I’m guessing you have eaten generic groceries before. But did you know that in a scientific test, generics equalled or surpassed brands two-thirds of the time?
I recently talked to Sue Perry, deputy editor of ShopSmart magazine, a publication put out by Consumer Reports, about the rising quality of generic groceries. If you have not taken a chance on generic grocery brands, in-house labels are better than ever before. In a scientific test of 21 products, 14 generic labels “were better if not as good,” Perry said. “That’s a pretty good track record.”
Brand names were clear winners in just seven of the categories, and generics names pulled ahead in three categories. The take away message? Generics are more often than not just as good as their better advertised, higher priced brand name counterparts.
But don’t think a generic is going to give you the exact same product, Perry warns. Some generics are made by the same manufacturer as the brand name, and some generics have identical active ingredients. But the recipe will be different and the amount of active ingredient may be different. The quality of the active ingredient may be a factor, too.
If you are feeling adventurous, or if your budget demands it, generic grocery brands cost an average of 25% less, Perry said. Some generics were as much as 60% less – no coupon clipping required.
Avid coupon clippers, on the other hand, will laugh when you tell them how much you save buying generics. My blogger friend Melissa Hurst of SavingCentsWithSense.com has nearly sworn off generics because they are too expensive compared to what she pays when a brand name goes on sale and she has a coupon.
“Since watching deals, using coupons, and stocking up on good deals (of items that we need), I have spent less on our groceries, while buying name brand products,” Hurst wrote in a recent blog post.
So what brands stood out for the ShopSmart crew? Archer Farms chocolate ice cream, which is sold at Target, beat out every other chocolate ice cream, even Haagen Dazs. Similarly, no generic held a flame to Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise. For more results of the blind taste test, check the October issue of ShopSmart.
What brand name products do I swear by? Cheerios, Aquaphor Healing Ointment for dry skin, Sorrento string cheese, Saran plastic wrap, and Gold Metal flour.
On the flip side, I regularly buy generic over the counter and prescribed medicine. I’m comfortable with most generic label baking items and canned goods. I eat generic oatmeal and orange juice, soothe my throat with store-name cough drops and clean my teeth with whatever toothpaste is $1 or less.
Readers were split on generics when I last wrote about them (see link below).
The draw of generics is, of course, the savings. (Grocers are going out of their way to prove this.) Many grocery stores stand behind their brand, offering a money-back guarantee if you take a chance and are unhappy. Check with your store manager or look for the policy online.
I have a love-hate relationship with generics. They urge me to compare prices and active ingredients with brand names, and often deliver everything that the brand name does at a lower price.
When they fall short, however, generics leave an emotional and financial hole that wouldn’t have existed had you ponied up for the brand. I trusted you, and all you are is a roll of plastic wrap that doesn’t cling!