Updated on 08.23.07

Getting Over The “Taboo” Of Generics And Store Brands

Trent Hamm

Many Americans (including many of my friends) are conditioned by many years of marketing to select name brand products at the store. They’ll skip right by the generic rice puffs and buy the identical Rice Krispies for a dollar more per box. They’ll skip by the 100% store brand juice and pick up Juicy Juice, the same thing with a fifty cent markup.

It’s completely understandable that people wish to choose the product they’re most familiar with, but it’s also an expensive choice in many cases. Generics are often prepared identically to name-brand products or are only slight variations on the name brand, but the cost is far less. Why? Advertising – with the name brand, you have to support the company’s marketing budget as well.

Yet, for many, there still remains a certain “taboo” about buying generics. If you feel that way, I encourage you to try the following things the next time you’re at the grocery store.

Find the “generic” parallel for some of your purchases. Many canned products, breakfast cereals, and so on have generic forms that are very similar. Quite often, people rush through the store and grab the name brand on instinct without actually bothering to find the generic item.

Compare the ingredients in the generic and the name brand. I was shocked when I first did this – many times, the ingredients in the two are identical – no difference at all. In a few cases, the generic was more healthy – it would have the same ingredients, but in a different order, indicating a smaller proportion of high fructose corn syrup, for example.

If there is a noticeable difference, decide whether the cost difference is worth it. Quite often, you’ll find the generic’s ingredients are just fine compared to the name brand one, even if there are some differences. For example, you might find that the name brand tomato paste has no salt in it, while the generic has a tiny amount of sodium in it. Is it worth $0.50 for that difference?

If it brings comfort to you, use the non-generic packaging at home. Something my mother used to do to reduce complaints in the morning is put generic cereal in the name brand box. I didn’t realize this for years, but if I didn’t actually witness my mother buying the cereal at the store, it was usually the generic form in the name brand box.

For most purchases, I buy the store brand – there are very few name brands that I purchase over the store brand, and the only reason I do in those cases is that I’ve tried both and the name brand has enough of a quality difference to make it worthwhile (diapers come to mind here). I also put in an effort to pore through the ads for the store and also the Sunday coupons to see if I can get a deal on the name brand that’s even cheaper than the generic – and it happens more often than you might think.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Dave says:

    A good general rule is the simpler things tend to be just as good with the store brand, but more complex things are better with a regular brand. Ketchup is pretty simple, but when I purchased some store brand “Bold & Spicy” steak sauce (next to A1 Bold & Spicy), it wasn’t very good.

  2. viola says:

    I buy generic all the time. Watch packaged products though, since some of them have preservatives not found in the major brands….or you can find generics that don’t have these. I find grocery store brands to have less junk that Wal-mart type store generics, but that’s not always the case.

    A few products DO matter that you buy a good brand, many of these are dairy (ice cream, cheese). It’s worth trying things out though because the savings can add up substantially.

    Also I think it’s better for you to teach kids that the box label doesn’t matter. There’s no way I’d buy store brand cereal & put it in a Kellog’s Rice Cripies box. It’s the same as teaching them that it doesn’t make someone better than you if they have on $120 Nike’s and you have on $20 no-namers from Pay-less…they just have on more expensive shoes. That’s it.

    Why do we spend so much time telling kids “It’s what’s inside that counts” and then contradict that with giving in to brand brainwashing?

  3. doug m says:

    i’ve recently moved to a new state and had to watch my spending for a while and this was my first change that i made.

  4. David says:

    Great article, trent…and good point viola about the brain washing really thought out point…I think with groceries this is definitely an easy way to save money, and you can trick the youngsters with the packaging..great tip…

    But with clothes it is so hard for me to wear “no name” clothes especially with sneakers…I guess it was just the way I was brought up as well as the affect of society on me. I don’t really know if I think the brand name products look better because of the branding, but I just don’t buy generic clothes often. Although I have been trying with thing such as shorts and jeans that don’t vary in style much.

    This is definitely one of my weaknesses.

  5. Salt comes to mind… my brother and I once picked up the name-brand salt, and the generic salt, and compared the two. They both came from the EXACT same location, and the only ingredient was… “salt”.

    You can do this with beauty products too – I compare the generic shop brand side by side with the expensive ones.

  6. Javi0084 says:

    I almost always go for generic. There is a few national brands that are better than generic, saltine crackers being one of them.

