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Store brands match big names in blind tests

By Guy Montague-Jones , 02-Sep-2009

Private label foods matched and even beat their big brand rivals in blind head-to-head tests set by the magazine Consumer Reports.

Store brands are making inroads into the market share of national brands as the products themselves become more sophisticated and consumers start to notice no real differences beyond the price tag.

To test the growing perception that store brands are just as good as national brands, Consumer Reports put 29 private label products, ranging from oatmeal cookies to frozen broccoli, up against their big brand rivals.

In blind tests consumers concluded that 23 out of the 29 store brands tested were as good as, or even better, than branded competitors.

Price and taste

Taste may be much the same but Consumer Reports said the prices are different. The consumer watchdog said the store brand foods tested were on average 20 per cent cheaper than big-name counterparts.

Tod Marks, senior project editor at Consumer Reports, said: “Our tests should erase any lingering doubts that store-brand packaged goods aren’t at least worth a try.

“Today's store brands are not the no-frills generics folks remember from the 70s. They enjoy more prominent placement on shelves, snazzier packaging, more promotion, and, in general, higher manufacturing standards than in years past.”

However, it is the money spent on marketing that is still one of the factors that explains the lingering price differences. Consumer Reports said higher marketing and research expenditure is responsible for the price gap rather than what goes into the packaging.

Winners and losers

Looking at the detailed findings of the survey, there were four store brand products that beat their big name equivalents and a further 19 that were judged to be different but just as good as major brands.

But the tests were not a total landslide for store brands as consumers sided with six big brands over their private label competitors.

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