Marketing Letters

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 491–507 | Cite as

The Pareto rule for frequently purchased packaged goods: an empirical generalization

  • Baek Jung KimEmail author
  • Vishal Singh
  • Russell S. Winer


Many markets have historically been dominated by a small number of best-selling products. The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, describes this common pattern of sales concentration. Several papers have provided empirical evidence to explain the Pareto rule, although with limited data. This article provides a comprehensive empirical investigation on the extent to which the Pareto rule holds for mass-produced and distributed brands in the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industry. We used a rich consumer panel dataset from A.C. Nielsen with 6 years of purchase histories from over 100,000 households. Our analysis utilizes a large number of potential factors such as brand attributes, category attributes, and consumer purchase behavior to explain variation in the Pareto ratio at the brand level across products. Our main conclusion is that the Pareto principle generally holds across a wide variety of CPG categories with the mean Pareto ratio at the brand level across product categories of .73. Several variables related to consumer purchase behavior (e.g., purchase frequency and purchase expenditure) are found to be positively correlated with the Pareto ratio. In addition, niche brands are more likely to have a higher Pareto ratio. Finally, brand/category size, promotion variables, change-of-pace brands, and market competition variables are negatively correlated with the Pareto ratio.


Pareto rule Frequently purchased products Empirical generalization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Baek Jung Kim
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vishal Singh
    • 1
  • Russell S. Winer
    • 1
  1. 1.Marketing Department, Stern School of BusinessNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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