    My girlfriend on the other hand goes for the expensive national brands, especially if its for our son. Anything that has a Winnie the Pooh label on it is a MUST have for her. I don’t let her shop alone :)

  7. Sarah says:

    Not that I disagree with your article, but here’s a story/situation you might consider.

    When my older brother was about 3 or 4, all he would eat in the morning were Honey Nut Cheerios. One day, my mom decided to buy the generic brand. She poured his cereal for him, poured the milk, put in the spoon, placed the bowl on the table and called for my brother to come get it. My brother comes in, tastes the first spoonful and immediately says “This isn’t Cheerios.” There was no way he could have known–he hadn’t seen her prepare the cereal or seen the box in the pantry. Subsequently, he refused to eat it. My mom decided that paying the extra was worth it if it meant the difference between my brother eating breakfast or throwing a fit every morning about the lack of ‘real’ Cheerios.

  8. 3bean says:

    I typically buy generic, but agree that it pays to look at the ingredients. For example, Planter’s Dry Roasted peanuts are just peanuts and salt. My grocery store brand contains peanuts, salt, MSG and a host of fillers / stabilizers. Yuck!

  9. Jennifer says:

    I was raised to be frugal, so it stops me in my tracks when other people aren’t – I overheard a man in the grocery store say “don’t get the [store brand]! Get the real stuff!”

  10. vh says:

    Over-the-counter medications and quasi-pharmaceuticals can be LOTS cheaper in generics…compare the labels to be sure you’re buying the same stuff. Often the lists of ingredients are identical. NSAIDs, contact lens solutions, vitamins, calcium plus D, cough meds, mosquito bite lotions…savings can be large & really add up over time.

  11. David says:

    To add to what vh said . . . I work in a pharmacy and can vouch that the store brand OTC is in most cases identical to the name brand product. In fact, most of the time they are produced on the same line and are simply diverted to separate packaging endpoints. When in doubt, ask your pharmacist! :-)

  12. Whitney says:

    My father used to sell packing supplies to different food manufacturers. He told me once that certain companies make a product and label it with the brand name, then go through a cycle of preparing it with a generic label! Same EXACT product with a different label.

  13. KiranG says:

    My favorite story of how much packing matters is about shampoo. My dad worked at a chemical company for many years and they made some shampoo, sometimes it was generic sometimes it was a name brand. Sometimes it was a name brand dog shampoo, and the dog shampoo cost twice as much as the generic stuff in the store. Just different choices in scents.

  14. Mary says:

    Actually, though I find this to be true in some cases, the generic brands are often (maybe 30% of the time) more expensive than brand-name items that are on sale. The key here is to consult your handy-dandy price book and see 1) what a good price would be for this item in general, and 2) the actual calculation of the price per oz (or whatever unit you’re working with). Some stores have the price-per-unit on the label, which can be helpful (though I have found that the calculations are not always correct). I do agree with the ideas of stigmatization of generics though. But jumping for the generics automatically is the same kind of mentality as jumping for the brand names: it’s just “generics are always cheaper” instead of “brand name goods are always better”, when in fact it’s more complicated than that for both cases.

  15. Adam says:

    The only name brand I ever buy is Coke, because I’ve never found a store brand that tasted quite the same. Everything else usually has a store brand substitute that is just as good and significantly cheaper. My 2 cents…

  16. DivaJean says:

    One comment- Sarah notes above that generic Cheerios wouldn’t work for her older brother and that sold her mom on buying regular Cheerios only.

    I would have moved on to another strategy- buying generic cereals of less familiar flavors, then going back to generic Cheerios at a another time. Going from a box of brand name to generic of the same item, kids might notice more of a difference, if there is any.

  17. MARTHA says:


  18. rob says:

    Hi, just discovered your site a few days ago and I love it!

    I heard this on the radio the other day and its exactly what most are describing here about brand names

  19. silver says:

    I, personally, think that the generic is *better* in some cases.

    As for the comments about the same plant making both generic and name brand–they could be using different formulations, just because it comes off the same product line, doesn’t mean it’s the same stuff.

  20. Justin says:

    One of the big problems I have run into with generics is reformulation. I.e. one month the ketchup tastes like heinz, the next Red Gold, or whatever. As the contract for the product moves from place to place.

    I also have experimented and found that generic canned vegies for example have less actual vegie and more liquid than the name brand.

    There are some things I won’t go generic on, Coke is one, Pepsi and store brands taste a hell of a lot worse. I would prefer coke to be sweetened with sugar rather than HFCS, but that’s a rant for another time.

    I also buy Reebok shoes, nothing else holds a candle, and I have tried.

