Why Generic Is Just As Good: Sometimes It's Just A Different Wrapper?

This random, unverified comment scavenged from Metafilter archives syncs in with our preconceived notions and suspicions just enough that we’re going to publish it and wonder aloud if it is true:

When I was a kid I remember taking a tour of the big Wonder Bread factory in our town. I was scarred for life when I realized that one of the production lines for loaves of bread that I was following split into two packaging lanes just before the plastic went over the loaf. One lane was for Wonder, the other was for the local supermarket brand.

Is it really all just packaging? Bring on the blind taste tests.

Experts say Brand X is now significantly less distinguishable from name brands! [Metafilter]

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  1. B says:

    If generic brand is just as good as wonder bread, I’ll never buy generic brand bread again.

  2. wring says:

    i heart generic brands

  3. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    It really depends on what you buy. Canned vegetables doesn’t really seem to be a difference, as well as milk. I’ve also had good experience with mac and cheese.

    There used to be a Winn-Dixie here, and their generic brand is Thrifty Maid, which is just horrid.

  4. muckpond says:

    i’d have to be blind, deaf, dumb, and dead before i ate wonder bread.

  5. Cowboys_fan says:

    I typically but generic products, and not limited to the grocery store either. Some brands I just won’t budge on, like Coke and Cheerios. The budget brands just don’t cut it there. I especially but generic clothing as I refuse to advertise for companies for free, let alone to pay more to advertise for them free.

  6. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @muckpond: I remember on a news show a long time ago they fed some lab rats cardboard and some Wonder Bread and there was no nutritional difference between the two. That’s when I stopped eating white bread altogether.

  7. UpsetPanda says:

    We save so much money because we buy generic brand of something. A lot of times, you either don’t notice the difference or you actually *gasp* LIKE the generic taste better!! We buy generic jam, generic butter, generic jelly and generic bread a lot of times. Yeah we get through a jar of jelly maybe once every few months, but even a jar of smuckers is like $3.75 and generic is $2.75 so for every jelly jar we buy generic, we save a dollar. If the price difference was less than 50 cents it isn’t as worth it.

  8. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @Cowboys_fan: I’ve had pretty good luck buying the generic Rice Krispies from a couple of different chains (Farm Fresh, WalMart) and found them to be comparable.

  9. UpsetPanda says:

    My mother used to say that you never want to save money on health care, healthy food, and shoes. Seems weird to say shoes, but she said that everything else you can spend a little less on and you won’t be as negatively impacted, but a pair of ill-fitting shoes won’t make their cheap price seem any sweeter to you.

    I’ve had a lot of experience with cheap shoes (Payless) and expensive shoes, and it really depends on the individual person but overall, I will never stray too far from Nine West, Bandolino, BCBG or any other moderately priced name brand to devote myself exclusively to Target or Payless shoes. I have my fair share of $14.99 heels from Target, but they don’t offer the kind of support that a good pair of Nine West heels offer.

    I have a pair of shoes I bought at Target for $16 and a pair of Nine West shoes I bought for $55. I wore the Target ones for maybe 3 months before I gave up on them entirely. The Nine West ones are still comfortable and durable, 4 years later. A lot of times it really does pay to spend more.

  10. anatak says:

    “Is it really all just packaging?”

    Where else would it come from, Ben? Someone is making the stuff and with maybe a few exceptions, its not the grocery store. Some generics are a slightly different formula, but still being pumped out of the same factory as the name-brand stuff. The extra you pay for name brand buys you 1) brand, 2) more flavoring/grain/whatever they cut back on to produce the generic.

  11. QuantumRiff says:

    Don’t know if it is still true, but I remember years ago, that radio shack sold “optimus” branded stereo equipment. The stuff was Pioneer, but a different label put on the front. Same assembly line, different label, 30%-50% less..

  12. mst3kzz says:

    Nothing touches JIF Peanut Butter though. Generic can be just as good, but I say it is product-dependent.

  13. dj_skilz says:

    Aldi’s sums this article up well.

    I find that many products purchased there are actually better in taste than the brand name I used to purchase. Savings are amazing too.

  14. chas7926 says:

    I buy Sam’s Diet Cola and find the taste better than Diet Coke. In some cases generic brands are as good as or better than name brands, but in other cases the generic brand is awful.

  15. Red_Eye says:

    We have flowers bread plant in town. It produces quite a few brands and some varieties (Sunbeam Bread and Ideal bread) are allegedly identical.

  16. Eilonwynn says:

    It’s true – Significant Other worked in a bacon packaging plant as daily labour, and they simply split the line – the schneiders was no different from the no frills.

  17. Esquire99 says:

    If I remember correctly, Kroger brand peanut butter is produced by Peter Pan. At the exact same time as the Peter Pan salmonella recall, Kroger did the same thing. Coincidence?

