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May 10, 2021

Are store brands as good as the national brands?

National brand or store brand? The debate has continued for years, from researchers studying consumer behaviour to parents looking to save money on supermarket items.

Recent research suggests that 80 per cent of global consumers feel store brands are the same as, or better than, national brands at providing a variety of benefits, according to surveys conducted by Ipsos Marketing. 

There’s no denying that you can save a lot of cash at the store by buying store brand products instead of name brands. But do they taste as good?

For the most part, yes, says Consumer Reports, reaffirming the perception that store brands have morphed from bland, sub par products to true competitors for name brand foods.

In blind tests, a CR team of trained tasters compared a major national brand with a store brand in 29 food categories. Store and national brands tasted about equally good 19 times. Four times, the store brand won; six times, the national brand came out ahead.  

What's more, the store-brand foods tested cost an average of 27 per cent less than big-name counterparts.

Price gaps have less to do with what goes into the package than with the research, development, and marketing costs that help build a household name, CR maintains.

Which is not that surprising when you consider that many national manufacturers also produce "private label" or store brand products for major grocery chains.

Not that you’ll every get complete agreement on this one. Frugal blogger Len Penzo doesn't have a warehouse full of taste testers at his disposal, so he rounded up a bunch of family members and, in a subsequent test, neighbourhood children to wear the blindfolds.

Click here, here, and here for his test results on everything from generic soup to no-name cereal.

What’s your experience with substituting store brand items? Any store brand products that just didn't cut it?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...