  21. Jessica says:

    I agree with Mary that you should consider generics among your choices when shopping, but realize they’re aren’t always the least expensive.

    One example I know of is paper towel. I shop at Target, and while their 8 pack of Target brand paper towels is cheaper than Brawny, it isn’t cheaper than Sparkle.

    And although I typically buy the generic sandwich bags

  22. Jessica says:

    I agree with Mary that you should consider generics among your choices when shopping, but realize they’re aren’t always the least expensive.

    One example I know of is paper towel. I shop at Target, and while their 8 pack of Target brand paper towels is cheaper than Brawny, it isn’t cheaper than Sparkle.

    And although I typically buy the generic sandwich bags, if you have a good coupon the Glad or Ziploc brands can end up costing less.

  23. David says:

    Also, sometime you can buy more of the generic towel , but the quality difference is major so there is no point, you might as well spring for brand name quality sometimes, it really is all about the quality not about the name. So if you can save money and buy products that are better or equal value go for the generic!!!

  24. Cheryl says:

    I buy generic all the time, unless I can get a better deal on the name brand via sale and /or coupon deal. Especially on cereal! You can save up to $2 a box buying generic, and most times the store brand is made by the same company as the name brand…I just take them home, out of the box and store them in a Tupperware and no one knows the difference!

  25. RS says:

    “I would prefer coke to be sweetened with sugar rather than HFCS, but that’s a rant for another time.”

    If you wait for Passover the Coke with the yellow top (and I believe Hebrew writing on it) signifying it as Kosher they’re made with real sugar not HFCS (due to the grain consumption restriction or some such-> sorry if I’m incorrect on this being the reason why but I’m pretty sure that’s what I was told). It’s less bubbly but has a clean aftertaste so we stock up when we see it :)

    Also I’m pretty sure I heard that the Coke bottling in Cleveland Ohio, (code CD) uses sugar/sucrose and not corn syrup

  26. Jeff says:

    Interesting, since I started obsessively reading labels to avoid trans-fat and fructose I’ve noticed that it’s *only* the generics or store brands that uniformly *do not have* these additives. At least at the more “upscale” stores in my area like Nob Hill and Safeway.

    Ironically the name brands are significantly more expensive and worse for you – nothing like paying a premium to destroy your health. I’ve lost nearly 20 lbs in the last year in part by avoiding “bad” food and limiting total calories.

    At Nob Hill and Safeway, the store brand pasta sauces are the ones without added sugar or trans fat while the name brands do. I’ve also noticed the fat and calorie levels tend to be lower.

    For those unfamiliar with why trans-fat and fructose are so bad, the former is a synthetic derivative (through hydrogenation) of veg oil that is not metabolized efficiently so it gets soaked up by the pathways that produce LDL cholesterol and fat.

    Similarly fructose, though a “sugar” as defined by a chemist is not a sugar as defined by the body and its metabolism. It is metabolize only in the liver by the same LDL cholesterol and fat pathways as trans-fat. Real sugars are metabolized anywhere they are needed: muscules, brain, heart, etc.

    High levels of fructose are hepatotoxic and cause other essential liver functions to be skewed or even shutdown. Anything with either regular sugar (sucrose) or high-fructose corn syrup or corn syrup is adding unnecessary fructose to your body and liver.

  27. Jacques says:

    Here in South Africa we also have the ‘no name’ (as we call them) brands. Funny thing I’ve noticed recently is that the generic brands cost more in many cases. We have a big ‘buy generic’ culture here, thanks to the marketing, and I think the big shops have changed the prices because everyone assumes the generic is cheaper. Sneaky so and so’s

  28. Joseph Sangl says:

    Generic is great! Most of the generics we buy are good and are very comparable to name brands.

    I will, however, NEVER purchase generic bread (rolled, glued sawdust) or generic ketchup (tomato soup) again.

    My wife and I saved over $200 a month by going to cash envelopes and purchasing generics.

  29. Kim Bentz says:

    The reason for the trickery is when you have someone like my husband, who doesn’t believe that the generic pancake syrup tastes as good as Mrs. Butterworths. So I bought generic/store brand and refilled the Mrs. Butterworth bottle. “See,” he tells me, “this si SOOO much better than that other crap.” Absolutely. I fessed up after a few months.

    One thing I’m less comfortable buying in an off or store brand is computer storage and accessories. I have to admit to spending $5 more for a name brand jump drive than the off brand. I know the one company and am fairly certain they will be around should I have a problem in a few months.

