Do you stay away from generic foods or store brand products because you believe generic products are inferior? Do you wonder where the food comes from? Or do you wonder if the food is as healthy? In the generic vs name-brand foods debate, some consumers we spoke to said they never buy the generic version of a product. The assumption is generic products are of lower quality. So we decided to do some research of our own on generic vs name-brand foods. We tested some of our easy dinner recipes to compare the national brand products against the store brand product. We also looked at the savings at the register.
The Dinner Daily was previously featured on NECN’s “Money Saving Mondays” to talk about this topic Click Here to see this video.
So what do generic foods save you?
As we discuss in the NECN segment, generic foods generally represent a cost savings of anywhere from 25% to 30% over their name brand counterpart. You might think “it’s just 30, 40, 50 cents, or a dollar cheaper, what’s the big deal?” Well, when you are filling your whole cart with groceries, that 50 cents times 50 items add up. Consider this: saving money on groceries is often a game of volume. We know that by planning our customers’ menus around the store sales flyers each week AND by using products that are either on special or represent the best cost (i.e. the generic store brand), the savings adds up.
The source of generic vs name brands:
Another interesting piece of information: generics are often made by that national brand. These generic products are made in the same plant, from the same farm, but just packaged in a less flashy way. We also spoke to a long-time store manager of a major grocery store chain and were told that most in-house brands are the nationally known brands. It is the same product, packaged with the store’s label. Because the stores do not spend money on national advertising campaigns for their products, and the packaging is kept basic, they can sell for less. To put it in perspective, when you are buying a national brand product when there is a generic option available, you are essentially paying up to 30% more for a pretty label. It hardly seems worth the extra cost.
Our testing of generic products:
For most of us, the real test for generic vs name brand products ultimately comes down to taste. We purchased a whole series of different grocery items and tested them in some easy dinner recipes. We also tested some ingredients on their own, such as peanut butter and coffee.
The good news is in most cases there was no noticeable difference in taste or quality. This is not surprising considering we know many of these products are from the food manufacturer, as noted above.
Specifically, we think there are several products where you can feel good about buying the generic product or store brand:
- SUGAR/FLOUR: they are processed and stored the exact same way. Sugar is sugar and flour is flour. The only difference between the store brand and the major brands is price and packaging.
- SPICES: essentially, these are the same products whether you buy the name brand or the store brand.
- MILK: unless you are buying organic milk, the store-brand milk is often right from the same dairy you recognize. So as consumers, you have to decide if you are willing to pay an extra dollar or so for your gallon of milk to have the brand name label on your jug? When you think about it that way, you most likely would say no. It’s the same story with eggs. Local eggs compete well with national brands.
- FROZEN VEGGIES: given we often use frozen veggies (or fruit) in a recipe (ie casseroles, a stir fry, slow cooker, or smoothies) and you are not tasting this ingredient in isolation, frozen veggies are a great choice for generics.
- PEANUT BUTTER: We taste-tested peanut butter with a bunch of kids across three different store brands. The result? None of the kids could tell the difference and a few preferred the store brand.
- COFFEE: we tested 2 different store brand coffees for the popular Keurig machines against some of the more popular name brands. We even did this test for that first cup of coffee in the am (when that first sip is so so important!) and we did not note a significant difference.
For this analysis, we compared the store or generic brand with the nationally known conventional product. We did not include organic products in our comparison testing as the reasons for buying organics are typically about factors other than price.
Items where we did note a difference:
We also tested some common household items. We have to admit we noticed some differences in quality with the generic products. Most notable were paper towels, kitchen garbage bags, and plastic bags (ie sandwich bags). So for these items, we will be sticking with our favorite name brands and passing on the generics. It still might be worth testing out the products in your store, before concluding, as the quality can vary between stores.
So next time you are food shopping, consider putting some generic brands (vs the name brands)in your cart. Try it out as we did and if you notice no difference, you just found an easy way to save money on your groceries, without any compromise in quality. If you do test some generics, leave a comment below and let us know what you’ve found! We would love to hear from you!
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