Store-brand vs. name-brand taste-off

Consumer Reports

View gallery

.
Store brand vs. name brand foods
Our tests pit 19 private-label products against big-name rivals.

Trade big brands for store brands and you’ll save big bucks—an average of 25 percent, according to industry experts. In comparing store-brand and namebrand versions of 19 products, our savings ranged from 5 percent (frozen lasagna) to 60 percent (ice cream).

Many of those store brands were also as tasty as the alternative. Our sensory experts found that the store brand and name brand tied in 10 cases, the name brand won in eight cases, and the store brand won once.

A tie doesn’t indicate that the tastes were identical. Two products might have ingredients of similar quality—good, bad, or in between—but taste very different because those ingredients differ. A case in point: our pair of wheat breads. Freihofer’s has mild grain and malt flavors; Hy-Vee has a sourdoughlike flavor.

MORE AT COnsumer Reports

Nutrition for the pairs is similar, with a few exceptions we’ve noted in the results starting on the facing page.

Over the years, we’ve found that a wide variety of store brands perform about as well as name brands. That’s what readers have told us, too. When we surveyed more than 24,000 of them about supermarket shopping last year, 72 percent said they’d bought store brands in the past month, and 74 percent were highly satisfied with the quality of store brands at their supermarket. Asked “In general do you think that store brands are usually better, the same as, or worse than national brands,” 3 percent said better, 78 percent said the same, and 18 percent said worse.

National brands produce and package a wide variety of store-brand products. Among the many big names known to make store brands are Hormel (canned meats, bouillon, and desserts), Marcal (paper towels, tissues, and napkins), Mc- Cain (french fries, appetizers, and frozen pizza), and Reynolds (foil, plastic wrap and bags, and disposable plates and cups).

Rarely will you find clues to a store brand’s heritage, and suppliers can change at any time. Nor is there any guarantee that national brands simply slap different labels on products rolling off the same assembly line. Store-brand products might be made to different specifications.



They’re here to stay

Store brands continue to chip away at the leading brands’ market share. Almost two-thirds of shoppers surveyed in May and June 2012 by the management consulting company Accenture said that their grocery carts were at least half full of storebrand products. The biggest categories: milk, bread, baked goods, and cheese.

In tough economic times, shoppers are naturally drawn to cheaper brands. But photo: michael smith october 2012 ConsumerReports.org 17 private label is not a flash in the pan, says Matt Arnold, a senior consumer analyst with Edward Jones, an investment company based in St. Louis. “If you are able to create a private-label brand that garners trust among your shoppers,” he says, “it almost becomes a national brand within your four walls.” Indeed, more than half of respondents to the Accenture survey said that it would take a permanent price reduction of a brand-name product—down to the price of the store brand—to persuade them to return to buying it.

Consumers have more store-brand choices, too, as retailers tap into product categories that lack clear national-brand leaders. Arnold notes that there are more “upper tier” private-label products, which let customers trade up when the economy improves. Publix, for example, sells dozens of organic foods under its own brand; Costco sells Kirkland Signature bourbon, Greek yogurt, and green tea; Price Chopper sells its own gelati and an extensive line of mustards.

But with those fancier store brands and a current rise in the cost of commodities, exacerbated by drought, the price gap between store brands and name brands could be narrowing. A recent poll of retailers by Supermarket News found that store-brand price increases are outpacing those of national brands. National brands also have more invested in research and development, packaging, advertising, and marketing, so ingredients represent a smaller slice of their cost. As a result, says Neil Stern, senior partner with McMillanDoolittle, retail experts based in Chicago, a rise in the price of commodities is more likely to hike prices of private-label products than those of national brands.

Bottom line.

Based on our tests, store brands are often at least as good as national brands and usually cost much less. They’re worth a try. Your taste buds might be happy; your wallet certainly will be.

(See also: Best cheap supermarket wines)

Taste-test results

In blind tests, our trained tasters evaluated 19 pairs of staple foods. National brands and store brands tied 10 times; national brands won eight times; store brands, once. Costs are based on the average prices our shoppers paid.