  18. lincolnparadox says:

    @MissJ: My mom used to say never skimp on shoes, mattresses or cars. I’ll have her add health care and healthy food to her idiom.

    In college, I worked at a fruit processing plant called Red Wing Foods. It was a nice night job, and I liked it more for the chemistry than anything else. We processed food for Welch’s and Hunt’s. We also made jams, jellies, and condiments for Tops and Wegmans, local NY grocery chains. The only different between the two brands was the label, unless there was something special about the jar. From the point on, I always bought generic. You’re usually paying extra for a label.

  19. Greeper says:

    Buy a good brand: paper towels, soup, cereal, ice cream
    All the same: canned food, hi-tech consumer groceries (like bug spray and cleaning products), frozen veggies, bread, juice, cheese and dairy

  20. Streyeder says:

    It’s like Bryant, Payne, and Carrier air conditioners. In many cases their parts roll off the same assembly lines. You just don’t pay for the advertising with a Payne unit.

  21. adamondi says:

    I knew a woman who worked at a vegetable cannery, and she said straight up that the only difference between Del Monte stuff, and the local supermarket brand stuff was that when they were done canning and labeling the Del Monte stuff, they had to stop the line for a couple of minutes to switch to the supermarket brand labels, and then they would start right back up.

  22. TechnoDestructo says:

    @mst3kzz:

    Wait until someone breaks the story that Jif is going into Kroger or Safeway packaging.

    I generally give cheap brands of almost everything a try at least once. I like to know where I can continue to go cheap, and where I should actually spend for quality, and the only way to be sure is to try everything until you settle on something you’re going to keep buying.

    With bread, this is pretty much the ONLY way to do things, because sometimes the expensive brands suck.

  23. Starfury says:

    Things I won’t buy Generic:
    Ketchup. Heinz only.
    Soda: Diet Coke/Coke. Flavored (orange/Grape not too picky on.
    Cereal: Cheerios, Capn Crunch/Crunchberries

    Things I will buy Generic:
    Bread
    Milk
    Mayo
    Corn Flakes/Rice Krispies
    Sugar

    There are more things we’re not picky on and usually by the cheapest.

  24. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Greeper:
    Sometimes the store brand soups are pretty good, and sometimes I prefer them to name brands. This is especially true for condensed.

    BTW, I spoke to a Campbell’s salesman who informed me that a lot of store brand soups are made by Heinz, after Campbell’s sort-of drove them from the market.

  25. AcidReign says:

        I just LOVE the soft, chewy, sugary goodness of white bread. However, I’ve heard that the stuff isn’t good for you. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that bad bread is better for you than no bread, but…

        I found out about Nature’s Own white wheat. That stuff is the best “healthy” bread out there, bar none. As for generic bread right now, you get either perfectly fine-tasting white, or hockey-puck brown. At least where I live…

    And don’t tell me how it’s not really any good for you. I don’t need to know!

  26. CumaeanSibyl says:

    I’ve noticed that OTC generic medicines have a label that disclaims this practice. My PM painkiller from Walgreen’s says “This product is not manufactured or distributed by McNeil Consumer Products Co., owner of the registered trademark Tylenol PM Caplets.”

    There’s probably a liability reason for this sort of thing. Of course, Walgreen’s is probably using a Tylenol formula without a patent on it, just having it manufactured elsewhere.

  27. brennie says:

    True of the cosmetics industry as well. Department store line and drugstore line with same ‘ingredients’. Lancome=Loreal.

  28. MalachiConstant says:

    This is a common practice. I worked for nine years for one of the largest snack food manufacturers in the world. While this company did not make any “private label” product, our smaller competitors did. In fact, it was a significant portion of their business to produce store brands, I assume from the same product lines, as shutting down lines is very costly. This was the rule, not the exception for everything from milk to bread.

    Anecedotely, a neighbor of mine once told me a story of working for a company that only provided labeling of products. They would recieve a truck load of mayonaise and put several different labels on the product, everything from name brands to the name of cruise ship lines. All the same product.

    I’ve found that certain store brands can even be better quality. Not even sure how that works though.

  29. retailwhore says:

    I used to do data entry for Summit Bank (before it became Fleet, then BofA), and my job was to process the contents of lockboxes. This is how I learned that ShopRite’s applesauce was actually the same as that made by Mott’s. I no longer remember if this held up for the other Mott’s products, but I think I was a bit obsessed with applesauce at the time, so that’s probably why this bit of info stuck in my head.

  30. ekthesy says:

    As far as private label, Stop & Shop’s house brands “Simply Enjoy” and “Nature’s Promise” stack up very well across most product lines with the brand names.

    Woe betide those of you outside New England who do not know the joys of Stop & Shop.

