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Do you ever choose the store (or generic) brand over the the national one?

I'm trying to figure out if any store/generic product is actually better (at least equally good) as a national one? For example, private label catsup versus the Heinz Ketchup, etc.

Only 2 that I could think of so far are table salt and regular sugar.

Anyone have any thoughts?

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  1. My husband buys the generic supermarket whole-grain cereal which is a fraction the cost of the brand name version. In a blind test I can't tell the difference. I buy sea salt in bulk from Whole Foods and have purchased no-name vanilla beans online from an importer. I dislike excess packaging so avoid foods that are all dressed up in fancy boxes and jars when possible.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheryl_h

      I know this is an old post and I don't expect a response, but what is a fraction of the cost? Here's a fraction, 99/100%. It's like the TV IRS commercials promising to settle at a fraction of the debt, or a golf course or new subdivision being minutes away, 120 minutes.

    2. At Whole Foods I buy their Italian sparkling mineral water (99 cents in glass, cheaper in the newly available plastic bottles), canola oil mayonnaise, olive oil, butter and smoked trout.

      1. President's Choice chocolate chip cookies (available only at Jewel) are the best store-boughten cookies I've ever had... especially if warmed for ~5 seconds in the microwave.

        Argh. Albertsons own Jewel, WHY can't I get them at Albertsons?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Here in the south President's Choice cookies are known as the Harris Teeter house brand. Different name, but same packaging and same delicious cookies. I will have to try your microwave trick.

          I buy the 365 brand at Whole Foods all the time. The olive oil, tortilla chips, milk, cereal, pasta, oj and canned beans are just a few of my favorites.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            I totally second that. In Quebec PC is available at Provigo...and the chocolate chip cookies as well as the hot chocolate are very good!

            1. re: Frenchie

              I don't even think of PC as a store brand anymore, they have many convenience products I like at good prices that I go out of my way to go the stores that carry PC when I need those items. Their salad dressings for example are decent, cheap and come in good flavours that other brands don't make. In other cases their product is a knock-off but is as good as the name brand - their nutella product is just as good but cheaper. The cookies, the frozen desserts - I could go on.
              Actually, I think their chocolate chip cookies were actually copied by Christie.

          2. I took a quick look in my fridge and cabinets to answer this question. I always buy store brand eggs, and I can't detect any difference when I buy more expensive brands. I buy Trader Joe's butter, which is much cheaper than other brands. I also buy their nuts, but I'm admittedly not a nut expert. And I like many products from the Whole Foods 365 brand...for instance, they make my favorite bbq sauce, and some good spices. I think I buy a lot of their products but I can't remember what in particular. In general, I feel like the Whole Foods store brand is a cut above other store brands. But it's also more expensive than other store brands.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Nicole

              Egglands Best eggs really do taste better than storebought eggs. Take it from me, I have half a dozen hardboiled eggs almost every day. :)

            2. Without a doubt I almost always buy the house-brand. There are very few exceptions: mayo, ketchup, plastic wrap, dried whole wheat pasta. There are a few "high end" products that I do shop for by name or locale such as balsamic vinegar and non cooking evoo. For basic oils and vinegars the house brands are fine. Another exception would be if I have a coupon and the house-brand is more expensive than the name brand would be with the coupon.

              The 2 place I shop the most when I do shop a traditional grocer is Stop&Shop and Whole Foods. I have found there house brands are are comparable if not better in most products.

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodieX2

                I love 365 brand balsamic vinegar. I believe it won, or came out very high in Cook's Illustrated taste tests.

                I've begun to buy house brand (RichFood) of a lot of things at Fairway here in NYC. Their pasta is great, and their butter is usually 3lbs/$5. I also buy housebrands of sugar, salt, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, cream cheese and a few other things. Of course if a name brand is cheaper, I'll get that, but these are things I hardly ever buy, and with the cornstartch, baking soda, and powder, I end up throwing them away before I finish the package, so why bother with the brand name.

              2. I hate to admit it but I usually buy brand names for most items. I think people get used to the things they had in their childhood, and stick with those for the most part - the flavors get ingrained in you - sense memories if you will. For instance, it's only Heinz Ketchup, never Hunts and Hellman's mayo, not anything else at all, heaven forbid. There are definite taste differences in these products.

                Things such as salt, well of course it all is the same, but sometimes, you just like the packaging of one brand over another. For instance, I recently bought a can of spinach only because Popeye was on the label. I don't even use canned spinach normally. Call me shallow LOL, I couldn't resist. Actually I haven't even tried it yet - I just like having Popeye looking at me when I open up my cabinet :-) Talk about the power of advertising!

