Store Brands Fare Well in Taste Test

A report released this week by Consumer Reports has some unappetizing news for national food and beverage brands: In taste tests pitting 21 big-name brands against store brands in a range of categories, the former beat the latter just seven times. The store brands beat the national brands three times, and the other 11 matchups resulted in ties.

Using “trained testers” as tasters, Consumer Reports found Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Oscar Mayer packaged slices of turkey breast, Sargento mozzarella cheese, Birds Eye frozen peas, Land O’Lakes unsalted butter, Ore-Ida frozen french fries and Bumble Bee canned chunk light tuna besting the store-brand competition. (Store brands in the study included the likes of Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Safeway and Kroger.)

Though its turkey slices beat the store brand, Oscar Mayer’s hot dogs were bested by the America’s Choice alternative from A&P. Food Lion’s chicken noodle soup was rated better than the Campbell’s version, and the trained testers gave Publix Premium orange juice the nod over Tropicana.

Managing a mere tie with the store-brand alternative were Canada Dry ginger ale, Skippy peanut butter, Kellogg’s Fruit Loops, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Kraft Singles cheese slices, Dannon yogurt, Dole pineapple slices, Lay’s Classic Potato Chips, Mott’s apple sauce, Jell-O pudding and Heinz ketchup.

Trained testers aren’t the only ones who find store brands quite acceptable. In a national survey of consumers, also included in the report, 84 percent of respondents said they’ve bought store brands in the past year. And of those who’d done so, 93 percent said they’d continue to buy as many store brands even after the economy recovers. Just 17 percent agreed with the view that “brand-name foods are more nutritious” than store brands.

While they’re waiting for the economy to recover, consumers can enjoy the savings that store brands offer. The report says a sampling of products at five supermarket chains showed store brands averaging 30 percent less expensive than the national brands.

You might think that older shoppers, who came of age when “generics” were widely viewed as a second-rate alternatives, would be the most likely to be wary of store brands. Instead, the survey found its 18-39-year-olds respondents the most likely to question the quality of store brands.