  31. gtabacchi says:

    One product that to has a very noticeable difference to me between generic and brand name is graham crackers. Something about those magical elves I guess, but I tried generic in college and it just didn’t take.

  32. Nytmare says:

    Well I tried store-brand vs Del Monte brand canned veggies back-to-back just a few weeks ago, and they definitely taste different; I prefer the Del Monte for corn and peas.

  33. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Virtually all generic & store brand cereals are made by Malt-O-Meal or Ralcorp [the former Ralston Company]

  34. Nytmare says:

    I’ve also tried the Head-and-Shoulders knock-off store brand for a few weeks and my hair got gradually greasier so I switched back. Just haven’t had much luck with generic.

  35. juri squared says:

    @dj_skilz: Completely true. Aldi’s stuff can be great. Their frozen pizza and jarred spaghetti sauce are great, and so are their chicken patties.

    However, and trust me on this one, do NOT get the Aldi Pizza Rolls clone. NASTY.

    There aren’t many things where I’m picky about the brand. Facial tissue (I have allergies and go through a lot) and toilet paper are two.

    The biggest savings by far on generic is baby formula. A large can of generic formula is $12-$15. A can of Enfamil or Similac is $20-$25. That’s a LOT of difference on something that is strictly regulated by the FDA! My daughter’s pediatrician tipped me off on that one.

  36. UpsetPanda says:

    @ekthesy: I have found Simply Enjoy and Nature’s Promise brands in my area at various grocery stores, and we don’t have “Stop & Shop” here. I suppose those brands are carried by the same company that ownes Stop & Shop as well as my area grocery stores? We have Giant, Bloom, Food Lion in the D.C./Northern VA area.

  37. miburo says:

    It’s just cheaper to get things produced in a big factory in bulk for most things in the world. For some categories of products you’ll pay more for the customer service or quality testing. This is pretty much true for anything. not just food.

    Electronics, Clothing, Food etc etc. Everything is outsourced nowadays

  38. uricmu says:

    Bread is the one thing you should not buy either generic or prepackaged. Bread is meant to eat fresh, without preservatives.

    The US is the only place in the world where people would buy a week old bread in the supermarket at “generic price”. Even if it costs 4$ a loaf, try a whole-grain loaf from your local artisan bakery (and I don’t mean Panera), and you’ll see it tastes so good it can replace a more expensive meal, and have less chemicals.

  39. saltmine says:

    Everyone is saying store brand milk is just as good, but that’s one thing I strongly disagree on. Every since I tried Horizon organic milk, I shell out the extra 2 bucks each time. Why? Because their 1% tastes like whole, and its shelf life is close to 2 months. You’re lucky if the store brand lasts 3 weeks, not to mention that it’s most likely loaded with bovine growth hormone.

  40. Mary says:

    I thought it was common knowledge that off-brand and store-brand items were often made in the same exact plants as their name-brand counterparts. I wouldn’t doubt if the money you save really is reflected simply in the cost of the packaging, etc. I know I saw this on a news program recently…

  41. @public enemy #1: I drink a LOT of milk, but after several years of buying store-brand milk exclusively, I recently stopped. Lately a lot of the store brand milk I’ve bought has just tasted “weird.” Not nasty, or sour, just “off.” And it wasn’t just from one store–I bought from Target, Wal-Mart, and two different regional chains, and had frequent problems with each. I was reminded of the scene in Napoleon Dynamite where he identifies the defective milk (“The defect in this one is bleach…”), and wondered what was getting into my generic milk. I finally stopped buying store-brand milk–now I usually buy Roberts Dairy, which is ubiquitous here in Iowa–and have had nary a “weird” gallon since. (I also suspect that the store brand milk went bad faster, but that might just have been my imagination or coincidence.)

    I also avoid store brand cheese, because it doesn’t taste particularly good.

    Most generic breakfast cereals are very good, and I recall hearing many years ago that many generic cereals come off the same line as their brand name counterparts. Some of my “old standbys” like Cheerios and Cocoa Puffs don’t taste quite the same, so occasionally I’ll splurge and get the “real stuff,” but usually not.

    I’m very picky about orange juice and won’t tolerate generic or even off-brand, unless I’m *ahem* mixing it with something. Minute Maid, by the way, is far superior to Tropicana.

    I can’t stand generic Mac & Cheese. Store brand chips are usually pretty disappointing.

    These things are all exceptions to the rule, the rule being that generic is usually just as good. I always buy generic medicine (both over the counter and prescriptions), of course. Oh, and my favorite kind of packaged bagel is the generic ones they sell at HyVee, a regional chain. I love those things, and will buy them even if the brand-name bagels are on sale for less.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Ugh, white bread.
    I’m really big on cutting high fructose corn syrup out of my life and white bread is chock full of it. From the crazy expensive stuff to the generic brand in my grocery store, I forced my boyfriend to root through it all with me for 10 minutes trying to find one loaf without. I’ve sworn it off.

