When Its Not Your Usual Purchase – the Food Store Brand Wars

by Bill on March 30, 2012

Compare use and value as well as savings in sales

There is one argument I have with a few people I know, and I’m sure I am not alone in having the argument with others. When buying generic or lesser known brands on sale is, or is not, a good deal.

Do you get the $0.85 Clover Valley soda or the $1.35 Pepsi?

Do you buy the peanut butter with more vegetable oil than peanut oil to save money?

Do Energizer batteries last longer than Ray-o-Vac?

Does Strohman bread taste better than store bread because its nearly one dollar higher?

Here’s a few things I’ve run into when buying generic or store brands compared to national brands.

Half the time it doesn’t matter. Here’s why:

  • Brand Difference – national brands have as many differences as those between store and national brands – example: if you buy Imperial margarine it is an oil based spread, compared to Blue Bonnet which is actual butter; now, I can tell you that any oil based spread is cheaper because it is just that, oil. It doesn’t matter what brand it is, just the amount of oil or fat in it.
  • Brands are Brands Only – many national brands also make store brands. I found this out one day in the bread aisle, and then again later that week in the dog food section. Strohman Bread is also made by the same people who bake Clover Valley (a brand name for Dollar General). Gravy Train brand dog food also makes Clover Valley dog food (which explains why my dog won’t eat either).

Quality Does Count in Brand Names

One thing I found out with lesser known brands is their ability to cut corners or use different ingredients. A prime example is peanut butter. I refuse to buy lesser known brand peanut butter. Why? Because every time I tried one it was mostly vegetable oil over peanut oil; compared to Jiff or Skippy that use almost all peanut oil. Two things prove this point: the taste, and the texture.

Then there is the quality between variations of the same brand. Case in point – cheese food product is not real cheese. Its an oil based processed something that looks like cheese. Read the labels of different Kraft products and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Another example is in bacon. Take a look at bacon the next time through the store. You have one brand (Oscar Mayer, Hormell etc) who make like five kinds of bacon. Get the one with the least amount of fat.

Reverse of the Rule

Now there are exceptions to all the rules I just tossed around above. Case in point with the examples below:

  • vegetables
  • cleaners
  • milk and dairy (excluding cheese)
  • water

Each of these will taste and act nearly the same as every other brand of the same item out there. Milk is milk wherever you go. Water is still H2O. Cleaners like window cleaner all have the same stuff in them, read the labels and see. Its all in the distribution and labor cost where the price difference comes into play. And maybe the advertising.

Lots of stores will have sales throughout the store on store brand items. Now, many store brands are comparable to name brands in quality. But there are products that do show a difference. The butter may be saltier, the soda has a different taste. The point here is to go ahead and get the sale items – but consider if the item will then sit unfinished or unused at home. If the product sits wasted at home what savings did you gain from buying it? If there are things that your family or you really do like its alright to stay with them instead of attempting to save pennies. In the end, wasted food doesn’t save anything.


Thoughts on this anyone?
William Swan, writer

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter March 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

We watch for sales but we don’t act on them very much. We don’t like clutter and we also don’t like to be wasteful. We will really only buy things that we need and when we need them. It is amazing how often people get suckered in.
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Bill March 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Hi Miss T

Same here. I keep track of what the sales are and if there is anything that may be useful. I tend not to switch around with brands too much if I don’t need to.

Jaine March 31, 2012 at 3:22 am

I always wait for sales. But as a concern consumer I always check the expiry dates. I love trying new arrival products.
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Bill March 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Welcome Jaine

Checking the expiration dates on sale items is something I would do too. Especially on items that spoil quickly. Sometimes the stores can’t get rid of them fast enough and put them out for quick sale. I’d say if you come across something like that get it and use it within a day or so.

The new arrival items are sometimes fun to try too. New flavors and variety are always nice.

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