Store-brand winner:

View gallery

.
Swanson Chicken broth vs. Giant Eagle

Swanson 66 cents per serving, Giant Eagle 52 cents per serving.


Verdict: Giant Eagle. It’s a simple, mild broth with a slight taste of roasted chicken. Swanson’s broth tastes highly processed, has hints of dehydrated spice and off-tastes, and varied a bit from one sample to another.



Toss-ups:

View gallery

.
Skippy vs. Wegmans

Skippy 20 cents per serving, Wegmans 15 cents per serving.


Verdict: Tie. Both are fine choices. Skippy is a bit sweeter and slightly more bitter than Wegmans, which has more of a roasted impression.


View gallery

.
Ocean Spray vs. Meijer

Ocean Spray 44 cents per serving, Meijer 37 cents per serving.


Verdict: Tie. They are of about equal (though imperfect) quality. Ocean Spray has more fruit flavor and tastes slightly less “cooked,” but it’s a bit bitter and has an odd perfumelike note. Meijer is very tart—more sour than sweet. Both contain juices from other fruits, such as grape and apple.


View gallery

.
Cheez-It vs. Clover Valley

Sunshine 38 cents per serving, Clover Valley (Dollar General) 19 cents per serving.

Verdict: Tie. Sunshine has more sour-dairy flavor (think sour cream), with a cheesy flavor at the finish; Clover Valley is slightly saltier and more toasted.



Toss-ups continued:

View gallery

.
Chobani vs. Winn Dixie Greek yogurt
Chobani $1.31 per serving, Winn-Dixie $1.09 per serving.

Verdict: Tie. Even for our experts, it was hard to tell these two apart. Both are tasty, but the Winn-Dixie is a bit sweeter, with slightly more dairy flavor.



View gallery

.
Hidden Valley vs. Market Pantry

Hidden Valley 22 cents per serving, Market Pantry (Target) 10 cents per serving.

Verdict: Tie. They are of about the same quality, but they taste different. Hidden Valley has black-pepper bits and flavors of Parmesan and Dijon; Market Pantry has more prominent buttermilk and vinegar flavors.




View gallery

.
Hidden Valley vs. Market Pantry
Friendship 68 cents per serving, H-E-B 31 cents per serving.

Verdict: Tie. Friendship’s small curds are soft, and the product is bland overall. H-E-B’s curds are chewy and a bit salty, with a tangy, slightly sour dairy flavor.





View gallery

.
Friehofer's vs. Hy-Vee bread
Freihofer’s 26 cents per two slices, Hy-Vee 14 cents per two slices.

Verdict: Tie. Their textures are similar— soft—but their tastes are not. Freihofer’s has mild grain and malt flavors and a caramel color, plus a burnt top that adds bitterness. Hy-Vee looks almost like white bread. It has a yeasty, sourdoughlike flavor and slight off-tastes.




View gallery

.
Nature Valley vs. Great Value

Nature Valley 56 cents per serving, Great Value (Walmart) 33 cents per serving.

Verdict: Tie. Both are chewy and have nuts, raisins, and dried cranberries. The dried fruit is slightly more flavorful in Nature Valley’s bars.




View gallery

.
Diamond walnuts vs. Kirkland
Diamond 52 cents per serving Kirkland Signature (Costco) 35 cents per serving.

Verdict: Tie. They’re basically interchangeable, but the Kirkland Signature walnuts are slightly sweeter, with a little less roasted flavor.






Name-brand winners:


View gallery

.
Kellog's Granola cereal vs. Essential Everyday

Kellogg’s 48 cents per serving, Essential Everyday (Supervalu-Jewel and other chains) 37 cents per serving.

Verdict: Kellogg’s.Kellogg’s, with a pancake-syrup flavor, isn’t great, but Essential loses because of slightly chalky oats, with just a few clusters; an oxidized taste; and a lingering bitter aftertaste. It also has more sodium.