    I have been surprised to find that the shoes a friend gave me are much more comfortable, sturdier and longer-lasting than the cheap shoes I’ve been buying for years. Not that this is always true. Some of the really high end shoes are SOOOO uncomfortable. Can’t figure out why a person would spend $400+ for a pair of shoes that look like a piece of art, but kill the feet. On the other hand, the $15 shoes are killing my feet and if I just up my price range into the $50-60 range I can find some brands that don’t hurt my feet, though I have a hard time spending that kind of money.

    Jeans. I used to buy a name brand jeans once I discovered they always fit and they lasted better than anything. They were twice the price of the store brands, but worth it, UNTIL they switched the style and began making them with a lighter weight denim with some spandex in it. No longer can I get the fit AND sturdy denim, and am on the hunt again. Now I snag any of the old style I can find at thrift stores.

  30. rstlne says:

    I buy not only generic, but generic in bulk packaging. It takes me a few weeks to finish a huge generic bag of cereal and the savings are incredible.

  31. Andy says:

    Just because something has the same ingredients doesn’t mean its has the same quality. For example, we buy the expensive brand of chicken after we did a blind side-by-side taste test and found that the store-brand chicken tasted less like chicken. I don’t want to buy “chicken” — I want to buy chicken.

  32. Andy says:

    Same goes for milk.

  33. Rob in Madrid says:

    My rule is very simple. I start with the cheapest of everything and work my way up till I find a product I like. 76% of what I buy is generic. I bought the cheap katchup once and hated it. But when the Heinz ran out I switched to the cheap store brand and got used to it (quite a bit cheaper) and haven’t gone back.

  34. matt says:

    A flaw in this type of reasoning is the reason for purchasing these products in the first place. Most generic food products are highly refined foods with very little nutritional value. “100% juice” is often 10% of one juice, and 90% white grape fruit juice. Yes, it’s juice, but your body will not get very much nutrition out of it, and it will boost your blood sugar very quickly, which causes most people to gain weight. If you look at the generic products you advise people to buy, they are generally “value added” products. Value for the producers, not for the consumers. If you instead choose to eat things which are not processed highly, like fresh fish, bulk rices, beans, starches, vegetables, and fruits, and decrease the amount of dairy and meat in their diet they will spend less at the grocery store, and less on health care costs. What could be better than saving money and being more healthy in the first place!

    Distinguishing between brands is also one of the last bastions of democracy in this country. By voting with your wallet you can approve of the politics and actions of one company over another. Generic products are shielded from criticism, as the contracts for their production frequently shift, and they are locally branded. Chinese toothpaste, anyone?

  35. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Matt makes a very good point.

    Andy: doesn’t everything taste like chicken? (I am joking.)

  36. lori says:

    For Mary –
    I worked in the claims department for a MAJOR grocery store chain. I handled claims involving the store brands. I dealt with a few claimants that stated they found an insect, fly, frog (yes frog) in a can of fruit, corn, green beans, spinach, etc. These claims were subrogated to the companies that canned the products for our store brands. These are the same exact companies that can products for Delmonte, Green Giant, etc. Do not fool yourself into thinking it cannot happen with a National Brand. It can and it does. The only way to ensure yourself a “perfect” product is to grow them yourself. But then you will encounter the following in your own garden: insects, flies, frogs etc! This happens with food from nature.

  37. Steve says:

    After reading through this, I was a manager at a Wal-mart, and holsum provided the premium bread.. I was talking to the vendor when I saw him restoking the great value, I asked what the diffrence is and he replied “It all gets baked at the same time, some get put in holsum bags, some get put in great value bags (this was in Arizona, and I’m talking about white and wheat sandwitch bread specifically)… but Most “great value” products are from name brand manufacturers… Wal-Marts clothes probably come from a Chinese sweatshop though…. ;)

  38. Dan says:

    “When my older brother was about 3 or 4, all he would eat in the morning were Honey Nut Cheerios. One day, my mom decided to buy the generic brand. She poured his cereal for him, poured the milk, put in the spoon, placed the bowl on the table and called for my brother to come get it. My brother comes in, tastes the first spoonful and immediately says “This isn’t Cheerios.” There was no way he could have known–he hadn’t seen her prepare the cereal or seen the box in the pantry. Subsequently, he refused to eat it. My mom decided that paying the extra was worth it if it meant the difference between my brother eating breakfast or throwing a fit every morning about the lack of ‘real’ Cheerios.”

