Store Brand vs Name Brand: Is There Really a Difference?
What are store brand foods? Are they just bad knock-offs of name brand foods, or are they just as delicious and more affordable than the original? We’ll take a look at how store brand foods are made, why they are cheaper than name brands, and if there really is a difference in quality.
What exactly are store brand foods anyways?
Every grocery shopper on a budget knows about store brand foods. Most major grocery stores have their own store brands, sometimes referred to as “private label” foods. You can get store brand packaged foods like cereal and pasta sauce, store brand fresh food like milk and eggs, and everything in between!
Some stores produce goods under their own name, like “Stop & Shop (name of food)”. But other stores have their own name for their branded goods, like Target’s “Market Pantry” and Walmart’s “Good Value”.
And then of course, there are some stores that make private label foods a priority a huge focus in their store. Trader Joe’s is unique in that the majority of its items are private label, and they use fun names like “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian-style foods and “Trader Ming’s” for Chinese-style foods.
Why are store brands cheaper than name brands?
If you are familiar with store brand foods, then you’ve probably realized that store brands are typically much cheaper than name brand foods. As a consumer, purchasing store brand foods can save you a lot of money on your grocery bill. Grocery stores are able to make their own branded foods cheaper than name brands for several reasons:
Less Research & Development: When a name brand company, like Kellogg’s for example, wants to put out a new product, they have to spend the time and effort to research and develop that product. They pay for market research to see what kinds of products consumers want to buy, they develop those products, then they test them, and repeat the process over again until they have a finished product.
Grocery stores, however, can work backwards. They can take a product that’s already popular, figure out how it’s made, and create their own version inspired by the original. This saves them lots of time and money, which is one of the reasons why their products are less expensive.
No Advertising Costs: When’s the last time you saw a billboard, commercial, or Facebook ad for a store brand product? Yeah, I haven’t either. Advertisements add a lot of cost to the product, and with no advertising costs, the product is cheaper for you!
Fewer Middle Men: Most large food manufacturers have several added costs, all of which get factored into the cost of their final products. They usually have to hire a factory to actually produce their product, then hire a distribution company to bring the products to various stores across the country. And then, of course, the retailer has to make a profit off selling the product. When stores make their own branded foods, there are fewer middle men and therefore the product is less expensive to produce and distribute. These cost savings get passed on to us, the customers!
Are store brands just bad knock-offs of name brands?
Among some shoppers, store brands have a reputation as a bad knock-off of the original products. It’s thought that store brand products use poorer quality ingredients, leave out ingredients, and are otherwise sub-par. But is this really true?
To find out, I spoke with a supermarket dietitian, Heather Steele, RD/LD. Heather confirms that store brand foods are just as safe as name brands. She says “they have the same requirements as any other brand for processing and manufacturing. Quality and personal preference may vary by brand but there are many store brand items that are just as delicious.”
And in fact, some store brand foods are the same exact food as a name brand, just in different packaging. Heather tells us “Many stores will buy the name brand food at a special price for selling it in their stores and use their label – which in turn offers customers a discount!” Heather also advises that you can speak with the store manager or dietitian (if you’re lucky enough to have one!) to find out more about that store’s specific store brand foods.
Heather recommends comparing store brands vs name brands to find the best product for you. She notes that some store brand foods might be preferable because they are sourced from local ingredients and will therefore require less preservatives to keep them fresh. She explains “The hummus at my local store has 30% less sodium than the other big name hummus and that is because it is produce locally and requires less preservatives. This is huge for some customers who need to be mindful of their sodium intake.”
Trendsetters in store brand foods: Trader Joe’s and ALDI
Trader Joe’s has devoted fans that share their favorite products. One of my favorites, Sarah from @thecuttingveg, often reviews vegetarian products from Trader Joe’s on her Instagram page. They are also well-known for their delicious and on-trend foods, like Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, Cauliflower Gnocchi, and Sparkling Watermelon Juice. Some of their latest and greatest products are: Chocolate Hummus, Ube Ice Cream, and Focaccia Bread with Roasted Tomato and Parmesan. Yum!
Aldi, a German-owned company, is fast expanding in the US and is focusing on increasing their organic, vegetarian and vegan product offerings. They have several private label brands, including a line of gluten free foods, a line of vegan foods free of any animal products, and baby food and formula!
Everyone’s tastes and preferences are different. But don’t assume that store brand foods aren’t as good as name brand foods just because they are a store brand. While that may have been your experience in the past, nowadays stores are putting a lot of time and effort into their store brand foods to make them delicious and attractive to customers.
Experiment and find the store brand foods that you like the best and work the best for your family’s tastes and budget. In some cases, store brand foods may have better nutritional qualities, are produced locally, have fewer preservatives, and may taste just as good (or even better) than name brands!