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Name Brand Or Generic?

Do you regularly buy name products or do you feel generic is just as good?

Or there certain things that you will NOT buy as a generic?

Do you think the difference in cost of generic & name brand is worth the switch?

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  1. Generally speaking, we'll buy supermarket own label products every time over branded goods. Instant coffee is an exception, as the one in our normal supermarket just isnt very good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Harters

      Absolutely on this. I stick to store brands and find them just as good as the name brands, since the quality of name brands has unfortunately declined. That's not to say the store brand is unworthwhile, just that things have changed. It definitely saves me money.
      There are a few things I won't buy generically:
      Peanut Butter
      Frozen French Fries :). They SUCK. Tiny little things.Way too done.
      Macaroni and Cheese. If I'm not making it I want Kraft for comfort or Stouffer's for yum factor.
      That's about alll I can think of.

    2. I've been using the WM "Great Value" brands for years, no problem. I use quite a bit of canned stewed tomatoes, for those I only get the Albertsons store brand, found those to be the best. Don't care for generic coffee though.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        Agree on both WM Great Value for basic stuff and at least a store brand for canned tomatoes, altho' some have clumps of hardened cores. We buy CostCo's Kirkland 3 lb coffee--so many national brands are either awful tasting or down-sized cans.

        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

          I like a lot of Great Value products but the shredded mozzarella is a mess. Doesn't melt well at all.

          1. re: Njchicaa

            Shredded Cheese...I heard the shredded packaged cheese is coated with a wax to keep it from clumping, that's why it is best to buy block cheese & shred it yourself. The shredded does not melt too well. Maybe that was your problem.

        2. Ketchup! Heinz: there is no other kinds.

          Generally, however, generic is interchangeable with the name brand. While I may notice differences, they are not often great enough for me to justify paying for the national brand. I get those when they're on sale, which is part of why I check flyers weekly.

          10 Replies
            1. re: megjp

              Never have understood the fascination with Heinz ketchup. Cooks Illustrated did a comparison not too long ago and Hunts won. To me there's no real difference among the standard brands, or even the store brands in most cases. I seriously doubt many people could identify Heinz in a blind tasting.

              1. re: johnb

                Couldn't disagree more about people identifying Heinz in a taste test. There is definitely a difference between Heinz and Hunt's. And fwiw, Heinz Organic Ketchup won the taste test....

                1. re: valerie

                  When people talk about Heinz, they are obviously referring to the big selling classic Heinz, not the much more recent and slow selling "organic" and non HFCS versions. In the 2006 CI taste test (the one I was referring to), Hunts wiped out Heinz. In the recent CI test, Hunts again was clearly superior to regular Heinz, and for all practical purposes tied with the organic Heinz (read the text of the story).

                  Even if there is "definitely a difference between Hunts and Heinz," that still doesn't mean that regular people could identify one or the other in a blind tasting (many people can't tell red wine from white in blind tastings). For more on a sampling of ordinary people tasting ketchup, check the following story from the heart of Heinz country:


                  This quote from that story in most interesting:

                  "Still, the Post-Gazette tasters seemed dismayed to hear about the anemic performance of Heinz's regular ketchup, since, as loyal Pittsburghers, they all declared at the outset they wanted it to win.

                  "Get out!" said Darlene Pilarski, her jaw dropping, when told of the results."

                  In fact, the entire story is a classic is how folks delude themselves about food preferences. Anybody who is actually serious about knowing why people prefer certain brands over others should enjoy it.

                  1. re: johnb

                    Great link...Heinz has said they have not changed their formula, but my opinion is the quality of tomatoes being grown all over the country has declined for all kinds of reasons too long to mention here. Therefore all ketchup has declined somewhat.

                    Well, let's go a step farther & see if folks that make their own ketchup feel theirs is superior to all store bought ones.. Home grown, home made..you can hardly go wrong..or can you???

                    1. re: johnb

                      Hunts probably wiped out Heinz due to the demographic/where the testing was done. Hunts is sweeter and goes over better down South (at least judging by sales) while Heinz is a Northeastern/NY favorite due to its vinegar tang. Not so cut and dried as to which is "the best", they are basically the same with a different flavor profile.