    BUT…if you gave him generic from the beginning he would have never complained about Cheerios in the first place :)

  39. In my opinion, some products (like drugs, auto parts, etc.) are branded for a reason.

    The generic drug may have different/more side effects than the branded one.

    Or it may be a matter of quality, in the case of auto parts.

  40. Steve says:

    For the record…. I hate wal-mart, but sadly economy forces me to shop there for food… for everything else, I use the internet to purchase, I save hundreds a year on internet purchases.

  41. Bombi says:

    Generic dishwasher detergent will leave streaks and soap-stained dishes. I won’t make that mistake again – I’m gladly paying double for Cascade now.

  42. Andy says:

    Trent — Everything tastes like chicken because cheap chicken tastes like nothing. A few weeks ago I bought an organic free-range chicken from a farmer, and I tell you, it definately had a distinctive flavor!

    Perhaps we should say that everything tastes like Generic Chicken!

  43. Kyle says:

    I will buy just about anything store brand or generic, with the exception of laundry soap for my youngest son. He has allergies and if we use the cheap stuff he breaks out in nasty hives. (I felt horrible for trying but…) Otherwise there is nothing I won’t try sometimes they need some “flavor assitance” but isn’t the package stuff just a jumping off point anyway?

  44. iGeek says:

    Nothing can replace purple drink. Nothing! Water, sugar, and Purple. Long live the Purple Drink! :)

  45. Matt says:

    Good post. Generics are usually as good as the brand name, but sometimes I still have the urge to buy the brand name.

  46. Brian says:

    I always find it amazing how much people trust marketing. One of the biggest money-savers I’ve found is medicine. Comparing the active ingredients, the generic brand almost always has the same ones in the same amounts as the expensive brand.

  47. David says:

    I have a feeling the author of this really hasn’t compared a lot of generic products to the real thing. I’ve used a generic version of just about every product of which I’ve used the real thing, and it’s really a toss up. Some of them are fine, most of them aren’t the same at all. Just because they have the same ingredient list doesn’t mean the quality of those ingredients is the same, or the sources, or the factory in which they are prepared. I use a lot of generics, but it was through trial and error, finding ones that are either 99% like the real thing, or the difference is negligible or can be ignored (generic sandwich bags, for example). Generic windex leaves streaks. Generic tide can cause rashes. Generic hygeine products are often watered down or alcohol is substituted for more expensive materials.

    I’m not a big fan of generic food. The quality is usually abysmal, and it rarely tastes the same. Some are so far off from the original that its laughable (generic soft drinks, generic bread, generic cheerios that taste like cheerios-flavored -plastic, generic canned tuna that tastes like salted rubber, for example).

    The whole “it’s the exact same product but when it comes off the assembly line they put a different label on it” is very rarely true. Major manufacturers own their own factories and don’t usually produce competing products on their own equipment. No, an $80 polo and a $10 wal-mart polo did not come from the same factory.

    General lotions, hair products, etc.? Have used them all, and wouldn’t recommend them. A very important part of production of many of these products is the size of the particles and the suspension in the liquid they are held in. This costs a lot to do properly, especially when producing things like “dry oil”, found in a lot of expensive products, and many generics were not prepared this way. Larger particles or improperly suspended particles can do things like clog pores, leave residue, or leave streaks in the case of rub-on tan.

    Lack of advertising is not the only way generic products keep their cost down – some also cut costs in other ways, by using cheaper materials or lower cost factories with less quality control. Not saying major brands are immune to this, but I think the examples above of very poor quality generic food as well as detergents that cause rashes are evidence of this.

  48. BEN says:

    As far as generics go I buy most things with out a problem there are a few brand and I totally agree with the jeans comment’s. The one good thing I know about being in So-Cal is that a few markets carry the Mexican version of Coke which tastes a lot better because they make it with sugar cane instead of the usuals. So if you can find it enjoy it.

  49. felipe says:

    I regularly buy Kirkland’s products (Costco’s generic brand) and love them. Kirkland is consistently much cheaper and great quality.

    And they have laundry detergent that doesn’t have any scents and stuff that cause allergies.

  50. Ben says:

    I find that alot of generic brand condiments, sauces and sandwich making tools are often just plain awful. Some examples: mayo, ketchup, peanut butter (though store brand jelly is fine.) Other than that though I don’t have many issues with generic stuff.

