Six Winners in the Generic vs. Name-Brand Competition

What do you associate with the word “generic?” Do the words “inferior” or “tastes like cardboard” come to mind? Or do you, like many people, associate name-brands with people who are well-to-do, while people in poverty opt for generics? All of that is complete nonsense, but it is a commonly held attitude. The truth is that generics are often a great buy because the quality of the product is exactly equal or sometimes even better than the name brand counterpart. Here are six winners:

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Cereal. You really can stop paying $4 a box for cereal because excellent generic options are typically 30 percent cheaper. In several blind test studies, kids who were given brand name and generic cereals could not tell a difference. If your kids are picky about their favorite cereal, try combining the name brand and the generic brand in a plastic container so they don’t see the packaging. Gradually move the mix to more and more generic, until they’ve made the switch.

Medication. If you are buying name brands like Advil, Tylenol, Bayer Aspirin, Prilosec, Zyrtec, Claritin and Sudafed, you are wasting your money. You are paying up to three times as much as that medication’s generic version. By law, all medications sold in the U.S–both over-the-counter and prescription–must be exactly the same quality, strength, purity and stability as its brand-name counterpart. Generic drugs are safe, effective and FDA-approved. According to Gary Buehler, M.D., director of the FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs, “People can use them with total confidence.” I was shocked to learn Americans waste about $32 billion a year buying name-brand pills over the counter where generic alternatives are readily available.

Pantry staples. Government regulations require the same manufacturing and storage procedures for all staples such as flour, sugar, eggs, milk, salt and so forth, no matter the brand. Buying the generic brand is just as safe and tastes the same because it is the same as the brand name. Buying generic is almost always cheaper except for those rare occasions when the brand name is on sale for less than its generic counterpart, because there is not marketing and advertising built into the product’s price tag.

Infant formula. The FDA strictly regulates and requires the same nutrients in all infant formula. This means your baby will get the same benefits from the name brand as with the much less expensive generic option. Generic formulas have to follow the same manufacturing and safety guidelines,too, so there’s no added risk there. You really can be confident in generic infant formula.

Cleaning products.  I cannot say that all generics can compete with their name-brand counterparts. But there are many generic cleaning products that perform equally or even better. I have to agree with those who find that name brand paper towels and window cleaner are usually worth the money. Generic paper towels tend to be too thin and generic window cleaner often leaves streaks. However, off-brand scouring powders, disinfecting wipes and bathroom cleaner are nearly always equal to or even better than the name-brand options.

Non-perishables. The generic option for things like pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, crackers, soda and bottled water tend to be equal in quality. Do not hesitate to give them a try. Here’s a good rule of thumb as you make the decision: The fewer ingredients you see in the list of ingredients, the more likely it is that the generic brand tastes just as good as the name brand.

National brand manufacturers spend a lot of money on advertising and attractive packaging to sell you a product that may not be better than the generic one. And in some cases, the generic and name brand companies are the same. Hint: If the labels say the products were made in the same town, chances are pretty good they were made by the same company.

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19 replies
  1. Karen E. McConnell
    Karen E. McConnell says:

    I found out that a marshmallow is the same, whether it is in a name brand bag or an off brand labeled bag. I was able to go to the marshmallow factory in Henderson, Nevada and they made them for a lot of different companies. Boy, I was really naive, about name brands, back then. The factory there is now closed. It was one, where you could take grade school classes there or your family and friends to watch the marshmallows being made, you got a small package of marshmallows at the end of the tour and had a gift shop in it too.

    Reply
  2. penny50
    penny50 says:

    Where I agree with you on most of this, I have yet to find a generic brand cereal, that tastes anything like Cheerios. Tasty-o’s, etc. taste like cardboard! Maybe 63 years of a Cheerios habit is just too long to change! I agree that generic medicines work just as well for a lot less money.

    Reply
  3. Emily Booth
    Emily Booth says:

    I buy most of my pantry staples at Aldi: eggs, vinegar, baking soda, soy milk, butter, cereal (hot and cold), etc. etc.. The savings are tremendous! Aldi also carries some very high quality frozen vegetables. I buy my paper & cleaning products at Target. One cleaning product was dropped by Target and I found it at Dollar General.

    Reply
  4. Pigoff123
    Pigoff123 says:

    I usually find name brand cheaper so I don’t buy a lot of generic. If you use a coupon and match it with a sale at Kroger or target it is cheaper. I usually get name brand cereals for less than $1 a box. That is my stock up price

    Reply
  5. jllpink3
    jllpink3 says:

    I agree about OTC pain relievers, etc., but allergy medications do not work the same. My sister and husband both cannot take generic allergic medications. They do not work the same as the name brand.

    Reply
  6. pjsProv910
    pjsProv910 says:

    Aldi’s baking products are (powdered sugar, baking cocoa, choc chips, etc.) are wonderful. The only product I will not compromise on is solid shortening. As a cake decorator, I tried the Aldi and other store brands, and they do not equal Crisco. Otherwise I enjoy the savings from all the other great Aldi products. Plus I’ve found they have great produce at much better prices than the local grocery stores.

    Reply
  7. Betty Thomas
    Betty Thomas says:

    Not only over the counter but Prescriptions medications often offer generic brands. They are highly regulated and the same as their brand name counterparts.

    Reply
  8. Angel Lea
    Angel Lea says:

    Buying Generic is the # 1 way to save money everyday. I buy a tleast 50% of my groceries as generic. Mary your right some are better than name brands….Grand Union Mayonaise is Hellmans, Walmart’s hot dog rolls are Friehofers (a north east major brand)…..Price Chopper black olives are the best I have ever tasted but not sure who they are and it really doesn’t matter since they are cheaper than any others. I am so glad I found you since you have changed my philosiphy on every aspect of my life…..”get what you need and save money doing it”. Your the best!!!!

    Reply
  9. Mary
    Mary says:

    I love “magic erasers” but don’t like the price. I have been buying melamine sponges from amazon.com and they work basically the same — I will admit they don’t last as long, but for around $5 for 25 or so, I can afford to use them up a little quicker. Name brand magic erasers can cost $5 for 2!

    Reply
    • Angel Lea
      Angel Lea says:

      Sandra, Your right on target. Did you know that Melamine is actually used by contractors, in sheets as insulation??? Check ebay also…..I buy them 100 at a time since my husband used them all the time for his cleaning company….

      Reply
  10. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Enjoyed this article; know for a fact when bottling milk, the same milk goes in store brand jugs as does name brand jugs. I use auto windshield fluid as window cleaner; a gallon is less than $1 and does a wonderful job. My doc said as long as meds are kept cool and dry, they’ll last for years.

    Reply
  11. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Hy-Vee brand Dill Pickle relish and Hy-Vee Salsa are excellent products. I prefer the Cream of Chicken soup from Save A Lot (more chicken).

    Reply
  12. AnnMarie
    AnnMarie says:

    Most generic or store brands are made by a name-brand company. Trader Joes, Aldis and Costco all work with major brands to produce generics for them. Many of the generic brands at Aldi’s are easily identifiable just by looking at the design of the label or package – i.e. Burmans mayo = Hellmans. In the northeast, Shop-rite stores have many items imported from Italy which are great. As you said, some generic items may not be as good as the name brand but many are better because they may use less sugar or other unhealthy filler ingredients. Your suggestions to try them as well as compare labels is great. Thank you for all your money saving tips Mary.

    Reply

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