                    2. re: valerie

                      i have demonstrated in blind taste tests that i can easily distinguish the difference in the taste. much of the stuff that Cooks Illustrated writes about their comparison taste tests seems nonsensical to me.
                      also, you write:
                      << that still doesn't mean that regular people could identify one or the other in a blind tasting>>

                      who gives a fig about what "regular people" could identify? this is a CHOWHOUND board, which, presumably is geared to people who actually taste the food they put in their mouths.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Ha Ha...loved that little quibble....aren't we all "regular people"??? Just askin'

                        What's "regular" anyway? Something for my pea brain to ponder...I will think about this stuff so you folks won't have to. Lucky you.

                        1. re: txmafia

                          aren't we all "regular people"??? Just askin'
                          nope. constipation is a pretty common problem.

                        2. re: westsidegal

                          "who gives a fig about what "regular people" could identify?"

                          Exactly. "Regular people" also line up at Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Doesn't make them good restaurants.

                          And if johnb cannot tell the difference, that is totally fine and who really cares. But don't tell everyone else that they can't tell the difference. I can, my family can, and we like Heinz.

                  2. I regularly buy the generic versions. But I do prefer name brand cheese and yogurt.

                    1. Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kentucky in the early 80s. While taking the tour, somebody made a mistake in scheduling. After the run of Coke cans, was a line of Kroger cola cans. A lot of laughter and picture taking. Wish I had my camera with me.

                      Put enough rum in them, and even the diet drinks come up equal.

                      I have found a difference in a few items. Canned beans will very greatly on the amount of beans versus fluid. Bare bones small stores have proved the worse down here in Florida. Also, in my experience, the less expensive the can of green beans the more fibrous. But then I live on a boat and I buy lots of canned goods.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                        When she was a young woman, my mother worked in a spice production company. They routinely filled cans/bottles for about 4 brands, all from the same hoppers.

                        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                          Generic Cola...I second the motion about adding enough rum....just have good rum though...bad rum + bad cola=bad headache!! Heard that same kind of story about other items like canned corn, etc....are you telling us a fib? Just asking....

                          Canned items...I just shake the can & if things move around in there a lot...I know it is a watered down product.

                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                            I only drink diet sodas, but Publix brand is pretty good, especially the diet cherry coke version. Save-A-Lot's store brand soda is called 'Bubba' and it's as awful as it sounds, blech.

                            I used to like Acme brand diet cola when I could get it, it tasted sort of like nutmeg.

                            1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                              The Publix diet root beer is the only diet soda I'll drink.

                            2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                              I worked in a commercial bakery summers during college and we routinely packaged the same bread, donuts, etc. in both store brand packaging and the label of the baking company so I understand how that works.

                              I have real doubts however that the local bottler was putting Coca-Cola in the Kroger cans. Local bottlers may bottle for many different companies using different syrups and blends but I would bet a large amount of money that Coca-Cola would not allow their syrup (which is shipped by Coke to local bottlers) to be used for anything but their own products.

                            3. Trial and error but I find generic/store brand canned corn tends to be not as good as name brand in Vancouver. The opposite is true for frozen peas -- nothing so far beats the "small peas" from Safeway here for tenderness and fresh taste. I've had bad luck with store/generic fruit juices and tend to buy the name brands on those now. Also a lot of snack foods, particularly potato chips, seem to be less tasty as presented by store/generic.

                              1. It depends on the product. Some things just have no good generic equivalent like Philadelphia cream cheese. Sometimes we like the generic better than the big name brand. We've done a fair amount of taste testing over the years and prefer the Publix store brands in ice cream instead of Breyers, premium orange juice compared to Tropicana (also 100% Florida oranges used, so they're not part of the recent fungicide scare) the Greenwise ketchup to Heinz (though not the non-Greenwise Publix variety) and I'm starting to dig some of their house yogurt flavors that don't seem to have a national equivalent like churro, guava pastry, cinnamon-pineapple, and prickly pear.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: beachmouse

                                  Beachmouse, I couldn't agree more. Publix is far better than the generics I get in Wisconsin when visiting family. Including Trader Joe's.

                                  But then I don't buy a lot of prepared foods.

                                2. it really depends on the item and the brand. i've had luck with certain things from Costco's Kirkland house brand, Whole Foods' 365 line, Safeway's "O" Organics, Nature's Promise Organics at Stop & Shop, and of course several things from Trader Joe's.

                                  i've never tried any Archer Farms products from Target, but i know a lot of people like their stuff.