  43. SkyeBlue says:

    I wish someone had a website or blog that listed all the generic brands that are made by the name brand comapnies!

  44. Trai_Dep says:

    Generic cocaine tastes a lot different than the name-brand stuff.

  45. UpsetPanda says:

    Ahh, the plight of the cash-strapped college student. My roommate and I used to buy trash bags from the dollar store. They smelled like vanilla (it couldn’t have been very good for you, like the new car smell) but it was $1 a box of 50 or so bags. Since we only emptied the trash a few times a week, if there was nothing in one trash bin but the other one was overflowing, all you do is put the contents of one bin into another bag and re-use that bag. As long as there wasn’t any leftover food, just paper, it was fine to use again and they were just as durable as the hefty or glad trash bags.

  46. Christopher says:

    It’s been mentioned a couple times, but why do generic Cheerios taste so horrible? I use generic for a large portion of my food stuff, and rarely notice a difference, but the two times I had generic Cheerios I seriously thought I might throw up. They are absolutely totally awful.

    It makes me wonder what General Mills does to Cheerios to make them not taste bad, LOL.

  47. mmcnary says:

    I will usually use a generic version of almost anything, but if I’m making Rotel dip, I have to use real Velveeta. The generic stuff doesn’t melt the same, it turns oily and separates. Since the difference in price of the Rotel vs. store brand is about 10 cents, I go with the Rotel.

  48. ekthesy says:

    @MissJ:

    Yup. Both Giant and Stop & Shop are owned by the Dutch global grocery conglomerate Royal Ahold, so it’s not surprising you’d find NP and SE goods at the Giant as well.

    And re: the dollar store, I’ve moved a few times in the last decade, and every move has occasioned a trip to the local dollar store for cleaning supplies (clean the apartment, throw away very dirty mops and brooms, regain security depo$$$it!) and trash bags, the poor man’s moving boxes.

  49. Cisslepants says:

    I looove the store brand stuff at HEB, here in TX. When I lived in MI, the Meijer brand stuff was pretty good, too.

    I second the question about generic Cheerios. The taste and texture for the generics is just wrong. I tried the Aldi kind a few years ago, and the thought still makes me gag a little.

  50. SinA says:

    More like a ‘bland taste-test’ … Ok. that was bad.

    But seriously, if you’re buying Wonderbread you’ve already decided that you don’t really care about the quality of food you put in your body. It’s nearly impossible to stick with 100% of the time but local foods, slow foods, and unprocessed foods are much better for you. They’re also better for your community.

  51. A cashier at Trader Joes once regaled me on the fact that most of their generics are repackaged name brands. By way of example, he told me they were literally selling Triscuits in Trader Joes boxes.

    I believe it, but it would seem that our anecdotal evidence leans more heavily towards baked or prepackaged goods (triscuits, bread, canned goods, frozen foods) than dairy.

    p.s. who the hell eats wonder bread? And who the hell made that mildly disturbing drawing?

  52. UpsetPanda says:

    @ekthesy: Oh the memories of using trash bags to move 50 lb. of clothing.

    @krylonultraflat: Trader Joes is fantastic, but what strikes me as hilarious is that a lot of people will go to Trader Joes, riding on the healthy trendy organic bandwagon and not realize that when they buy Trader Joes, they’re buying store brand items. The same people go to Wegmans and Whole Foods and buy store brand items and think they are fashionable, better than generic store brands at their “regular” grocery store.

    One thing I won’t ever skimp on is meat. It’s weird to say people will skimp on meat, but there are a lot of brands that I just don’t consider as good. Also, off topic from generic vs. brand, but I won’t buy frozen or vacuum frozen chicken. Freeze it and store it for 2 weeks before packing it off to sell at a store, where it will linger for another week and a half, that sure sounds nice….

  53. siegll says:

    A bagel should never, ever have a brand name and never be packaged. That is just so wrong…

  54. Crazytree says:

    This is factual.

    Wonderbread shut down a LA-area plant about 2-3 months ago, and the article in the newspaper said they supplied several store brands.

  55. gafpromise says:

    Trader Joes, absolutely yes. Aldi, a qualified yes (I don’t trust their fresh stuff). I don’t mind buying generic food. Mostly the extra money just feeds the advertising budget. I’m more hesitant with health products, OTC remedies, beauty stuff etc. When I find a brand that works for me I tend to stick to it and not experiment.

    My husband works at Trader Joe’s and he says the same thing, that they work with suppliers who are providing the exact same product to big brand name distributors.

  56. Hawkins says:

    Go to the drug store. Pick up a Listerene bottle. Read off the ingredients to your confederate, who’s holding Brand X mouthwash. You will find an exact match.

