Yes, buying store brands is a great way to save money on your grocery bill — but the truth is, sometimes you’re better off sticking with the name brand product.
Long-time readers who have been following my blog probably know that, since my first store brand challenge in 2009, I’ve conducted more than a dozen taste test experiments that have evaluated almost 30 products using an extensive panel of culinary experts. (Yes, that would be my wacky family!) In fact, over the years I’ve run product taste tests on almost everything you can think of: from ice cream and Oreos to peanut butter and margarine.
So I wasn’t too surprised when, last week, Elle Martinez invited me to be a guest on her Couple Money podcast to discuss store brand products and how they compare with their name-brand counterparts.
During the interview, Elle asked if my testing revealed any name brand products that the store brands just couldn’t beat when it came to quality and taste. Of course, there were; but only a few of them.
Here are the five worst-performing store-brand products from all of those experiments — at least according to my expert panel — whose taste and quality failed to match their more-famous name brand counterparts:
The name-brand Ritz cracker trounced its store-brand knock-off. In fact, it was no contest. Some of the words used by my expert panel to describe the store brand Ritz knock-off cracker were: “pasty,” “chalky,” and “flavorless.” The store brand crackers were also given demerits for having a weird texture. The general consensus was that the store brand version of Ritz famous cracker couldn’t match the original’s buttery flavor. All in all, the panel praised the Ritz crackers for being tastier and crispier.
This was another battle that was almost over before it started. It was Del Monte in a landslide. The biggest complaint about the store brand fruit cocktail was that it was too syrupy — but many of the panelists also grumbled about the lack cherries and almost-colorless fruit. According to the panel, the Del Monte fruit cocktail scored points on multiple fronts, including its fresh fruit taste, vibrant color and, of course, the inclusion of cherries.
White Corn Tortilla Chips
When it comes to white corn tortilla chips, my expert panel felt that the Tostitos brand was clearly better-tasting than its store brand imitation. The store brand tortilla chips were found to be too salty. The panel said the store brand chips just couldn’t match crispness and flavor of its name-brand competition.
The panel found that, when it comes to store-brand margarine, you don’t always get what you pay for. In my experiment, the store-brand margarine was so much worse than Land O’ Lakes Fresh Buttery Spread that fully one-third of the panelists gave the store brand a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F.’
How bad are store brand potato chips? Judging from my expert panel, pretty bad. In fact, here’s how they described them: “ordinary, “too salty,” “stale,” “bitter,” “blah,” and “lacked flavor.” And those chips came from the same bag, which suggests a complete lack of uniformity and quality control. The chips from Lay’s fared significantly better.
By the way, here is a summary chart showing just how poorly these five store-brand products performed against their name-brand counterparts, according to my expert panel:
So there you have it. Some times you really do get what you pay for. For these five items, the higher cost is worth considering despite price premiums between 75% and 112%.
That being said, I know what you’re thinking: If you’re looking to save money, the good news is my expert panel found far more store brand products that actually outperformed their name brand counterparts in terms of taste and quality. I cover those items in this article: 8 Store Brand Items That Are Superior to Their Name Brand Twins.
Photo Credit: robertstinnett