label brands; and recognition of private label brands. US and Chinese respondents had statistically significant differences when addressing beliefs and perceptions concerning private label brands. Most notable is the difference concerning product pricing: US consumers indicate that price has a greater effect on the decision to purchase when compared with Chinese consumers. The data seem to indicate that Chinese consumers believe that private label food products may be of inferior quality compared to manufacture brands. Additionally, the data indicate indirectly that Chinese respondents either do not have an understanding of private label products, or that private label names are not recognized as such.

Research limitations/implications

One limitation of this paper is that the data may indicate the non‐availability of private label products to Chinese consumers, rather than a perception that private label products are of lower quality. Additionally, this study documents perceptions regarding private label products, not why respondents perceive private label products in a certain way. A final limitation is that respondents are university students that, while they are excellent candidates, they probably do not currently hold the role of main food purchaser for their families. Future research would benefit from a broader demographic that includes non‐students as well as a larger number of private label categories. Comparing how marketers educated consumers regarding private label products in western markets, and how private label products are integrated into western markets could be used as a template for a successful rollout in Asian markets.


While this study was exploratory in nature, and narrow in scope, the possibilities of long‐term research in private label branding in emerging market economies is quite exciting. Will the Chinese adopt private label products, as US consumers have done? To this end, a proverb from Deng Xiaoping seems appropriate: “Black cat or white cat: If it can catch mice, it's a good cat.” Whether a private label brand or a manufacture brand, it is up to marketers to help the Chinese consumers see value in both types of brand offerings.


This article was originally published in Journal of Consumer Marketing. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Journal of Consumer Marketing


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