    Repeat for anything everything else you can find that has a generic equivalent. Most of the time, you’ll get a dead-on match.

  57. randombob says:

    If you are in the So Cal region and like cinnamon rolls….

    The generic Stater Bros. variety (8-pack) are FAR superior to Pilsbury and the like. It was one of those “wow” moments for me! and a quick cooking tip: undercook them slightly. They’re much better that way, trust me (and everyone that eats my cinnamon rolls who agrees!).

    But then I moved far far away and had to give them up…. So sad!

  58. Anonymous says:

    In general, generic medicine is just as good as name-brand medicine. This is because generic medicine is required by law to have the exact same active ingredients as their name-brand counterparts. This is because of the economics behind the drug approval process. It’s extremely expensive to submit a NDA (new drug application) to get a new drug approved, but once a new drug has been approved, the FDA allows generic drug manufacturers to submit an ANDA (abbreviated new drug application), which is much, much cheaper. The caveat is that the generic manufacturer must prove their drug is IDENTICAL to the name brand version. What usually happens when the patent on a new drug expires is that lots of generic manufacturers jump in and submit ANDA’s for the generic version of the drug. In order to compete with these generics, sometimes the makers of the name brand drug makes their own “generic”, which is the exact same drug, off the same assembly lines, but with different packaging. So a generic drug may or may not be made in the same factory as the name brand drug, but they all have the same active ingredients.

    I know this because I used to work in the pharmaceutical industry. And my brother is a pharmacist. We always buy the generic version of a drug if it’s available.

  59. Raanne says:

    @TechnoDestructo:

    is it? because I always liked Jiff, and bought it – because the meijer brand peanut butter is gross. but the kroger brand does taste just like jiff…

    really though, its about trial and error. I know never to buy meijer-brand peanut butter… (it tastes like the papery peanut “shell”)

  60. morganlh85 says:

    The only name-brand that generics have not managed to copy well is Oreos.

  61. Elvisisdead says:

    OK, for medicine, it’s really just a chemical formula. Of course it’s the same.

    My cousing worked for ConAgra for several years, and he confirmed that many store-brand items are the branded items that are packaged differently. He specifically mentioned that organics were the same as non-organic. Pasta sauce was the specific topic of discussion.

  62. Notsewfast says:

    @Cisslepants:
    HEB is the thing I miss the most about TX, Safeway in CO just doesn’t cut it.

    Generics are generally good replacements for staples (outside of soda.) That being said, canned veggies are pretty disgusting overall… My girlfriend tried to cook one night and opened up some Del Monte canned asparagus (a vegetable that I love) and I almost threw up. For the same price you can (seasonally) buy fresh veggies at a farmer’s market.

    Also, White bread is only acceptable in 2 instances: BLT’s and on the side of brisket…

  63. consumerd says:

    Proctor and gamble (makers of luvs, pampers, always, and other brands) even make generic stuff for their products. I used to be a case packer operator (before college) on a line that made maxi pads for Always, always save, wal-mart, hy-vee was another one I saw was johnson & johnson, and a bunch of others. I think they made quite a few for Dollar General stores as well. I can tell you there are quite a few generic brand products that have generic labels but came from that place.

    The only difference P&G did is what you paid in price. There was just about virtually no difference between the generic and the regular ones. Just the packaging was all that changed. Most generic vendors even supplied the boxes and supplies, all p&g did was supplied the pad.

  64. coreyander says:

    There are a few things that I tend to buy from “name brands”, but it is mostly because I am picky about ingredients and/or prefer some specialty brand because I’m bourgeois. I only use canola based mayonnaise, so that excludes most (soybean based) store brands. I avoid HFCS, which is used as filler in a lot of store brands of, uh, everything. Huy Fong sauces, Bob’s Red Mill grains, Tillamook cheese, C&H baking sugar (ultrafine!), and Silk soymilk are brands I always prefer to generics.

    But… there are also tons of things that I happily buy generic/store brand: soda/seltzer (okay, it isn’t always as tasty, but SO MUCH CHEAPER), trash bags, sandwich bags, pasta, canned goods, cereal, otc analgesics, butter, cooking oil, and so much more.

  65. @morganlh85: Hear, hear.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that many different in-house brands come from the same supplier, which I suppose shouldn’t surprise anyone. But one day I compared a Wal-Mart brand Pantene knock-off to a Target brand equivalent, and found that, although they were scented differently, and the bottles were shaped differently, the copy on the back of the bottles was almost word-for-word identical.

    Speaking of shampoo, I used to spend a fortune on Finesse products until all of my favorite stores stopped carrying it (pretty much simultaneously–I’m still curious as to why). Eventually I switched to the aforementioned Target Pantene knock-off, and haven’t looked back. It doesn’t smell as great, but my hair is just as nice, and it costs about a third as much.