View gallery

.
Bush's beans vs. Food Lion

Bush’s 56 cents per serving, Food Lion 37 cents per serving.

Verdict: Bush’s. Bush’s boasts brown-sugar and molasses flavors, with a slight smoky note. Food Lion has a harsh, ashy artificial smoke flavor, is bitter, and has a metallic off-note. Those drawbacks overwhelm the more subtle flavors of onion and molasses.


View gallery

.
Ben & Jerry's vs. Kroger

Ben & Jerry’s $1.12 per serving, Kroger Private Selection 45 cents per serving.

Verdict: Ben & Jerry’s. It has flavorful dark-chocolate chips and lots of big dough chunks that are a bit gritty. Kroger’s ice cream is mediocre, and the dough is in small, gritty pellets, with artificial butterscotch and raw-flour flavors.


View gallery

.
Quaker Oats vs. Old Fashioned

Quaker 16 cents per serving, Publix 11 cents per serving.

Verdict: Quaker. It has clean, nutty grain flavors with a toasted taste. Publix, on the other hand, is soft and a bit mushy, with lots of broken oat pieces.



View gallery

.
Bird's Eye vs. Stop & Shop

Birds Eye 35 cents per serving 22 cents per serving, Stop & Shop 31 cents per serving

Verdict: Bird's Eye. Its flavorful, fresh-tasting vegetables trounce the starchy, shriveled, low-flavor veggies from Stop & Shop, which also have more sodium.



View gallery

.
Stouffer's vs. Eating Right

Stouffer’s $1.58 per serving, Eating Right (Safeway) $1.50 per serving.

Verdict: Stouffer’s. The name-brand lasagna wouldn’t be mistaken for homemade, but it’s decent. The Eating Right product is dominated by dehydrated-oregano and greasy/fatty flavors. The meat bits are chewy; the noodles, pasty. But Stouffer’s has more sodium than Eating Right.


View gallery

.
Soy Dream vs. Price Chopper

Soy Dream 84 cents per serving, Price Chopper 40 cents per serving.

Verdict: Soy Dream. Soy Dream is sweet and off-white, and has vanilla and slight malt flavors. Price Chopper is thin, beige, and lightly sweetened, with hints of adhesive-bandage and Play-doh-like tastes and a licorice aftertaste.


View gallery

.
Tropicana vs. Nice

Tropicana 60 cents per serving, Nice (Walgreens) 28 cents per serving.

Verdict: Tropicana. It has distinct orange flavor and is moderately sweet. In Nice, cooked flavors with marmalade and vitamin notes detract from the score, as does a lingering bitterness. Nice is “pasteurized from concentrate”; Tropicana claims its product is “never from concentrate.”


Other store-brand products worth trying:

We combed through recent test results to find the highest-rated store brands in 10 additional product categories.

Paper Towels:
Excellent - Up & Up (Target), Eastern U.S.
Very good - CVS Big Quilts, Great Value (Walmart), Walgreens Ultra, Kirkland Signature (Costco).


Beer:
Very good - Name Tag Classic Lager (Trader Joe’s), Big Flats Lager 1901 (Walgreens).


Lightbulbs:
Very good - Utilitech 100W Soft White CFL (Lowe’s), EcoSmart 100 W Soft White CFL (Home Depot).


Bagels:
Very good- Kirkland Signature Plain (Costco).


Toilet Paper:
Excellent - White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra Soft and Thick (Walmart).
Very good - Great Value Ultra Strong (Walmart), White Cloud Soft and Thick (Walmart), CVS Premium Ultra.


Pickles:
Excellent - 365 Everyday Value Organic Kosher Dill (Whole Foods).


Sunscreen:
Excellent - Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50.


Kitchen Trash Bags:
Very good - CVS Odor Control Drawstring, Kirkland Signature Drawstring Trash, 50787 (Costco).


Frozen Fruit Bar:
Excellent - 365 Everyday Value Strawberry (Whole Foods).


