Generic Groceries: Tastes Great, Less "Billing"

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If you want to reduce the size of your grocery bill, generic groceries are the way to go.

But what is the benefit of buying cheaper food if it tastes like cardboard?

The good news: The refined palates of skilled taste testers found that many store-brand foods are as good if not yummier than their pricey name-brand counterparts, according to Consumer Reports.

Surprising Taste Test Results
In blind taste tests of 29 different food categories conducted by Consumer Reports, brand-name and no-name foods tasted about equally good 19 times, national brands were better six times and generics actually beat out brand names in taste four times.

What’s more, the store-brand foods tested were about 27% cheaper than the name-brand goods, about how much cheaper most store brand products are, according to Consumer Reports.

Some examples of good generics to consider? Costco sells wine and champagne under its Kirkland Signature label (Stock Quote: COST). (Also their vanilla costs 35 cents per ounce, that's a lot less than McCormick's vanilla which goes for $3.34.) Select ShopRite offerings are imported; their red peppers are from Greece (Stock Quote: VLGEA). And if you purchase store-brand bouillon, pudding or salsa, there's a good chance it was manufactured by Hormel Foods Corp (Stock Quote: HRL).

Generics: You've Come a Long Way

When store-brand products were first introduced in the 1970s, they may not have been as good as name brands, admitted Private Label Manufacturers Association president Brian Sharoff to Consumer Reports, but that’s changed. In fact, some producers of name brands actually produce store brands as well. 

Beyond just simple packaged foods, canned and frozen vegetables and paper goods, many stores offer their own brand of specialty and organic foods.

And price differences between name brands and store brands have less to do with what goes into a package than with the research, development and marketing costs that help build a household name, Consumer Reports says. Plus, store brand products may be cheaper because their packaging is different or they’re not fortified with fancy new supplements.

Last year, nearly 25% of all food and beverages consumed in America were store brands, and with shoppers living more frugal lifestyles, store brand products are expected to stay popular.

Do you shop generics already? How much do you save? What is your favorite generic food or brand?

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