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Nov 1, 2009 08:55 PM

"Generics taste just as good as national brands" ... Really?

We all say it and preach (well most of us anyway) as if it's gospel, but how many of us have actually put the claim to the test?

I, mean, have you actually tried to verify that generics really do in fact taste as good as the national brand?

Verify as in do a blind tasting?

Well, today I did.

The following were put to the test:

1. Campbell's tomato soup
2. Hostess Twinkie's
3. Brach's Candy corn

Each test was done blindfolded and each food item was given to me randomly.


1. Tomato Soup (condensed)
Campell's soup was thicker and had more tomato-y taste to it. The generic plain brand tasted more like ketchup and was definitely saltier.
WINNER: Campbell's.

2. Twinkie
The Hostess Twinkie and the generic plain brand (Cafe W from Walgreen's) were almost indistinguishable. The Twinkie probably had a bit denser mouthfeel, but everything else was pretty much the same.

3. Candy Corn
First, Zac's Candy Corn didn't look exactly like Brach's. It was a little stubbier and more pale in color. (Ed note: because of the size difference, I did not handle the corn pieces, they were dropped into my mouth directly to minimize the impact of the difference in shape.) Shape differences aside, the Zac's simply were too sweet (yes, sweeter than even the Brach's) and did not have that notable slight undertone of vanilla, or is it coconut?
WINNER: Brach's

So, there you go. A very unscientific test of generics v. name brands.

Probably doesn't solve anything, but just more food for thought ...


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  1. Well, I think it is useful, ipse, because it's a reminder that we have to try things, try to assess them honestly and be willing to question the "common wisdom", in order to get the most value for our food dollar.

    Without doing a blind test, I've tried many generic products and have been more than satisfied with them. For example, my supermarkets store brands of cold breakfast cereal "knock-offs" are very, very good and in a couple of cases, better than the original, IMO. And that's an item on which the savings is appreciable--usually, about 30 to 40 percent less. We like our storebrand bagels more than the national brands and they are about 25 percent less per package. OTOH, there are products where, not only do I not like the quality or taste of the storebrand, I don't even like other national brands, besides the "icon" brand. One example is Worcestershire sauce. Nobody measures up to Lea & Perrins, IMO. Another example is prepared Mayonnaise; I want Hellman's. I also won't buy my store brand of frozen veggies, because they add salt whereas the national brands don't.

    But I'm always willing to consider or try a store or generic brand, and that's all I use when it comes to things like foil and baggies, paper products and laundry supplies. The quality serves my purposes and the savings are tremendous on those categories in particular.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Normandie

      It never occurred to me that plain frozen veggies might have salt. I had to get up and check. Luckily, mine just say cut green beans and broccoli florets.

    2. Generics can, and do vary from store A to store B. (and within store) with store A's label pure junk, and store B's label across the board pretty darn good!! One very large national chain near me has what I would rate as a very good private label program..If they put their name on it, you can pretty much go to the bank that it will be a very good product...As good as national Brands? That would fall into the personal preference category ~~~ I do have some brand loyalty...Duke's Mayonnaise, Lee & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Del Monte Ketchup, Campbell's soups etc. ~~~~ Blind tastings can be fun...and surprising!!

      1. My local paper does a weekly piece where they try one name brand item and two generics and rate them. In many instances, one of the generics does win. I find that a lot of the Target generics- Market Pantry/Archer Farms can be quite delicious. I was crushed to hear recently that one item I liked in the Archer farms was discontinued at the Targets in my area. I get generics in a lot of other cases as well. Many Kirkland brand items at Costco- like the EVOO are excellent as well.

        3 Replies
        1. re: queencru

          Archer Farms discontinues stuff almost as frequently as Trader Joes', in my experience.

          I agree with elfcook--some generics are OK, some completely suck.

          1. re: coney with everything

            I still mourn the loss of the Archer Farms olive oil potato chips and bronze cut whole wheat spaghetti and am dearly hoping that they don't decide to discontinue the bronze cut whole wheat penne again as well.

            Every so often, Publix has been running a 'buy the name brand, and we'll give you our house brand of it for free' promotion and what they've had with that has generally measured up well. Their premium orange juice is also from 100% Florida oranges instead of imported fruit from Brazil.

            1. re: beachmouse

              I agree that the Publix OJ is quite good. I either get that or Florida's Natural since the others import from other countries. It's silly to be buying orange juice from elsewhere when you live in Florida.

        2. some generics are good, some are not. Kind of how I like some national brands, and not others. I will give generics a chance if the savings warrants it, but for some things I am willing to pay the extra cents, like other posters here.

          1. So Sandra Lee was right all this time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Samalicious

              I'm too sketched out by the actual "generic" brands to try them (I'm thinking of a big black-and-white box that says "Potato Chips," for example).
              But I often buy the store brands - I think it just comes down to trying them out (like you are doing) to see which products really pay to spend that extra 30 cents on, and which don't matter.
              I generally buy store brand flour, sugar, etc.. Then there are a few things, like Safeway's store-brand pineapple salsa, that I think actually taste better than the more expensive types!

              On the other hand, there are some brands of products that I have an affinity for just because of sentimental reasons - I always buy Quaker oats and Arm & Hammer baking soda, for example, because that's what mom and I always baked with.

              On another note, I'm living in France right now and have been really pleasantly surpised by the grocery store brands here! You can buy things like Careefour brand pasta sauce with cepes and morels in them, for example, or frozen salmon pizzas or refrigerated leek tarts, and they are really tasty - better than the expensive brands back at home in the US. I don't even bother getting the more expensive brands at the grocery store here anymore.