Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Product Review: Generic v. Name Brand

Are there some name brand store items that you just can’t get away from? We’ve always been name brand snobs in the W house. I think some of it stems from the fact that I grew up on generic and bulk as a child because we were very poor. So today I feel that we can splurge and get the name brand stuff, so I just do.

But times have changed and many of the store brands are actually the exact same thing as the name brand. Remember the peanut butter salmonella scare in 2006. It wasn’t just Peter Pan that was recalled but the Wal-Mart brand too. They were the exact same peanut butter manufactured in the exact same facility, they just had different labeling. And the WM brand was sold much cheaper! This is probably when it really hit me that sometimes there isn’t much of a difference in generic, if any at all.

So lately I’m experimenting a little with some of the generic/store brands. Some of them have been completely unnoticeable changes from the name brand, but others are different enough that l’ll probably avoid them in the future. Here are some of my latest discoveries:

The Good

Target Papertowels v. Bounty
I’m a Bounty girl by marriage. N prefers the Bounty select-a-size, even though Viva has always been my brand of choice because they are SO soft. But Viva doesn’t have select-a-size, so Bounty is my compromise. Mandy recommended the Target brand select-a-size to me a few weeks ago and I decided to try them. All I can say is wow. I’m impressed. They’re thick, absorbent, come in the select-a-size, and plain. No bunny decorations on my paper-towels please. So I’d give Target brand papertowels a two thumbs up! Wondering now if their toilet paper is as good a quality???

Target Breakfast Cereals v. Various Name Brands
I’m not much of a cereal eater because of my food allergies, but N is a fiend for cereal. He usually eats two bowls a day as his late-night snack, which means lots of cereal during the week. I’ve experimented with some generic brands and he says he can’t tell the difference. So at $1 or $2 cheaper a box, we’re sticking with some of the following: Target raisin bran, Malt-O-Meal frosted mini-wheats, Mal-O-Meal oat circles. Sorry for the bad naming…I don’t know the actual names off the top of my head. And maybe I shouldn’t, but I’ve considered Malt-O-Meal generic only because they come in those HUGE plastic bags at the end of the aisle. I might need to rethink this one…

Target canned goods v. Del Monte, Green Giant, Bush’s, and Ro-Tel
So far I’ve tried the Target canned tomatoes, green beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, green chiles, and rotel type tomatoes. I’ve seen no difference whatsoever in flavor, consistency, amount and are all safe for my allergy-ridden diet. But at .25 to .75 a can cheaper, this can have a major impact on your grocery budget. Another two thumbs up!

Target frozen goods v. Tree Top, Green Giant, and Minute Maid
So far I’ve purchased Target’s frozen apple juice, orange juice, frozen corn, and frozen peas. Again, no difference is noted except in cost. Sometimes it’s only .12 a can cheaper or .25 a bag cheaper, but that might just be the amount I need to save to stay under budget for the week. So another two thumbs up!

The Bad and Ugly

Target Roasted Tomato Salsa v. Arriba Roasted Tomato Salsa
I was so excited to try this generic brand because it looked so yummy in the jar and was more than a dollar cheaper than my regular salsa. Dark flecks of roasted tomato and big chunks of peppers. Wow, was this a disappointment. Green pepper was overwhelming and the consistency of Pace. Not to bash on you Pace fans, but as a Texan, Pace is just an unacceptable form of salsa unless you’re a broke college kid with a 6-pack of Nat Light to wash it down. Bleh. Arriba is a smidge spendy on $4 a jar, but what good is the savings if the generic is going down the disposal uneaten? We went back to our yummy expensive salsa.

Target Long Pantyliners v. Kotex Long Everydays
Sorry to review such a personal item, but I have to share this or someone else might make the same mistake. I was very excited about it because for a box the same size as Kotex, it was about half the price. Another disappointment. They’re smaller, less absorbent, the tape on the underside doesn’t go to the edges, so sometimes they come undone, which is never a good thing. Because they’re less absorbent, you find yourself reaching for a fresh one multiple times a day. Again, a total waste of “savings” if you’re using twice as much, even if it’s half the cost. Next time, I’m going back to the Kotex.

I’m sure there are other items I’ll be exploring in the generic side of the aisles, so as I come up with more comparisons, I’ll post about them. If you have any suggestions or have experimented with some generics on your own, please let me know.


  1. I am not sure I'm as tough as you. I'm a registered brand snob, too. Del Monte, Bounty, and DL Jardine's $5.99 7J Ranch Campfire Roasted Salsa are my friends! Maybe someday with more mouths to feed!

  2. Target's premium toilet paper isn't so bad ;)

  3. Suzanne, yes, we are fans of the DL Jardines too! This past week we got Clints. Had forgotten how yummy this one was. I think I like it better than Arriba. Either way, the Target brand will NOT be purchased again. Awful.

    Alison - thanks for the recommendation on the TP. I'll brave it next time.

  4. Interesting post. I find that we buy much more in bulk these days at our friendly wholesalers that there are just certain brands we buy because it is more cost effective to do so that way.

    I will say that a few new foods have crossed my path lately due to "counting points". If you are looking for decent low cal options in ice cream the Weight Watchers brands are good. I have also added into my repetoire "Fiber Plus Antioxidants" snack bars (with chocolate chips, of course!) Name brand good! Wal-Mart Brand, blech!

    Keep 'em coming, Momma!

  5. This is really helpful!! =) I always try to buy the generic brands of things if I can and if the quality is still the same. I'm into safeway brands and so far, it seems to be working out okay. They've got some quality stuff. I'm now gonna try for target brands although I don't shop there very much because of how far away it is. We will see. Thanks for this post!!! =)

  6. Jenn, Safeway brands have been pretty good too. We see those at our Tom Thumb store. But Tom Thumb is generally VERY expensive in comparison to Target, so I only enter those doors if they have a really great sale item. (Which sometimes they do, so it's worth it.)