Friday, January 2, 2015

Store Brands vs. Name Brands

When I was a kid, generic brands were exactly what it sounds like...generic. No frills brands had no clarification of brand, makers or distributors. White label with bold black letters...GRAPE SODA, COLA, POTATO CHIPS...My favorites were the ones that read BEANS because you didn't know if it was green beans, kidney beans, black beans or butter beans. Same went for CORN. Was it cream style or whole kernel? A surprise in every can to be revealed when you opened it. These generic items weren't as bad as they outwardly appeared. They quality was very basic and pretty much for people that didn't expect perfection. Essentially there'd be a couple of darker chips in the potato chips or end pieces and a few stems in the can of green beans. The items were cheap and a bargain. Some stores even sold generic beer.
Eventually the generic labels were replaced with store branded items. Some manufactured by name brand companies and others by companies that specialized in private labelled items. Store branded items can range from more than half off the name brand or a few cents cheaper, depending on the product. Most stores offer guarantees on the store branded items, 100% satisfaction or your money back. Sometimes you can either get a refund or the store will offer you the name brand item at no additional charge. My favorite grocery store, Aldi, has one of the coolest policies called the Double Guarantee. If you don't like their product, return it and they will replace the product AND give you a complete refund.
There's not really a set in stone guide to which store branded items are better than name brands. Depending on contracts and attempts to keep costs down, many stores tend to occasionally switch suppliers. One month they may get canned corn from the midwest and the next, from a west coast company. Condiments, canned goods, baking goods, pantry staples and even lunch meats are almost always equal to the name brands.
Topco is one of the largest private label distributors in the US.
Having worked in restaurants for as long as I have, if we ran out of something like cornmeal, flour or even salad dressing and couldn't do without until the truck arrived, our managers would run to Wal-Mart or one of the grocery stores. While I worked for Macaroni Grill, many a salad went out to tables with Great Value Dressings or the sugar in the tea was Food Club rather than Domino. No one ever complained nor do I think they knew they were getting a lower cost substitute.

Only a few times have I ever purchased a store branded item that I vowed to never buy again. Kroger's Big K Diet Root Beer and Great Value branded canned tune from Wal-Mart comes to mind.

Bottom line, never be afraid to try the store brand. If you don't like it, keep your receipt and use the store's guarantee to your advantage.

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