  66. I agree with the lot of you, generics from my local Publix chain are quite tasty! Lately they have even been doing sales/promotions where if you buy a brand name item they give you their brand free.. It’s like a BOGO taste test!

    Of course stuff like Coke has a distinct flavor so I’ll splurge even if the price is getting pretty outrageous!!

  67. bnorton says:

    @Swirlee

    I have to agree with you about the generic dairy. I live in Iowa too. Every Fairway employee will swear that AE and fastco brands are the same but I sure don’t think so. The cheese doesn’t last nearly as long. I will use HyVee brand cheese if I am going to put it in something but not if its going to be eaten plain.

    I also will opt to spend extra on OJ the cheap stuff gives me heart burn. My brand is Simply Orange. They make a killer lemonade too if you don’t mind spending $1.50 more for it.

  68. legotech says:

    When I worked in the meat department at a supermarket chain in Indiana our store brand bratwurst was made by Johnsonville. (well, aside from the stuff we actually made in the store I mean)

  69. You can often find out with a little research who does the packaging on your supermarket’s generics (like Kraft does a LOT of generic cheeses).

    Other than soda (which someone mentioned above), I buy almost everything generic that comes generic, EXCEPT low-fat cream cheese.

    Regular cream cheese is fine generic, tastes exactly the same, but the low-fat generic doesn’t spread as well as the Philly. Like, not NEARLY as well!

    (I am still somewhat stunned that milk actually comes in “brands.” Um … it’s milk? There’s brand differentiation???)

  70. OwenCatherwood says:

    @Swirlee: It depends on the store. Wal-Mart uses local dairies for their milk rather than pay to ship stuff around the country, though YMMV in terms of how good the dairy they choose is…

    As for bread, Great Harvest Bread Co. FTW!

  71. Buran says:

    @david_consumerist: Really? I’ve been eyeing the generic version of those with suspicion because I’ve had bad luck with other brands, so how good can the generics be? Maybe I’ll try the cheap ones next month. Thanks.

    Whether I go generic or not depends on what I’m buying… I tried generic parmesan cheese once and it didn’t even compare to Kraft’s.

  72. Buran says:

    @rainmkr: I like Coke, but most of the year they use corn syrup to sweeten it, which isn’t all that great for you, so I’m going to have to stock up on the kosher version in December.

    I am also probably going to order some Dublin Dr. Pepper, the sort with real cane sugar, later this year.

  73. Trai_Dep says:

    My mind is still boggled at the fact that not only do people buy Velveeta, but they go the extra mile and get generic Velveeta? Is that like a photocopy of a photocopy of a block of cheese?

  74. UpsetPanda says:

    @Elvisisdead: Wait, organic products were the same as non-organic? Isn’t that a violation of something? Call to arms! Man the cannons!

  75. SadSam says:

    I shop at Publix and the generics are just the same or better than brand items for just about everything.

  76. billy says:

    Sometimes, though, one company makes several brands but they are not identical. I’m thinking specifically of the dog food recall from a few months ago. One company made several types of food, but they were formulated differently for each brand. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens in the “people food” business, too.

    Also, generic drugs are, by law, formulated to have the same active ingredients as trademarked drugs.

  77. RvLeshrac says:

    @Cowboys_fan:

    Coke CAN be replaced by a properly chilled Kroger (Big K) 2-liter. Or used to, anyway – the formula is turning WAY too Pepsi-sweet lately.

    @gafpromise:

    Agreed on Trader Joe’s. Aldi is good in the prepared-foods (Frozen, vacuum-packed, and fresh/refrigerated) and canned-veggies categories, while losing on produce. I will say that the Aldi-branded ravioli-in-a-can suffers from the ‘sauce is too sweet’ issue that most store-brand Chef Boyardee knock-offs have.

    The *strange* thing there is that Trader Joe’s and Aldi are the EXACT SAME COMPANY.

  78. RvLeshrac says:

    @Buran:

    I’d love to stock up on the kosher Coke, but we apparently don’t have enough jews here for anyone to carry it. :/

  79. RvLeshrac says:

    Oh, and as a matter of record, all non-organic milk with the exception of Mayfield seems to come from the same dairy farms – though store-brand milk is more likely to come from a closer dairy than nationally-branded milk. I’m not saying that Mayfield is necessarily better milk (butitis), just that they exercise a little more control over the source.

    Eggs are the same, those that aren’t cage-free.

    The only dairy you’ll really find differences in is cheese, but that’s primarily because there are a metric assload of cheese brands and types.

  80. RvLeshrac says:

    @MissJ:

    I’m on a reply-roll here. I should really combine all of these next time.

    That would make sense, except that a lot of them were ‘organic’ to begin with. To paraphrase, I don’t think that word legally means what you think it means.