                I will however, be more flexible on items I'm trying for the first time. I've bought many of the house brand items from places such as Costco/BJ's such as crackers, olives, rice and various other condiments and have been quite happy with them.


                2 Replies
                  1. re: OCAnn

                    Is Popeye in your cupboard too? :-)

                1. I could be wrong, but I believe many store brands are actually the brand names with different labeling. I used to know someone who worked at a major supermarket, and she said that their "house brand" ketchup was actually Hunt's with their labeling on it. Something about a deal made with the brand name company.

                  1. Target's food brands, sold at SuperTarget, are Archer Farms and Market Pantry, and I find their quality to be outstanding. (Most especially the frozen tiramisu -- let it thaw in the fridge and it's the yummiest I ever had!)

                    1. I never ever, I mean NEVER EVER buy store brand cheap sugar. That crap is beet sugar, not cane and is only fit to be turned into hummingbird food. I would never use it for cooking or baking.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Candy

                        365 is a store brand and is all cane sugar, including their brown sugar.

                        1. re: Candy

                          Read the label. My store's sugar says 100% cane sugar right on the front and is a buck cheaper than the name brand.

                        2. I have just discovered Essensia, which I believe is Albertson's house brand. While in Phoenix last week, we tried a couple of their dips (the spinach and the cucumber/dill) and they were very good. I'll look for more Essensia products and give them a try when we return at the end of the month.

                          At home, in NYC, I always stick to my brand names. I don't think I trust the house brands at Gristede's (I hate the place, but it's the closest supermarket to my apartment) to be up there, quality-wise. On the other hand, I have no problem trying the house brands at Whole Foods - it's just that I live pretty far away and have no intention of schlepping groceries on public transportation.

                          1. I love H-E-B brand tortilla chips and salsas. Unfortunately since this chain is only in the southern part of Texas, since I moved to Dallas, I have to go to HEB Central Market for these things.

                            1. For me it depends on the items. If its cornstarch, baking soda and brown sugars then store brand is fine. I do buy a few store brand items but only when they go on sale - butter, frozen peas and egg noodles but that's about it. A quick look in my cabinets revealed that I have mostly name brand items. I recently purchased Walmart's own brand of white sugar and the labelling clearly states Pure Cane not Beet.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: charlieboy

                                Butter is one of those things I would never buy a store brand of - the flavor matters way too much to me because I don't use it so much for cooking, as I do for spreading. One of life's great pleasures for me is excellent fresh bread with good quality butter!


                              2. President's Choice Ginger ale (at least in Canada) ...actually has a gingery flavor, with a little kick!

                                1. All President's Choice stuff is awesome, esp. the organic line. It's actually the thing I miss the most about Canada.

                                  I always buy the store brand, unless I don't like it after a couple tries. For example, I have to buy Danone yogurt because both the Pathmark and ShopRite brands suck. (TJ's is great, but the location is less convenient.)

                                  1. Maybe it is just psychological, but name brands almost always seem to taste better or be of better quality than the house brands. The only exception I have found is for Costco's Kirkland brand. I will buy Kirkland over name brands because not only is it cheaper but I've found it is consistently as good as, if not better than the name brands (for food and non-food items as well).

                                    1. I stopped buying regular sugar after reading about Cane Sugar somewhere -- now I buy C&H.

                                      I suppose Trader Joe's brand doesn't count, right?

                                      I buy store brand flour, often, and I almost always buy store brand drugs (like aspirin, sudafed, etc.)

                                      1. Totally depends for me. I buy mostly organic so that's what I'm looking for first. I'll certainly try a store brand. My husband typically stays away from what he calls 'ghetto brands' but once he purchased antacid by looking at the label of a Tums jar and a supermarket brand: "How could they screw this up, it's exactly the same?" We ended up throwing the jar of generic away because they tasted so bad.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: krissywats

                                          I did the exact same thing with Tums and Kirkland brand. The Kirkland tasted awful and ended up in the trash.

                                        2. Many moons ago, when I was supplementing my college education as a rent-a-cop on of my assignments was very large, local food processing plant. This plant would process 7 million pounds of tomatoes a month in to ketchup, tomato sauce, etc, and truckloads of strawberries in to preserves, jams, etc.

                                          On my rounds one of the parts of the plant I had to clock in to was called "the label room", this was a large, fenced in cage with shelves stacked to the rafters with canned food labels, for the packing plant's big brand name products, for other brand name products, and for all kinds of "house brands".