                                  1. It depends. There are some things where I always buy generic ( frozen spinach for example) whereas there are others where I will only buy a very specific store brand (Preidents Choice 0% Greek yogurt) and then others where only a certain brand is acceptable to me (Unico pizza sauce)

                                    I know what I'll buy, but I couldn't make a rule. But I do tend to be pretty loyal once I find a product I like, name brand or not.

                                      1. Trial and error, as grayelf posted. I prefer Costco tuna to any other brand. But I'm like the most interesting guy in the world; I don't always eat ketchup, but when I do I use Heinz.

                                        I purchased WF brand instant mashed potatoes for Mr. Sueatmo to try. We'll see if he notices a difference. For natural peanut butter, I really do prefer Smuckers. But we buy store brand decaf coffee beans. I could buy the store brand regular coffee, if the Eight O'Clock brand wasn't cheaper. I do a lot of label reading. I am more likely to try a store brand if I like what the label says, and if the price is right.

                                        For OTC meds though, I buy private label whenever possible.

                                        1. Depends on the product.

                                          1. I am becoming more flexible about buying store brands now that I am retired, but off the top of my head there are two things I must have name brand.

                                            Worcestershire sauce = Lea & Perrins
                                            English muffins = Thomas's

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ChrisOC

                                              Years ago I tried some non-Thomas's english muffins because they were on a special that made the price about 1/3 of Thomas's. Not even close. It's Thomas's for us.

                                              Since our average bottle of Worcestershire sauce lasts about 5 years, I don't even think about other brands.

                                            2. Like most of the other posts, it varies. Hannaford Supermarkets makes a great salsa that I prefer over the premium brands, Target has the Archer Farms which is usually good (but sometimes just dissapointing) and I always go generic for flour and sugar. I read the labels usually before making decisions-good example was baking powder. I considered buying the generic until I saw the first ingredient-cornstarch!

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: carbondiamond

                                                Wal-Mart's store brand salsa that's sold in the refrigerated produce section is excellent - better than many more premium pre-made salsas I've tried.

                                                1. re: carbondiamond

                                                  All baking powder contains cornstarch.

                                                  1. re: BeachyChic

                                                    But the question is-is it the first ingredient? Will it affect the product or is it just a filler?

                                                    1. re: carbondiamond

                                                      Baking powder is a specific ratio of baking soda + acid + starch. All baking powder should all be the same, whether generic or brand name.

                                                      The starch is to absorb moisture so that the baking soda + acid do not react with one another in the jar.

                                                      It seems like in the US, the starch is always from corn. At least, I have yet to find one that doesn't use corn starch. I am allergic to corn, so I had to find a substitute- after learning what is in baking powder and why, I learned to make my own, just using a different starch.


                                                      1. re: BeachyChic

                                                        Homemade baking powder...thank you for the link...this could help a lot of people who are allergic to corn...thanks for sharing.

                                                2. We buy both. Over the years we just keep trying different products regardless of brand; sometimes hit the jackpot with a very cheap alternative we end up switching to.

                                                  A few years ago there are certain products I was loyal to, but as they cheapen ingredients and slightly change recipes and package sizes I find myself straying. 6 months ago I only bought Heinz ketchup, but money was tight and Hunt's was about half the price and we were shocked to find we like Hunt's much better. Somehow I'm still afraid to try a store brand ketchup.

                                                  Difference in cost is a difficult concept. You can't compare Oreos to Target sandwich cookies to TJ's Joe Joes. All yummy, but if you're craving Oreos nothing imitates that flavor profile. Store brands aren't always a good deal, since package size is used to mislead and you may be paying more than the name brand. But where you can make an accurate cost comparison and the flavor is equal to or better, store brand is definitely worth the switch. But I do find myself more and more looking at lesser known name brands as I've had a lot of luck with those.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: chipoltay

                                                    You certainly have given the whole concept of generic & name brand a lot of comparison...wish I would take the time to read the ounces, yes, a big fluffy bag of something turns out to just be a lot of air in there.

                                                    I read somewhere that using generics depended on how important the ingredient was in the recipe. For instance, you could use generic tomato sauce in something like lasagna, but if you had something like green bean casserole, it is the star of the recipe & then should have the best tasting beans you can find. Just something to think about.

                                                  2. Packaged cheese, the name brand stuff seems to taste better. I've found that just about any Kirkland products at Costco are extremely good, from nuts to oil to cheese it's all been good.