  81. UpsetPanda says:

    What’s the difference between USDA organic and “organic” labeling…sort of nothing, but it makes a lot of difference. I don’t buy organic milk unless it has the USDA label because it doesn’t have to contain 100% organic anything. At least the USDA requires 95%.

    Riddle me this – why does organic milk last longer than “regular” milk?

  82. samurailynn says:

    @MissJ: I have been wondering that exact thing about the organic milk for a while now. It works out great for us though, as we use hardly any milk and therefor would never get through a carton of regular milk in time.

  83. Johnny Blackshoe says:

    Keystone Light is Coors Light. Keystone is marketed to college kids.

  84. xredgambit says:

    Oreo’s and Cheerio’s.

    Maybe if the name of a product ends in o it’s impossible to get the forumla right.

    And pepsi and video games. But it’s kinda hard to have a store brand generic halo. But I do like Ultimate Captin better than Master Cheif.

    But I do find “generic” recordable dvds are normally better than any name brands their are.

  85. UpsetPanda says:

    Mountain frost and Mr. Pep were always horrible generics of Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. At least Main Street root beer had the decency to not call itself anything related to Barqs or A&W.

    This [www.cracked.com] has a list of the top 10 “poor man’s” items. Mello Yello is indeed the poor man’s Mountain Dew.

  86. SaraAB87 says:

    I made the switch to multi-grain or wheat breads about a month ago and I am not looking back, not to mention I hardly notice the taste difference dare I say it even tastes better than white bread.

    I agree with the shoes though, your better off buying one pair of good fitting 50$ shoes than buying 5 pairs of ill-fitting 10$ shoes, its a waste of money if your going to throw those 10$ shoes in the closet and never wear them again, only to buy more cheap shoes. Not to mention it creates unecessary clutter that you could easily eliminate. Of course it depends on what you can find to fit you. I am easily pleased with shoes because of my size once I find a pair that fits I will take it no matter the price.

  87. This is a known fact – I previously sent an email to Consumerist’s email address that really struck a chord with me. I was reading a Safeway matchbook wrapper that came right out and said their brands are the same as this company, that company, and the other – I can’t remember word for word what it said now.

    I used to work in a grocery store as a stock-boy – it’s public knowledge that the name-brand items are the same as the store-brand. In the south, Sunbeam bakes all of the IGA brand bread – the only difference, IGA bread is baked a few hours prior to the Sunbeam. Dole does all of the store brand canned fruits/veggies. Yes, Charmin and Huggies do the store brand toiletry items.

    This doesn’t mean they are exactly the same though – the store brand are still of cheaper quality, but it does provide a bit of reassurance to at least try the store brand and see if it fits your needs/wants.

    Ask your local stockboy or the grocery section manager who makes the store brand – more often than not, they will tell you – it doesn’t hurt their paycheck any.

    PS: The low quality hamburger comes in with high-fat and leaves with even more, all the shit-beef fat that is trimmed from the prime cuts gets tossed into the grinder as well. Hamburgers comes in large tubes and is run through a grinder that turns it into the pretty spiral-strings shape you know and love. The cheap stuff also gets the fat from other cuts of meat that were processed throughout the day (nothing comes in ready for packaging, a lot is trimmed prior to wrapping, and stocking).

  88. CyGuy says:

    @jurijuri: “The biggest savings by far on generic is baby formula. A large can of generic formula is $12-$15. A can of Enfamil or Similac is $20-$25. That’s a LOT of difference on something that is strictly regulated by the FDA!”

    Just make sure you are getting a kind with added AA & DHA fatty acids. While the formula is regulated by the FDA, the formula lobby kept the US regulators from requiring these vital nutrients from being required as they are in the EU and Canada. They are absolutely critical for brain and eye development and if you aren’t breastfeeding, you might as well be feeding your baby from a lead-tainted bottle as feeding her formula without these as the effect effect brain development is just as significant.

    [www.ars.usda.gov]
    [pediatrics.about.com]

  89. sycophant says:

    Generic brands are almost always manufactured on contract by a larger ‘name brand’ manufacturer. It’s a necessity – one generic brand can’t maintain production facilities to produce products in every conceivable category.

    However depending on the brand and the product the actual generic brand product may differ from the name brand product manufactured at the same facility. In many cases a production line will run for a period of time making one brand, then be setup for a different one. So the labeling will be changed, and the ingredients and recipe (in the case of food) may be changed.

    In other cases, it really is like the Wonderbread example, where the same product exactly may be simply put in different packaging.

    Othertimes a generic product may be manufactured by a company in the same category, but one that doesn’t produce a directly competing product. For example, in New Zealand, at least one supermarket brand of corn flakes is made by a very large cereal company, but that company doesn’t market their own brand of corn flakes.

    One thing I’ve found to be a give away sometimes is to compare nutritional information and ingredients list between products I suspect of being the same. In some cases they are identical, and clearly the same product in different packaging.