                                          The raw ingredients, truck loads of tomatoes and strawberys, train loads of sugar, salt, never changed, the method of processing never changed, the only thing that ever changed was the labels being applied to the cans.

                                          Needless to say, I usually buy less expensive canned goods, whether named brands on sale, or house brands.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: ChinoWayne

                                            Exactly what I said further up-post - most of the store brands are the same as name brands.

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              In my experience, that's often true, but it's equally often not true. You just need to try it out and see. I have liked some store brand canned goods, but I really regretted buying some Albertson's canned goods under that theory--in particular, I remember the canned diced tomatos having such a sour flavor and vile aftertaste that I literally had to throw them out. There's no way you can convince me that they were the same as name brand.

                                              1. re: Nicole

                                                I think it depends on what the name brand is. Like, I'll only buy Heinz ketchup, because that tastes right to me. I don't like Hunt's. So maybe the store brand is the same as the name brand Hunt's, but I don't like it.

                                                I don't have a snob issue with store brand stuff, and if the taste is reasonably equivalent or I don't have brand loyalty to a specific brand, I'll buy store brand no issue. I usually buy store brand onion soup mix, for example, and store brand taco seasoning.

                                                1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                  Same with me - I'm the same as you - I prefer Heinz (although I'm going to try Muir Glen's no-HFCS style ketchup next). But there are many things I choose the store brand for. If I *like* the store brand, I'll get it. If the Stop & Shop paper towels do the same job as Bounty, for a lot less, I'll buy them. But if they fall apart on me with just the smallest swipe on the counter, I won't buy them again.

                                          2. I always compare the ingredients listed on the label, then I purchase whatever is cheaper, once I'm satified the item's not filled with needless b.s.
                                            But this is why I can spend hours in a market, a whole lot of reading to do.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Ida Red

                                              Not time wasted, a good strategy.

                                            2. Applesauce. Most store brands are indistinguishable in taste from national brands like Hunts, although I occasionally find a store brand that is too watery, I just drain out the excess water.

                                              1. stop&shop yogurt. drain a quart of the low-fat plain, mix with a quart of the no-fat plain (or vanilla). also like their in-house organic, nature's promise -- their soymilk and ww bread (no high-fructose corn syrup -- don't care what the new york times said last week -- i avoid the stuff when i can).

                                                1. I think the Supermarket house brand of a Tukey Pot Pie often tastes better then a National Brand as it usually has fewer ingredients and maybe made locally (15 preservatives aren't necessary!).

                                                  1. I find Target's Archer Farms olive oil potato chips to be highly addictive. I don't want to eat a lot of chips because they aren't the healthiest thing, but when I do, I go for those.

                                                    We prefer Publix's not from concentrate orange juice to any of the big national brands. I also really like Publix's goat cheese crumbles- tasty and very easy to just throw on salad or pasta.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: beachmouse

                                                      There is a thread here somewhere about Target house brands. I really like the Archer Farms brand of chips, almost all of the varieties I have tried. They are much better than most of the national brand kettle chips, except maybe Cape Cod brand and possibly Zapps.

                                                    2. I never ever buy store brands at the big supermarkets (Albertsons, Ralph's etc) but the Trader Joe's brand stuff I think is pretty consistently as good if not better than their brand name stuff - and when I'm tired I like that I know that there is no preservatives or hormones in any of their house brand stuff, so it helps me just get in and out when that's what I'm looking for. Their Salsa Autentico, Hummus quartet (except the tomato one in there, ick, tastes like Chef Boyardee but other people like it), and Goddess dressing are some of my faves!

                                                      1. Things I buy in store brands: Kirkland tuna and butter. Trader Joe's excellent lemon curd is actually the same as Elizabethan Products sold for much more under their label. Whole Foods 365 cooking oils and vinegars for general cooking (tho I also buy high end stuff for some uses) also their ap flour.

                                                        Things that have to be specific manufacturer: Heinz ketchup, Best Foods (Hellmans) mayo, King Arthur bread flour.

                                                        PS It makes me absolutely nutz that Whole Foods puts their ap flour in a bag that has the same color blue as King Arthur's bread flour. I have to check very carefully when grabbing the airtight boxes I keep them in. =o

                                                        1. Plain yellow mustard is as good as French's. Safeway's canned fruit in natural juice. It is actually better than the brand names.

                                                          Items I would never buy generics are sugar, Heinz catsup and Hellman's mayo.

                                                          1. usually if it's not something where "quality" is fragile.