                                                    1. I am willing to give any and all generics/store brands a try. I've learned that I'm not very picky about canned tuna, canned tomatoes, and peanut butter (Whole Foods 365 and/or Trader Joe's are fine by me). Until a couple of weeks ago, I would've said I was a Hellman's purist, but in a fit of thriftiness I bought Parade mayonnaise and...I can't tell the difference between it and Hellman's (and Parade was less than half the price of Hellman's). I will not compromise on V8, though. I've tried many V8-like things, and they all suck.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: small h

                                                        I'm a very dedicated store brand man. Since moving to North Carolina, though, I've become a loyal Duke's Mayo man. Of course I only buy it on sale. The main other national brand I stick with is Ritz crackers. I've tried just about every Ritz-like cracker I've ever found, national and store brands, and nothing matches Ritz, at least since Keeblers stopped producing Sunshine Hi-Ho's in favor of their own inferior Town House brand.

                                                        If anybody has found a brand as good as Ritz I'd be grateful to hear about it.

                                                        1. re: johnb

                                                          I feel the same about Cheez-Its. Nothing comes close to the strength and sharpness of flavor.

                                                          1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                            I agree with you about Cheez-its. Same is probably true about Doritos. I used to down both of those a box/bag at a sitting. But these days I keep them both out of the house for just that reason.

                                                      2. I'm not sure if these qualify as generic as they come from the deli section, but they are both store brands.

                                                        Publix Serrano Ham - It in no way resembles authentic serrano ham in taste, appearance or texture, so I'll get that out of the way first. It is however cheap, usually on sale for $4/lb or so, and it's great sliced super thin for making hot ham and cheese sandwiches.

                                                        Winn-Dixie Chicken Salad - The chicken salad from the Winn-Dixie deli case is the best pre-made chicken salad I've found anywhere since the local kosher-style deli closed up. It's better than Fresh Market's version for a much lower price. Not too much mayo, good onion and celery flavor, and not ruined by the inclusion of sugar, fruit, nuts, or other adulterants that have no place in chicken salad.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                          Thanks for the tip on the ham. Will head to Publix to replicate memories of Frankie's ham sandwich from Niles, Michigan, and Isaly's chipped chop ham from Pittsburgh. Use to get the sauce down here.

                                                          1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                            When shopping I will buy the the generic/store brand on almost anything. After trying it and if I do not think it is as good as the name brand I buy the name brand next time. Keep an open mind and try that method, what have you got to lose? I think you will be surprised at the results and how much store brands/generics you will keep on buying.

                                                            Does anyone know of good generic/store brand diet soft drinks?

                                                            Some items I have not found an exceptional store brand for is:

                                                            Heinz Ketchup
                                                            Frenchs Mustard
                                                            Best Foods Mayo
                                                            Del Monte Sweet Relish
                                                            Del Monte canned Green Beans
                                                            Diet Coke
                                                            Diet Pepsi
                                                            Diet Mountain Dew
                                                            Diet Dr. Pepper

                                                            1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                              I don't want celery or onion in my chicken salad; I do want chopped toasted nuts and halved grapes or dried cranberries or white raisins. just saying.

                                                            2. My mom worked in grocery/food packaging all her life, I grew up eating nothing but generic because the truth is, it's often the same product with a different label.

                                                              I buy whatever is on sale or the best price - so while that's usually generic, sometimes I get namebrand instead (for example today I got 3kg of quality Armstrong cheese for $12 cheaper than the Wal-Mart brand equivalent - at Wal-Mart!!).

                                                              The only exception is plastic food wrap rolls - I have yet to find a generic brand that doesn't bunch up/get twisted, so I use the giant Costco roll Vita Wrap.

                                                              The ONLY exception that I make is

                                                              1. To answer the OP's questions: I generally buy brand name products, unless I have done a taste comparison and found the generic to be better. (It is amazing how little I have done taste comparisons, considering how effortless it would be and how much money I could save. I guess I am the king of inertia.)

                                                                I can't think of anything that I won't buy generic, but when I have bought generic canned vegetables, I have noticed that I seem to be paying for a lot of liquid, rather than actual food. This is probably one of the reasons that I buy brand name most of the time.

                                                                As for the difference in cost, obviously I don't think it is worth the switch, since I keep on buying brand name items. And yet, I think it's most inertia.

