Love them or hate them, generic brands have been around for decades and are here to stay. But they have come a long way since they made their entrance in the market thirty-plus years ago. Strolling around your local grocery store aisles today, you will see a wide variety of colorful packages and enticing names on products that appear to more closely compare with their name brand counterparts. With ever-growing options for groceries from fresh and frozen food to health and wellness products, it can be difficult to determine when it is worth it to buy generic. Below are some factors to consider to make the most of your money and effort when shopping.
The appeal of generic brands is the cheaper price. Consumers often reach for the store brands to save money and meet their family’s needs, but it may not always be the least expensive option. Be sure to calculate the price per unit when comparing products even if the packages look the same. Some stores place the unit price on the label, but if they don’t, use a calculator. Divide the price of the item by the number of units in the package (i.e., ounce, cup, etc.). Also, check coupons and store circulars for savings on name brands and find stores that will double or triple those coupons or allow you to stack using manufacturer, store, and even online or app coupons and rebates. A little extra research may yield even greater savings.
Taste is ultimately a personal preference. A Consumer Reports taste test* found that store brands were equal or superior to name brands in many staple grocery categories and are an average of 15-30 percent lower in price. Check the ingredients and nutrition in generic or store brand items to see how they compare to the name brand item. If you are craving a unique flavor or if you have a particular loyalty to a brand, the name brand may be the better option. If the ingredients match and you don’t have a brand preference, go with the less expensive option. If you’re having trouble deciding between generic and name brand options, consider buying both and conducting your own taste test at home.
Historically, name brand products were perceived as higher-quality premium items compared to generic or store brands. Today, however, generic brands offer more premium items and more product choices than ever before. A recent survey* indicated that 75 percent of consumers perceive store brands as equal or better in quality compared to name brands. New generic products are available in “healthier” categories such as organic, plant-based, vegan and natural. Generic brands are required to meet the same standards as name brands and are tested by independent companies before they become available for purchase. So even if you’re trying to eat healthier, high-quality foods, generic brands might save you some money.
Which Products to Buy Generic
Below are a few staple grocery products* that are nearly always worth buying generic – they are typically as good or better than their name brand counterparts and usually cheaper.
- Milk and Juice
- Seasonings and spices
- Frozen fruit and vegetables
- Canned vegetables and beans
- Baking and cooking supplies (baking mixes, flour, sugar, salt)
- Snack foods (spreads and dips, dried fruit, pickles and olives, nuts and cookies)
- Fresh produce
When choosing between generic brands and the equivalent name brand products, consider price, taste and quality. Generic products are usually the cheapest, but it can save you even more to check coupons and specials on name brand items. Compare ingredients and nutrition and, if you can, sample multiple products to see which taste you prefer. A generic label doesn’t always indicate a lower quality and might even exceed the name brand. A little time and research might satisfy both your taste buds and your wallet.
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