  51. jessica says:

    cotton swabs. I know, I know you’re not supposed to put anything bigger than your elbow in your ear, but I have no self control. The one time I bought generic cotton swabs vs.Q-tips I totally regretted it. The fluff didn’t stay on the stick, and well, the stick felt like a stick. They were so crummy I couldn’t even use them for makeup or nailpolish. Viva La Q-tips.

    You’re definitely getting what you pay for when it comes to toilet paper & trash bags.

  52. Amanda says:

    Great post!! We buy mostly generics unless a comparison shows more preservatives etc. Also I agree that the Sparkle paper towels are less than generic brands. The only think I absolutely won’t buy generic is on the few occasions I get a Coke…nothing else compares!!! (But then, I won’t even drink a Pepsi!)

    We did have a run in with an awful batch of generic TP but bunmped it up a notch pricewise and are OK!

  53. Mary says:

    Lori: I think that was supposed to be directed at Martha, not me…

    One more interesting thing I found out about generics is that frequently illiterate or non-english-reading people will buy brand names because they have heard advertisements on television about the product, so they know what the product actually is. Often times product packaging does not actually display what is inside the package, which can be misleading. The book “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society” goes into how a woman went to her grocery store and bought a package of Crisco, thinking it was chicken, since there was a picture of cooked chicken on the front. However, since she had opened the package and could not return it (and may have been too embarrassed to anyway) she didnt have enough money left to buy other food. These sort of incidences may lead illiterate people to buy name brands since they know exactly what they are getting.
    Just some food for thought.

  54. Mark says:

    Generic Macaroni & Cheese never measures up. Go ahead and splurge for the Kraft.

  55. midbach says:

    Generally I agree but I have personal exceptions to the rule. If I’m buying something that I expect to last a while, condiments etc I’ll pop for the name brand. Things like pasta, cookies and the like… forget it; store brand all the way.

  56. Angela says:

    I use to work for a church and made little money. So I was use to buying things at the dollar store or the generic brand. But I still wanted to save a little extra money for a hobby of mine. So I started clipping coupons and found a couple of great websites that showed me how to organize the coupons and how to use them best. There are so many misconceptions out there about coupons. After a few short months of learning all the tips and tricks not only was I spending less money than when I bought the generic or dollar store brands I was getting most of the BRAND name stuff for FREE (still have to pay tax)or pennies on the dollar. I learned how to stockpile my cheap/free items so much so that I had plenty to share with friends, family, church etc…
    A year after that my stockpile grew so big that I had a garage sale to sell the name brand stuff and made $400 one Saturday… selling all the stuff half price of what you would find it for at Walmart.

    The trick is not to buy generic but to not be BRAND LOYAL… So that you can match up your coupons with the sales… Or to learn how to create your own deals with the overage that you sometimes can get from coupons.

    There is ONE thing that I am Brand Loyal and that is my deodorant… I like Suave Baby Powder in the Spray can. If this never went on sale again or if I never had a coupon for it I would still buy it because it is a must have for me.

    So now use the coupons to buy other deodorants …usually getting them for FREE after the coupon/sale and then I sell those to friends, family coworkers…Take that money and buy the Suave. My friend does the same thing with TIDE because she hates all the other laundry products on the market.

    check out http://www.hotcouponworld.com and http://www.couponmom.com these are two free sites that helped me get started in the coupon world.
    I also really like http://www.refundcents.com

  57. Lisa says:

    I have been joining the Real Food movement, so don’t have much opinion on the boxed/processed stuff.

    However, over in the baking isle you cannot pry the KING ARTHUR FLOUR or SARAN WRAP from my fingers. I have tried the others and will pay the premium for these two.

  58. iladelf says:

    One word.


    Nothing better, even though it’s expensive as he!@.

  59. city squirrel says:

    I buy lots of generics, but some items have to be the real deal:

    Diet Coke (store brands taste like battery acid)
    Kleenex (my nose is worth the extra few cents)
    Neutrogena cosmetics (on advice of dermatologist)
    Dove soap (ditto)
    Hefty garbage bags (no leaks, no tears, no problems)

    My food purchases are almost exclusively fresh, so I don’t pay much attention to canned goods.

  60. Valerie says:

    I believe there are certain things that are worth spending a little extra on for high-quality: cosmetics, clothing, and food. Now this is not to say that overpriced means “high quality.” If there is no difference, go for cheaper. But I have found I usually get better service from designer cosmetics rather than from a drugstore, organic food is better for you although more expensive, and well-made clothing is usually more expensive, although the popular brands like Abercrombie are crappy quality; you are just paying to be in style then.