                                                            1. First there's Trader Joe's, although I'm not sure that's where your question is heading. The canned beans have no added sugar, many brands do. The applesauce is perfectly OK, and the dog loves their peanut butter. We also use Trader Giotto's olive oil for every day cooking, Trader Ming's Soyaki for grilling. I second the 365 sparkling water, which I think is way better than Pellegrino or Perrier (I know that sounds crazy, but IMO it has more bubbles and they're bigger).

                                                              I also like Safeway Select garlic basil pasta sauce, which is mostly tomatoes, garlic and basil, so i can use it as a base for lots of things. Safeway select cookies are pretty good. We don't eat a lot of cookies, but they come in handy when I want to bring something to go with coffee at a meeting at work. I discovered just the other day that I like Lucerne (Safeway) lo-fat cottage cheese better than Knudsen's. I just happen to buy it for the dog and tasted it.

                                                              We've started buying Kirkland coffee for every day. It's way cheaper than big brands, and it makes acceptable coffee in our auto drip pot. Maybe it's just that we get up so early that anything that smells like coffee will do the job. But I have a suspicion it's actually roasted and packaged off the same production lines as some of the pricier brands.

                                                              The other side of the coin is things where I always buy the name brand: ketchup, mayo, mustard, canned chicken broth, and my worst vice, diet Coke.

                                                              1. I think it's all been said... but it all comes down to testing things out yourself. I find that store brands vary in quality in grocery stores, i.e. Albertson's Oatmeal vs. Ralphs. It just takes time to determine what you think tastes okay. I don't tend to worry about safety, just flavor. Trader Joes is usually a safe bet, however, I don't care for their canned clam chowder, everything else tends to be wonderful. Consumer reports had a really great article about store brands, and how they come about, interesting stuff!

                                                                1. Among my store-brand "just fine by me" items:

                                                                  Staples (Flour, Sugar, Salt, etc)
                                                                  Canned Tomatoes (any style)
                                                                  Bread (everyday bread)
                                                                  Bread (my local groceries have excellent in-store bakeries)
                                                                  Canned Vegetables (no difference I can tell, at least not enough to be worth the price)
                                                                  Frozen Vegetables (national brands seem to be all "mixes" and "blends")
                                                                  Juices (I don't go for fancy "blends" and "juice cocktails")
                                                                  SOME soft drinks (some flavors are just as good, others are pretty bad)
                                                                  Cereals (corn flakes, etc)

                                                                  --I'm sure there are more. This links in to why I don't trouble with manufacturers' coupons: most often if there's a coupon, the store brand is still much less.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: wayne keyser


                                                                    I agree with your viewpoint. Question---which store brand soft drinks do you like (flavor and store) and which do you not. In my experience, these days the store brands are all pretty good, at least what I've tried; that was not necessarily true in the distant past, but today it seems to be. Most of them are made by Cott I think.

                                                                    I'm on record here stating that I think Wegmans brand soft drinks are better than the national brands pretty much across the board.

                                                                  2. Always buy store brand or whatever brand is cheaper as long as the ingredients are identical or better in the store brand.
                                                                    Any canned vegetable
                                                                    Any canned fruit
                                                                    Any canned anything
                                                                    Dried spices
                                                                    all sodas and seltzers except diet Coke
                                                                    milk and cream

                                                                    Always buy a brand name that I like:
                                                                    not food but --
                                                                    paper towels, toilet paper
                                                                    plastic wrap, zipper bags, etc. (except foil which seems to be OK in generic)
                                                                    diet coke
                                                                    most dairy products except milk and cream

                                                                    1. I love Safeway's Lucerne low fat cottage, much better than Breakstone's or some other national brands. Plus, it has double the amount of calcium!

                                                                      1. I typically buy the house brands or “off” brands for everything except peanut butter, Coca-Cola or french fries. For the most part I find them adequate.

                                                                        There is a surplus store nearby (I call it the “used food” store) where there is nothing but off brands of anything canned or boxed. I go there and look for brands I haven’t tried yet... I’ve got quite a label collection.

                                                                        1. For those of us in Canada, President's choice is a remarkable store brand. Not just the cookies mentioned, but SO many of their products are top quality and lower priced And while we are on the Loblaws labels, their No Name line has a number of decent quality products like tinned and frozen corn, some dairy, etc. which are way cheaper and just as good as the national brands.

                                                                          I personally find a number of the generic ketchup to be way better than Heinz - much "frutier" tasting.

                                                                          1. Acme (Albertsons) has a new store brand that's organic, I forget the name of it. But I've bought the ketchup, beans, and oatmeal and they are pretty good.