                                                                One notable exception I have found is Publix brand's natural (not processed) cheeses. The company recently instituted a line of cheeses that are imported from whatever country where the cheese is famous and then branded with the Publix brand. (You can find these in the deli section of the store, not the regular cheese section. However, they are not behind the deli counter. They are precut and wrapped in plastic wrap.) These cheeses are exceptional values. In particular the French or Danish (I can't remember) Publix brand blue cheese is a standout--exceptional blue cheese flavor, a nice, solid texture, and not overwhelmed with salt. Similarly, I have not found ANY camembert that compares in taste and texture with the Publix brand imported from France, and it costs half to two thirds as much as the other French camemberts. (A tip: if you buy the imported Publix brand camembert, let it stand at room temperature for an hour before serving. It makes a huge difference in the taste and texture.)

                                                                1. Generic unless the brand on offer and is cheaper.
                                                                  I worked at a supermarket in a previous life, and we'd occasionally receive the wrong brand of goods from the manufacturer - sometimes it would be the wrong supermarket, sometimes a 'Brand'. It was all the same stuff.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Peg

                                                                    Well, I always wondered about the name brand products spinning off generic labeled products...never could see why they would do that since the generic product would most likely be sold at a lower price. I guess there is a reason though.

                                                                    Whatever, I am now convinced I need to be paying way more attention to generic products.
                                                                    Thanks for re confirming that for me.

                                                                  2. Other than Heinz Ketchup and Hellman's Mayo I'll buy generic. Most times they are just as good.

                                                                    1. Once again, just to be clear, generics (what my family calls mongrel brands) and store brands are different animals. Not that either is better or worse, just different.

                                                                      Consumer Reports regularly does taste tests of name brands vs. generics and/or store brands. The results are always varied so you've gotta make your choice on an item-by-item basis.

                                                                      Then there's the Costco approach, which is to slap KIRKLAND on a name-brand product, like Mariani dried fruit.

                                                                      1. some things are fine generic, some not.

                                                                        and sometimes one generic is fine, while another is not. case in point, i know one market that makes a great coarse kosher salt. one day i was at another store, needed coarse salt, and grabbed the generic on instinct. it was basically flake salt. really inconvenient and really irritating...

                                                                        i used to have a thing for diet grapefruit soda... diet shasta originally. in college, there was a walmart nearby, and i discovered the amazingness of their housebrand *highlighter pink* grapefruit soda... amazing. years later, i tried the diet grapefruit at Safeway/Pavilion's... horrible, entirely different flavor than shasta or walmart. Ralph/Kroger's is mediocre. amazing the difference, but i know where not to buy it.

                                                                        i go to Safeway/Pavilion's specifically for their Organics O brand vegetable broth. it's the heartiest tasting broth i've ever found. Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, etc. all tasted like water. The next runner up in veggie broth is Wolfgang Puck's brand. *note I need one without yeast extract in it.

                                                                        I also go to Safeway/Pavilion's for the safeway select key lime sparkling water. been drinking it for years and years.

                                                                        not food, but toilet paper is Charmin Ultra Soft. only. i hate spending money on something i am literally using to throw away, but that's one expense that once you go ultra soft, you can't go back.

                                                                        1. exceptions for me are Peanut Butter, Crackers, Best Foods Mayonnaise, Diet Coke, Fage Yogurt, and now I'm reading the country of origin on all spices, and asking where the garlic is grown. I do buy Kirkland tuna, and I won't buy Bush's Baked Beans (even though a name brand) because of the name, just can't do it.

                                                                          1. I generally buy generic except for Folger's coffee, Hellman's mayo, Dawn detergent, Heinz ketchup. I think Kroger's crushed tomatoes are a big bargain and make a great pasta sauce.

                                                                            1. totally depends on the product for me. some things the name brand just does a better job with, some things are just as good generic. however, most of my food i buy fresh, so it doesnt really matter very much

                                                                              1. Almost always generic but I do buy Hellman's mayo and Goya canned beans.

                                                                                1. For most things, generic works fine and I'll try that first.
                                                                                  Exceptions: English muffins = Bay's, mayo= Hellman's, wheat crackers = Wheat Thins.

                                                                                  1. Just bought NoName Brand Sultana Raisins because it was preserved in Sesame oil. Normally buy a brand name but noticed the product contains Palm oil.

                                                                                    1. I happily try store brands and am often loyal to them after.
                                                                                      I'm also loyal to a handful of name brands, but I really, really like saving money ;-)