Monday, February 9, 2009

Brand Loyalty

I’ve been thinking more about #3 on my list of Things We Do Without - brand loyalty. I think I should have clarified what I meant more, so I wanted to share a few thoughts about name versus generic brands.

What I meant in my post was not that we do entirely without name brands, but that we do without brand loyalty, i.e. buying the same brand all the time. Our pantry and bathroom cabinets are actually full of name brand products that I got cheaper than generic brands with combinations of coupons and sales. However, if there is no sale or coupon on a product, I will now almost always reach for the generic brand.

In the name versus generic brand debate, I think there are a few important points to remember:

Switching to a generic brand on an item is an easy way to save on your grocery bill. - For instance, my husband and I enjoy having corn chips and salsa as a weekend treat. I used to always buy Tostitos brand of both, because that was what Michael remembered from his childhood. When we started trying to lower our grocery bill, however, I switched to the Wegmans brand corn chips and whatever salsa I could get cheapest with coupons. I pay half of what I used to for our weekend treat, and Michael doesn’t mind too much, as long as he still gets his snack!

Generic products are different, but may be worth it. - It is often said that with name brands you are just paying for the fancy packaging. I actually disagree with that. I would say that in about 75% of products you can tell the difference between the name brand and the generic brand. The question is, how much does the difference matter to you?

For instance, in a side-by-side taste test between regular Cheerios and "Cheery Generic O’s," you may be able to tell that the Cheerios are crisper and have a slightly more pleasing flavor. However, if you only have the "Generic O’s," you probably won’t notice the difference. On the other hand, you might think that the taste of store brand coffee is terrible; in that case, you would probably want to stick with the name brand for your morning cup.

I personally have found that the difference is not important in most dairy products, canned goods, and baking supplies. However, my name brand holdouts right now include chocolate and trash bags! Figure out for yourself what in what products you have to have the name brand and in what products you don't mind switching.

Not all store brands are created equal. - I do a lot of my shopping at Wegmans, which has a very high-quality store brand. I have like almost all of the Wegmans brand products I have tried; we actually like their honey flake cereal better than the genuine Honey Bunches of Oats. However, I have bought some store brand products at other stores that I would not purchase again, because they either didn’t taste good or didn’t do their job properly. Also, some stores have more than one store brand. Harris Teeter, for instance, has their regular store brand as well as "H.T. Traders," a line of gourmet products. This might be a really good alternative to higher-priced gourmet foods.

The store brand is not always the cheapest. - Don’t always assume that the store brand is the best deal. Store brands rarely go on sale and don’t have coupons, while name brands can go on sale as loss-leaders and have plentiful coupons. Yes, it takes more time and effort to pay attention to the sale and coupons, instead of just automatically reaching for the store brand, but you will save more money in the long run.

Flexiblity is key. - You will save the most money if you buy not only whatever brand is cheapest that week, but also whatever product is cheapest. For instance, instead of buying the Quaker granola bars or even the relatively cheap store brand granola bars every week, you are open to buying whatever snack food gives you the best value per serving that week. This is definitely a great way to keep your family's diet varied and to try new things!

So, whether you haven't tried many generic products or you never consider name brands, my advice is to break out of your brand rut and be open to the savings!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, Liz! After I was married, this was one of the biggest adjustments I had to make. My husband had been used to buying generic brand everything and expected me to do the same. After a while, we struck a happy balance and now I only buy the name brands of products when I feel it makes a significant difference. And on occasion, I'll buy the generic brand for him and the name brand for me, since we'll use both up eventually anyway!


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