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Generic vs. Brand Names? When It Matters And When It Doesn’t

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I can remember as a kid feeling all of those butterfly feelings about the biggest brands on the market. Their commercials, jingles, and billboards all bled one common thing: trust.

Growing up, when I saw a brand, I knew that I will have that same taste and feeling that I had always gotten from the box of cereal or can of soup. Brands have taken the time over decades to really build their identity in the marketplace and give people a choice that they can feel safe with. It wasn’t what was  in the packaging that made them special, it was the packaging itself. What I hadn’t know for most of my childhood and even my adulthood is that off-brand foods can get you the same exact thing. This is especially true for generic food items like fruits and vegetables.

Generic brands really have come a long way. I don’t remember them being as popular growing up as they are today. It seems like every major grocery story like Safeway, Trader Joe’s, and even Target have their own brands that compete with bigger brands everyday. It’s a smart move. They are capitalizing on the growing mistrust towards well-known brands and the consumer’s desire to find a comparable product that’s lighter on the pocketbook without the bells-and-whistles.

According to Nielsen, “private label, also known as store brands, are no longer viewed simply as low-cost alternatives to name brands; they’re increasingly high-quality products that fulfill consumer needs across a variety of price points.” Private labels are really creating a name for themselves, without the name.

Prove It That Generic Brands Are Cheaper

All you really have to do is take a look at your grocery store and compare the prices. Do the math. Sometimes, there may be the case that with the addition of couponing, brands may end up cheaper or priced identically to your generic brand items, but usually, generic brands end up being the cheap winner.

Here’s a price comparison between genetic brand vs. name brands on Target.com:

Penne Rigate

  • Generic → $0.99
  • Barilla → $1.39

Tomato Paste

  • Generic → $0.49
  • Hunt’s → $0.79

White Rice

  • Generic → $3.99
  • Iberia → $4.99

Canned Black Beans

  • Generic → $0.79
  • Goya → $1.09

Oatmeal

  • Generic → $1.69
  • Quaker → $2.79

Is it worth Comparing Ingredients Between Brands?

If you’re buying product, the comparison is easy. Okay, that’s an apple. And that’s an apple with a flashy name and packaging. I’ll go for the apple that’s cheaper — and usually without all that packaging waste.

Now, it gets a little tricker with items that have a larger brand presence in its section, for example frozen produce, lentils, and oatmeal. Again, this is easy. Just compare the ingredients and they should be exactly the same.

Do They Taste The Same?

Most often they do. Especially if they’re 1-ingredient food items. However, some brands might have their own secret ingredients to make their product their own, for example, sauces and one-of-a-kind items like Oreos. But, this is a plant-based site, so maybe not so relevant. The secret in all of this is to just look at the ingredients list, just as mentioned above.

Sometimes, you might just discover that generic brands taste better than name-brands. Try it out.

Where To Look On the Shelves?

Grocery stores are a hub for screaming ads – maybe you just haven’t realized it. They are subtle and they are sneaky. Shelf space is the space where brands try to wiggle themselves in front of the consumer. This is why the middle shelves, or the ones you’re looking directly at will most often have your big brands, or the brands that can pay a pretty penny to get your attention. Look up and look down – your lower-cost generic brands will be placed here.

You just got a free lesson on how shelf space in grocery stores work. You’re welcome.

Examples Of Plant-Based Food Items That Are worth Buy Generic?

  1. Fruits
  2. Vegetables
  3. Seasonings & Spices
  4. Frozen produce
  5. Canned vegetables
  6. Canned beans
  7. Legumes
  8. Nuts & seeds
  9. Tomato sauce
  10. Rice

The next time you’re at the grocery store, take your time to really make the comparison between different brands along the same product-types. Make smarter and more affordable choices.


If you missed the last blog post, be sure to check out how having access to plant-based foods is the starting point to achieving plant-based on a budget.

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