Store Brands vs Name Brands – Can You Tell The Difference?

When you’re grocery shopping it is almost always a given that store brands will be cheaper than the name brands.

Some people stay loyal to their preferred brand name while others will buy whichever brand is cheapest.

The brand loyal folks say that the name brand food tastes better and while store brand folks say that it all tastes the same.

So the question is, who is right? Can you really tell the difference between the store and name brands and if so, which one tastes better?

I personally don’t have the time, money, or a large enough group of people to objectively test the store brand vs name brand debate, but luckily Consumer Reports does!

Do Store Brands Taste As Good As National Brands?

According to Consumer Reports,

Our expert tasters judged 33 of 57 store-brand foods as good as or better than the national brand.

This also means that 24 of store-brand foods weren’t as good or better than the national brands. So what does that tell me?

It is pretty much a toss up whether or not a store-brand is better than a national brand. Plus, you have to realize that different people have different tastes.

If Consumer Reports used a different group of expert tasters would they have ended up with separate results? So what should you do? Go for the store brands or stick with the national brands?

It Isn’t All Or Nothing

Despite what everyone wants you to think, you don’t have to go all or nothing with every decision you make. You don’t have to buy only store brands or only national brands when it comes to your food.

I personally have some foods that I’ll always buy the cheaper store brands and other foods that I’m extremely brand loyal to. But how do you find out which products you would prefer the cheaper store brand?

How To Figure Out Which You Brand Prefer

I suggest a simple test, but it involves more than one person. When you need a lot of a particular item that has a national brand and a cheaper store brand, buy both.

When you would normally want to use the item, have someone else prepare both brands at the same time but don’t allow the person preparing the items to let you know which is which. Make sure they make multiple samples of each and have a key of which samples are which.

Don’t let them prepare the items in front of you. Don’t even look at the items. You can even blindfold yourself if you don’t trust yourself.

Then eat or use each item and then write down your thoughts on each one. You can try different combinations of the brands and do multiple tests to make sure your brain isn’t messing with you.

On the first test, you could have 2 samples of the national brand. On the next, do one national brand and one store brand. You can even do three samples in one round of testing. Then compare your results with the key to see which brand you really prefer.

If you end up liking the store brand, you might have saved yourself a lot of money in the long run. If not, you’ll know you prefer the national brand and can quit wondering. Can’t tell the difference? Go with the cheaper brand!

Another resource you can check out is Len Penzo. Len has done a few taste tests himself, but I don’t know how scientific he was. I hear his dog was a tester for one of them!

Which do you normally prefer? The national brands or the store brands? Do you buy national brands you prefer or do you always save money with the store brands? Or do you fear store brands so much you’ve never tried them? Let us know in the comments!

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

Comments

  1. My wife *constantly* gives me a hard time when buying store brand items as she’s convinced that they sub-par quality. Then she did a blind taste test with store brand coffee (kcups) – and actually preferred the store brand. I’m hoping this opens her mind up a little more, but I guess we’ll see. 🙂

  2. I like to compare ingredient lists for non food items- as long as both brands have the same active ingredient, I feel fine about going generic. For food, I’ll go with the store brand for the staples, like pasta. But the more processed stuff (which I try not to buy) like cookies, I’ll go name brand.

  3. I have no problem with buying store brand. However, W almost always notices and he claims that there is a difference.

  4. We buy a lot of store brands…it depends what’s on sale. I don’t know if anyone notices the taste difference, but I doubt it. My family members aren’t that picky!

  5. I have my favorite brands, but some store brands are as good or even better. I usually just try out the store brand version and see if it’s OK. If not, I’ll buy the ‘famous’ brand. If it’s better, I save some money 🙂

  6. I have no issues at all with purchasing store brands.. Of course, I am a serious label-reader. I typically purchase whichever is the most nutritious, with the least amount of filler and high fructose corn syrup and what not. Surprisingly, the store brands are often better for you (and cheaper).

  7. Depends on what’s cheaper. Often it seems like after BOGO sales and coupons the name brands can get cheaper than the store brands.

    But TJ’s store brands are amazing. =)

  8. When I bought my first house and money was tight, I started to buy store brand products. 99% of the time, I couldn’t tell the difference. There was one or two items that tasted completely different, but for the most part, I couldn’t tell. Since then, I’ve continued to buy more and more store brand products.

  9. My friend, the answer is an unequivocal no for Oreo cookies.

    But there are about a million other things for which there is no discernible difference.

  10. It varies by item, by store, and even by person within our house. There are some store brand items we buy without thinking, but other things, like yogurt for example, I will gladly take the store brand while my wife won’t touch the stuff. I think you have to be willing to try each item you’re considering and make a judgement on how you want to proceed moving forward. There’s no all or none answer on this one.

  11. It depends. I am loyal to certain name brands and certain store brands depending on the product. I will only buy Heinz Simply ketchup-I tossed the store brand. There are only 3 types of yogurt I’ll buy for my child based on the ingredients and sugar content. Butter, flour, sugar? I don’t care. I’ve been an adult cooking for a family long enough to have tried most of the basics in all their forms. It’s not worth ruining a meal by using kroger beans instead of whole food’s 365 in an attempt to save 75 cents.
    It is true that a lot of generics are made in the same plants as the brands but it doesn’t mean they use the same recipe. I work for a craft brewery and we contract out the facility to other brands. I can assure you it is not the same beer.

  12. Bryce @ Save and Conquer says:

    I haven’t noticed a big difference in taste or quality in staples like milk or eggs, so I buy whatever is cheapest. On the other hand, there is a big difference in breakfast cereals. I also prefer Sunmaid raisins over store brand raisins. I like the local Safeway bakery over the Lucky’s bakery. You have to take it one item at a time.

  13. We buy very few name brands. In fact, I grown to like Target brands as well as the supermarket brands. We do eat a fair amount of fresh produce too.

  14. I am not brand loyal however I have found that with coupons and sales I save more money on brand names than I would have paid for store brands

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