  90. Buran says:

    @RvLeshrac: Try the kosher aisle in supermarkets, or maybe you could inquire at a local synagogue.

    I haven’t bought it before consciously because I didn’t know about it, but my local grocery store has a kosher section, and I have a local global food market in the area.

    I am really hoping that as more corn is used to make ethanol for vehicle use (which I applaud; it’s about time) maybe more soda makers will return to using cane sugar. For now, I buy local microbrew cane sugar soda. Yum.

  91. Scooter says:

    Guess I better switch back to whale oil for the holiday season.

  92. Confuzius says:

    I have personally been in a Humpty Dumpty production plant and saw the lines split, one bag went into Humpty Dumpty bags and the other line went into Zel bags (Zeller’s / Maxi house brand, in Quebec at least (15 years ago))

    Same actually goes for LCD monitors, but there is a quality devision. I have a friend who works for a large electronic componant distributor and probably 90% of lcds sold are manufactured by Samsung, after production they are graded A,B or C for quality, “A” becomes a samsung tv or monitor, “B” becomes another brand, and “C” is often Insignea or other store brand.

  93. ltlbbynthn says:

    @MissJ: my mom always said that too. We shopped at KMart for my clothes, but would go to the department store or easy spirit for shoes. You can always tell when shoes are from payless or target. However they try to look trendy, you can tell they are plastic and probably hurt a lot. My grandma used to talk about ladies who had to wear orthopedic shoes b/c they wore cheap shoes and broke them in. Nice thing to pass down

  94. AbstractConcept says:

    Yeah, Generic is usually good with some exceptions..

    I agree with Starfurry about ketchup and Cheerios. They just don’t taste the same. The generic cheerios are good in their own right, but they’re bigger and don’t taste the same…

  95. Sidecutter says:

    It’s not food, but there are some similar things going on in computer components. I swear up and down to anyone who wants to know about thermal interface material (thermal paste) to apply between a chip and the heatsink that Antec Formula 5 is just repackaged, and much cheaper, Arctic Silver 5.

    Same contents (99.9% silver), same medium used to suspend the silver particles, same EXACT heat dissipation and resistance ratings, even the same color and consistency. But the Antec brand costs about half as much for the “big” syringe of the stuff. Heck a small chain (Computers Plus) we have locally sells the Antec big tube for $9.99. Circuit City charges $17.99 for the same tube of TIM.

  96. SaraAB87 says:

    @MissJ & LTLBBYNTHN

    Not only will cheap shoes cost you in comfort but in later years you will have to pay for things such as orthopedic shoes and podiatrist appointments so your not saving in the long run. You can also forget ever being able to wear heels or anything trendy as orthopedic shoes are NOT trendy at all. I never had those cheap, plastic character shoes as a kid either, but the rest of the kids did. Even my grandmother who was very poor bought the best shoes for her kids. I can understand cheap shoes for a one-time event such as a wedding however not for daily wear.

    If your strapped for cash and need shoes try buying a better pair at a discount store, you may have to buy a style of sneaker thats slightly outdated (maybe like 6 months old) however they will still be brand name and cost much less than the latest styles, and most likely no one will notice! You could also try looking on ebay to purchase another pair of a favorite style, most of the time these shoes are offered at a discount but beware of fakes!

  97. yttri says:

    Sally’s Beauty has a line of generic hair products that are based off popular and more expensive products like Paul Mitchell and Bedhead. The formulas are slightly different but the price is so much better.

  98. JeannieGrrl says:

    A family friend worked at the big McCain plant in New Brunswick Canada, he told us and named off about four different generic and lower price brands of french fries and pies and cakes that McCain packaged. One day we were in the local supermarket and a lady was comparing two bags of frozen hash browns and loudly proclaiming the “better” of the two being the McCain name label. Our friend actually stopped her and told her that the two came from the same production line and split off for bagging and she snuffed and said “well they must use some kind of coating in the *cheap* bags then because McCain is much better quality!” we just laughed at the uppity old busybody and left her to her delusions…

  99. WTRickman says:

    I worked for Atkins Pickle Plant, a subsidiary of Dean Foods, back when I was in high school. I know for a fact, that our pickles, which were branded ‘Atkins Pickles’ were also labeled Kraft, IGA, Shur Fine, Best Choice, Always Save, Price Saver, and others.

    I worked in labeling, and the very same pickles were labeled in a hundred different brands.

  100. RvLeshrac says:

    @Buran:

    Ha, I didn’t even think about calling up a synagogue. I guess that would make too much sense. :p

    Thanks for the idea.

  101. LucyInTheSky says:

    why would you eat wonder bread or anything like it anyway? its like 90% air, it has no flavor, and it sticks to your teeth in a most unpleasant manner.