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What's in a Name?

Posted by Whitney Ajie -

Generic brand, no-name brand, store brand, private label…these days generic products can be called so many things, but what’s really in a name? Consumers often have misconceptions about generic or store brand items, e.g. that generic products are for people with less money, that they always taste worse, or are always of lower quality or less nutritious.

The good news is that modern generic products are often very similar to name brand items. The main difference between a generic vs. brand name product is cost, with generic and store brands usually being cheaper unless the brand name item is on sale. Brand name products or “national brands” pay a pretty penny for extensive marketing and advertising on television, the internet, in schools and sports arenas, on their packaging, and even their location within the store. Therefore, when buying a store brand or generic brand, you pay LESS because you are not paying for the advertising. In addition, Consumer Reports calculated you could save an average of 25% off your entire bill by switching to store brand or other generic foods. How’s that for a pay off?

In two food comparison studies by Consumer Reports in 2010 and 2014, some store brand products tested better and the majority of the results showed there was little to no difference. This means, relative to the extra cost, trying the store brand or a generic brand of the same food product would be worth the savings. Plus, if you’re cooking with the products, chances are you will be changing the flavor anyway, so why pay more? Best of all, if you decide you don’t like the product most stores will give you a refund.

Nutritionally, the differences – if there are any – are usually minor. Nutrients that often differ between brand name and generic products are sodium, fiber, and sugar. These ingredients can change the flavor and texture of a food, but rarely are the differences so great that you could say one product is less nutritious than the other, which is great news for our budgets and our health.

The bottom line is, whatever you call them, give generic foods a try. Based on this evidence, the difference in the name just isn’t worth it.

Here is an “Awesome Granola” recipe to practice buying generic products that may even save you money in the long run by showing you how to make your own granola!

Wishing you the best of health,

Whitney Ajie

Illinois Nutrition Education Programs (INEP)

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