Do you stay away from generic or store brand products because you believe generic products are inferior? We wonder where the food comes from? Is it ok? Some consumers we spoke to said they never buy the generic version of a product since they just assumed it was of lesser quality. So we did some testing of our own on some popular grocery store products. We tested a few of our easy dinner recipes to compare the national brand products against the store brand product and also looked at the savings at the register.
In fact, The Dinner Daily was recently featured on NECN’s “Money Saving Mondays” to talk about this topic Click Here to see this video.
So what do generics save you?
As we discuss in the NECN segment, generics generally represent a cost savings of anywhere from 25% to 30% off the name brand counterpart. You might think “well its just 50 cents or a dollar cheaper, what’s the big deal?” Well, when you are filling your whole cart with groceries and are buying a lot of items each and every week, that 50 cents times 50 items adds 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 (ie the generic store brand), the savings adds up.
Another interesting piece of information: generics are often that national brand, from the same plant, the same farm, the same dairy etc, but just packaged in a less flashy way. We spoke to a long time store manager for one of the major grocery store chains and we were told that most of their in house brands are from nationally known brands, just packaged with the store label instead. Because the stores do not spend money on national advertising campaigns for these products, and the packaging is kept basic and simple, they can sell it 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 so you can have a different label on the product. When you think of it that way, most of us would not think its worth the extra cost if the quality is the same.
However, the key for most of us is how does it taste or perform in a recipe? We purchased a whole series of different grocery items and tested them at home in some easy dinner recipes and also on their own, as in the case of peanut butter and coffee.
The good news is in most cases there was no noticeable difference in taste or quality. This really is not surprising considering we know many of these products are from the same source, as noted above.
Specifically, we think there are a number of products where you can feel good about buying the 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. Its 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, or slow cooker) 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 actually 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.
Please note, for the purposes of 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 and had to admit we noticed some difference in quality. Most notable was 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 before coming to a conclusion as the quality can vary between stores.
So next time you are doing your shopping, consider trying out the store brand instead of automatically reaching for the name brand product. Try it out and if you notice no difference, you just found an easy way to save money on your groceries, without any compromise in quality.