Is Generic Food Worth the Savings?

Generic products, or store brands, often taste the same, are made with the same ingredients, and cost less. Sometimes generic products are even made by the same company that makes the brand name products. What's not to like?

Generic, store brand, and premium store-brand food products that mimic popular name brand foods can be found in all large supermarkets. Because less money is spent on packaging, containers, and boxes are usually much plainer and simpler in design. And because no money is spent on national advertising of these products, that savings can be turned around to the customer. Some generic and store-brand foods are produced by name-brand companies while others are produced by manufacturers that specialize in private-label store brands.

An Australian study comparing the cost of generic foods to brand name foods in all categories, published in the April 2012 issue of the professional journal Public Health Nutrition, found the cost of buying generic to be 44 percent lower than the cost of buying branded foods. That means if you shop carefully and buy as many different generic foods as possible, you could spend close to half the amount that you would on brand names of the same or similar products. In this study, buying staples such as bread and cereal resulted in the most savings, while buying fruit products resulted in the least amount of money saved per item.

There are several things you can do to get the most for your money while trying to save:

  • Ask your supermarket manager who makes the generic products sold in the store.
  • Compare both the ingredients and the information found in the Nutrition Facts box on the product label.
  • Ask friends and family which generic products they use and are satisfied with. You may be disappointed from some products that aren't up to par with their brand name equivalents.

Sometimes, there is enough difference in the quality, nutritional contribution, appearance, or taste between a generic and brand-name product that you'll want to opt for a national brand. That's because some generic foods are not made from top-quality ingredients. On the other hand, some store-brand and premium store brand foods might be superior to brand names in many aspects, simply because the store is putting its name on the product and wants to maintain customer confidence and a good reputation. You'll have to judge most generic products on a case-by-case basis, to see if they meet your standards for quality and taste. Some staple products, however, such as flour and sugar, are so standard that it's not about taste or quality but strictly about savings. 



Chapman, K. et al. "A Comparison of the cost of Generic and Branded Food in Australian Supermarkets." Public Health Nutrition. 2012 Apr 4:1-7. Web. June 2012

University of Minnesota Extension: Stretching Your Food Dollar. Web 2012