According to new research by Nielsen, “private label sales have been steadily increasing over the last few years; up 14% between 2009 and 2012.” Gen-X’ers, Millennials, and the growing Hispanic population all have higher than average positive attitudes about store brand offerings.
You might think that the savviest grocery shoppers buy a lot of store brand / generic products in order to save money. This was the advice that my dear wife and I were given throughout much of our married life. We’d look at the rows of colorful name-brand products and scoff at those who would pay such outrageous prices. Meanwhile, we were hitting the big discount stores – ensuring that very little in our cart was promoted with multi-million dollar ad campaigns.
If you ask the most savvy of grocery shoppers, however, they will tell you that the greatest savings are rarely found among store brands – but are actually created with a coupon / sale combination which has become easier than ever to find — thanks to technology. Following their advice, we were able to take a $700 monthly store-brand grocery budget to below $400 while switching to name brand products.
There are a few products, however, that even the heartiest of couponers will set their clipping shears down for. Sarah Boogerd from Grand Haven, MI is a brand-name coupon shoppers who will generally stick to store brand for milk, sour cream, peanut butter, bread/buns, syrup, tortillas, and ice cream at Aldi. “Their prices on their store brand items cannot be beat.”
Michelle Helsel is one of our shopping experts at SavingsAngel.com who successfully uses coupons – for store brand products. “Target offers many coupons for their store brand products … cleaners, dental (toothbrushes, mouthwash), pain relievers and trash bags.” She’s also had great luck on paper products at the drug stores and clearance deals at party stores, “especially if you can stack the clearance with a store coupon. You can get packs of plates, napkins and cups for pennies instead of dollars.”
One subject that commonly comes up when talking store brand products is quality. Nielsen found that 65% of shoppers believe that the store brand quality is as good as brand-name. This can, in fact, be the case for some products – but not all.
Most lists of products you should always buy generic (if you can get a better price than the brand-name) include: pain relievers, bottled water, cleaning products, butter, milk, sugar, flour, spices, and infant formula (thanks to strict quality control laws). Among these purchases, there is little difference between brands.
On the other side of the coin, many side-by-side reviews illustrate a much lower quality amongst store brand products for the following: diapers, garbage bags, orange juice, macaroni & cheese, spaghetti sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, deodorant, and paper products (with an exception for WalMart’s White Cloud store-brand toilet paper which just got very positive reviews by Consumer Reports).
The bottom-line on store-brand vs. generic (if you refuse to use coupons to get the best of both worlds), is personal preference. One illustration I commonly use is cut frozen green beans. In every case I’ve compared, the store brand will tend to include more pointy ends – while the name brand generally has more middles.
This gets to the persistent rumor that store brand products are produced in the exact same facilities as name-brand products. According to several contacts, I can tell you that this is absolutely true… sometimes. However, products can vary considerably, and certain ingredients may carry extra costs, which may not be included in a particular store brand version. Also… as in my green bean example, a store may opt for a lesser-cost grade of that product in order to meet a lower sales price.
Finally, while some brands may share facilities; one thing they will likely never share is proprietary formulas – developed after months or even years of extensive consumer testing. Research on flavorings and appearance continues to be done – by very competitive companies constantly looking to provide what we want for more of what they want – our dollars.