Laundry Detergents:
Very good - Up & Up Ultra Concentrated conventional powder (Target), Up & Up HE Fresh Breeze liquid (Target), Kirkland Signature Ultra HE liquid (Costco), Sears Ultra Plus Concentrated 9879
powder.


Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Julie Bowen Faces Criticism for Joking About Barron Trump During Inauguration

      Julie Bowen has come under fire for her comments about Barron Trump. Julie Bowen made Donald Trump’s inauguration more fun to watch, but not everyone appreciated her witty banter. The Modern Family star, who often details the funny antics of her own three sons, posted a few Instagram photos during the ceremony focusing on Barron Trump, the 10-year-old son of the new president and his wife, Melania.

      Yahoo Celebrity
    • Grown-up Paris Jackson hits her namesake city for Givenchy

      PARIS (AP) — Colorful fall-winter menswear shows in Paris mixed high culture, androgyny and streetwear, as Paris Jackson, the daughter of the late pop icon Michael Jackson, stepped out for the cameras at Givenchy's library show— fittingly in the City of Light.

      Associated Press
    • The Clinton Foundation Is Dead — But The Case Against Hillary Isn't

      While everyone's been gearing up for President Trump's inauguration, the Clinton Foundation made a major announcement this week that went by with almost no notice: For all intents and purposes, it's closing its doors. In a tax filing, the Clinton Global Initiative said it's firing 22 staffers and closing its offices, a result of the gusher of foreign money that kept the foundation afloat suddenly drying up after Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency. It proves what we've said all along: The Clinton Foundation was little more than an influence-peddling scheme to enrich the Clintons, and had little if anything to do with "charity," either overseas or in the U.S. That sound you heard starting in November was checkbooks being snapped shut in offices around the world by people who had hoped their donations would buy access to the next president of the United States. There was a strong precedent for it in Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.

      Investor's Business Daily q
    • Kansas City College Student Sent Cryptic Text Just Before Disappearance: ‘OMG Just Got Pulled Over Again’

      A 20-year-old Kansas City woman mysteriously vanished early Sunday morning after being pulled over by police after work — and her family is growing increasingly worried and confused. “None of it makes sense,” Toni Anderson’s mother, Liz Anderson, says of her disappearance. Toni left work at the Chrome Club shortly after 4 a.m. to meet up with a friend, Kansas City police tell PEOPLE.

      People
    • Trump Already Suspends Obama-Era FHA Mortgage Insurance Cut

      The contentious cut would have saved the average borrower about $500 per year and cushioned the market against rising rates. The post Trump Already Suspends Obama-Era FHA Mortgage Insurance Cut appeared first on Real Estate News & Advice | realtor.com®.

      Realtor.com
    • MMA Star Mayhem Miller's 'Golden Showers' Take Center Stage In Dom. Violence Case (VIDEO)

      1 1/20/2017 12:40 AM PST Jason "Mayhem" Miller's domestic violence case just took a weird turn -- his lawyer brought up his penchant for "golden showers" and freaky sex acts in open court. The MMA star and ex-MTV host is accused of beating up and stalking an ex-girlfriend in 2013 ... and he appeared in court Thursday in Orange County, CA for day 1 of his trial. During the proceeding, Miller's lawyer explained that his client and the accuser had a pretty twisted sex life complete with threesomes, sex parties, choking and golden showers (peeing on each other). Unclear how Miller's lawyer plans on using this information in the case ... but damn. (Note: the woman in the video is NOT the accuser).