    Victoria’s Secret’s clothing lasts a long time and is worth the money…

    Having tried the generic vs. brand cereal blindly, I find a VERY BIG difference in taste. There is no such thing as a good copy of Apple Jacks lol…but I don’t eat cereal hardly ever, so it’s not too big of a deal for me.

  61. doncaah says:

    Great article & comments.

    A personal rule of mine is to never buy generic razor blades. I’ve tried the generic brands in the past and have been stung (literally!) so I always go back to my trusty Gillette.

  62. Mitch says:

    In the U.S., generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredients, minimum tolerances, etc. So you should always try the generic if available and cheaper. The only differences might be things like the fillers/inactive compounds are different or the name brand might be on a tighter tolerance than legally required: things extremely unlikely to make a difference to you. And if they do, it does happen where people can take generic versions where they can’t have the name brand due to a filler sensitivity.

    (I am sure this is true of prescriptions, generics I don’t remember, homeopathic remedies and supplements are largely unregulated due to a loophole built in when the FDA was created.)

  63. Mitch says:

    And, speaking as one with a long-time coca-cola addict, all other colas are too sweet, not enough bitter. Pepsi, RC, Shasta, store brands, doesn’t matter, they’re too sweet and have to be iced down to drink. Even my mom agrees, and she stopped drinking colas for several years after she had to drink a cola-like syrup to be tested for gestational diabetes. She can tolerate Coke a little bit, otherwise it’s Dr. Pepper or something citrus-ish.

  64. Nick Archer says:

    Paper products. I buy only name-brand. If it takes 3-4 sheets to do the work of 1 sheet, it’s not much of a bargain.
    That said, I love store brands. If you haven’t been to Aldi lately, by all means, GO! Some of their in-house brands are terrific!

  65. Christine says:

    It’s fascinating (and maddening!) how people are so brainwashed about name brands. The marketing and advertising people have convinced the masses that the brand of canned corn you buy is actually a reflection of your worth as a human being.


  66. Tasha says:

    I buy just about everything I eat generic. The only exception are when I just haven’t found anything really comparable. They just haven’t figured out how to make cookies that taste just like Oreos, and no soda can compare to Dr Pepper.

  67. Chris Browne says:

    Long, long ago, there were clear examples of “generics” being particularly crummy. I remember a group on a canoe trip back in the 1980s that we dubbed the “no name brand” guys; the famous awful thing was the “Beans with Pork” where a quart can had one very ugly piece of pork.

    Generally, that has changed; much of the “generic” stuff is now produced on the very same production lines with similar recipes, so I’ll often buy “generic.”

    The notable exceptions are in cases where advances in materials technology (which tend to be heavily patented) make a big difference. The “big names” in plastics (Glad, Ziplock) tend to truly be materially better than the generics. Mind you, generic freezer bags seem to work OK!

  68. Nathan says:

    There is no product I buy that isn’t generic. I shop at Trader Joe’s, and I am consistently happy with the selection. It also makes my life simple because I don’t have to make choices between a billion options. They have a good selection, the products are high quality, organic, and have a texture that just seems more real.

    I spend too much money buying prechopped food, and prepared foods as well, but the lava cakes are awesome.

    Everything bought generic. If there’s a generic, I buy it, and I am very satisfied with my level of food enjoyment. And it’s cheaper.

  69. michelle t says:

    Several people have mentioned how much of a difference in taste Coke has – I wonder how many have tried the flavored waters? I was addicted to the add powder & shake in water varieties until I found the Walmart flavored water. Holy Moly! This is the best water I’ve ever tried. The size of the bottle (33.8 oz) compared to Dasani or Aquafina (20 oz)gives you so much more value for the money. I pay 50cents for the larger & tastier Walmart brand…

  70. dolbonner says:

    I tend to buy name brand stuff on sale these days, but in my starving school days I bought generic everything. Some of it was terrible, but I was delighted by the peanut butter. I like really chunky peanut butter, and the generic kind has peanuts that aren’t very well broken up. YUM!

  71. chris says:

    One major problem with this is for those who try to buy local or organic, or just generally healthier stuff. There just isn’t much savings in buying healthy food.

    We don’t buy a lot of name brand things, but the “natural” options can cost anywhere from 20% to 50% more (or more).

    I have to agree as well, some things, like Oreos and Coke don’t have equivalents. Even my diet caffeine free coke doesn’t have an equal that I have tasted. Thankfully we buy it when it’s on sale and almost always buy the 2 liter bottles. Soda is a killer place to same, since a single 20oz bottle can cost more than a 2 liter bottle.