      TMZ q
    • 'I literally wanted to die': Woman claims she was bitten by hundreds of bed bugs at Atlantis resort

      A Florida woman filed a lawsuit against the Atlantis Paradise Resort in the Bahamas alleging that she woke up covered with crawling bed bugs. The Miami Herald reported Thursday that Cindi Avila was staying in a room at the Royal Towers during a January 2016 vacation at the resort. At the last night of her stay she said she woke up to “hundreds of painful, swollen bites from her forehead to her thighs.” “It was like something out of a horror movie,” she told the Herald. “I pulled up the mattress and I was shocked at what I saw.” Avila said she took pictures and video of the bites and the dozens of tiny insects crawling on the bed skirt. The paper reported that tiny black excrement can also be

      Fox News q
    • Hollywood Reacts To Trump Inauguration: “Country Is Lost”, Tweets Alec Baldwin; Scott Baio Proud To Be “Deplorable”

      Refresh for updates Alec Baldwin says the country is lost, his brother Stephen has a different take, Chris Rock offers a time-change reminder (era-change, actually), and Scott Baio is proud to be among the “deplorables.” Celebrities, pundits and politicians began processing their reactions to President Donald Trump’s inauguration speech today, and, not surprisingly, responses ranged from as stinging as anything put out by the Tweeter-in-Chief over the past year-plus…

      Deadline
    • The Fried Chicken Everyone Is Talking About In Your State (52 photos)

      With help from our friends at Foursquare , we found the best-rated fried chicken spots across America. Did we get your state right? From Delish

      Delish
    • Paris Jackson Goes Braless For Modeling Debut In France

      Paris Jackson has officially step into the spotlight as she made her high-fashion modeling debut in Paris, France.

      International Business Times
    • TV news anchors weigh in on 'radical,' 'dark' inaugural speech

      “Dark." “Radical.” “Not strong.” “A call to arms.” The television anchors, reporters and analysts covering President Donald Trump’s inaugural speech may have appeared on different networks, but they were united in their depictions of Trump’s speech. “A speech that, in the early 1960s, gave us ‘ask not,’ today gave us ‘American carnage,’” said MSNBC anchor Brian Williams. “One of the most radical inauguration speeches we’ve ever heard ... Pure populism,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said. “This was Donald Trump seizing power, in the sense that there is a new sheriff in town,” Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said. "The American carnage must stop right here, right now. … This was the speech of an insurgent,

      POLITICO q
    • Cuba Gooding Jr. Files for Divorce From Wife Sara Kapfer After 22 Years of Marriage: Report

      Cuba Gooding Jr. has responded to his wife Sara Kapfer’s separation filing two years later — details

      Us Weekly
    • ESPN drops commentator over Venus Williams 'gorilla' remark

      US broadcaster ESPN has dropped commentator Doug Adler after he compared Venus Williams to a "gorilla" at the Australian Open -- although he insisted the word he used was "guerrilla". ESPN said Adler should have been more careful during his coverage of the seven-time Grand Slam-winner's win over Stefanie Voegele. "During an Australian Open stream on ESPN3, Doug Adler should have been more careful in his word selection," an ESPN statement said.

      AFP
    • Kellyanne Conway Draws Laughs and Memes With Military-Style Garb

      The Gucci dress comes with a price tag of $3,600.

      Inside Edition
    • With Donald Trump as President, Here's What Will Happen to the U.S. Economy

      Donald Trump has had a lot of success in business, but how will he be for the economy as president? Here's how his economic policies will play out.

      The Street q
    • President Trump’s Inauguration Crowd Doesn’t Look Like Barack Obama’s Did in 2009

      A side-by-side comparison of the crowds at former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump‘s respective inaugurations reveals that Trump’s crowd isn’t as large as he boasted it would be. Two aerial photographs of the National Mall from the two historic days reveal large patches of white ground exposed during Trump’s ceremony, spaces crowds had filled during Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Federal and local agencies estimated 700,000 to 900,000 people would be in Washington, D.C. for Trump’s inauguration on Friday, roughly half the number of people who attended Obama’s first presidential inauguration.

      People
    • People noticed that Trump basically quoted Bane in his inauguration speech

      A line from President Donald Trump's inauguration speech on Friday eerily echoed the Batman...

      Business Insider
    • Best Chicken Wings Ever: The Only Wings Recipe You'll Ever Need

      Want to make your own wings? If you’re looking for the real deal, you can’t go wrong with this classic Buffalo chicken wings recipe.

      The Cheat Sheet q 53 min ago