  72. The U says:

    IMHO, You get what you pay for…If you go cheap, you get cheap.

  73. Chad says:

    Somewhat unrelated, but still relevant for us Canadians, maybe possibly you Americans as well.

    I know here in Canada, generic brand products are pretty much made by the same factory, only different logos being printed onto the bag. IE, Sobeys/IGA Compliments brand products are made by the same company as the Safeway branded products. I know this because I’ve worked the graveyard shift stocking shelves in both places.

  74. katey says:

    I had some vegan roommates in college and they swore by generic cookies- because quite often they contained no animal or dairy products.

    Recently I’ve had some less than thrilling experiences with generic frozen foods from the Big Y supermarkets. Their pizza crust is too dry and their veggie burgers are too mooshy.

    I used to buy a lot of generic staples but since I’ve become more of a foodie/hippie I tend to go for the name brand ‘unbleached’ flour, the vegetarian eggs, the recycled toilet paper, and the unsalted butter that are not available as generics.

  75. nancy randolph says:

    i found out the only differance between migraine encedrin and regular excedrin in about five dollars. it has exactly the same ingredients in it and the same dosage.

  76. Ashley says:

    If you’ve only ever bought generic, you’ll never notice a difference. That’s my motto. Or something like that.

  77. I’m interested in trying some taste tests. I’m pretty good about getting generic most of the time.

    But I think the more expensive the product, the harder it is to go generic. Think about it, would you buy a car if you had never heard of the brand before?

    In Texas we have HEB, and I’m lucky their store brand food is consistently excellent. In some cases, it’s preferred.

    Just yesterday I shelled out extra for the expensive sunscreen for a trip I’m taking soon. It’s lighter and less greasy than the cheap stuff, so I know I’m more likely to use it and therefore less likely to get sunburned. Also, it is worth it not to be greasy in sticky in the heat.

  78. Hollie says:

    I live in michigan and I used to shop at farmer jacks until they went under and

  79. Hollie says:

    ……………….used to shop at farmer jacks and I loved their store brand but I am still stuck on most of my name brand items. I always give the generics a try but I always have a bad experience with them. Generic bread is dry and crumbles into a million pieces when you pick it up! I have tried four different types of store brand diapers and hated all four, and I had to finish the pack because I had no money to purchase more. I will always buy huggies I don’t even get upset about how much they cost because it’s better than changing wet clothes all day. I will try anything one time but I end up losing out more than saving money when it comes to store brands.

  80. Lisa says:

    Even generic brands vary in quality–Walmart’s vs. Save-a-lot’s vs. Dollar General Store’s, etc and from one item to another in a given generic brand. You learn by trial and error.

    Again, some things are made identically for different brand labels and some are not. My dad worked in oil refineries and told me only about 4 refineries make antifreesze, which they sell to all the different companies who market it–who then they put their own “additives”(if any)to be able to justify jacked-up prices and labels on it. College kids who’ve worked summer jobs in canneries told me they often process vegetables or whatever for more than one company, and sometimes they’re identical products–but other times the name brand gets the best of the produce, and the generic brand gets what’s left that doesn’t make the cut for the brand name.

    But my main concern/point to make is that now I’m Diabetic and watching my TOTAL carbohydrate intake–so I’m reading ingredient labels even more closely than before–the generics are usually higher in carbohydrates than the name brands. Especially if they’re sweetened–I think the sweetness gets increased to mask the lack of intrinsic taste due to lesser quality ingredients–cookies, spaghetti sauce, etc.

  81. wildflower says:

    you can put as much faith as you want into generic/brand name – but it’s wildly more important to look at the ingredients, and at WHO’S MAKING you cheerio’s or kraft (bleh).
    what’s your money supporting and making bigger, and more powerful. the organic “store brand” or generic things are a lot less expensive – but i’m still curious to where they’re made..!
    everything we buy has a huge effect on wherever it’s coming from – where it’s been planted/harvested, who’;s being made to do it, and what’s gone into it.

    i wish that the world meant more to people than how sugary their cereal is… i know it does, it’s just that people don’t know how to see that. THAT’s what people should be thinking about when they go to the store to buy their mass produced, machine handled, land deteriorating “foods” potentially from the other side of the world, ruining lives and land in its creation. it’s scary to think about so i know why people turn it off. but that’s even scarier…

  82. Brent says:

    I have a question for comment number fifty nine. Have you ever drank battery acid to say your comment about store brand diet colas?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *