In taste tests of 21 pairs of products with trained tasters, the name-brand item was voted the better tasting in seven instances, the store brand item came out top in three, and the rest resulted in ties.
Store brand – or private label – foods have traditionally done well in times of economic hardship, but sales tend to fall again once the economy recovers. However, during the latest downturn, many makers of private label products have focused on overall value for money – a concept that encompasses both price and quality, in an effort to hold on to market share in the longer term.
And according to the product reviewer’s figures, store brands are holding their own. It said that 84 percent of Americans bought private label products in the past year, and 93 percent of those said they intended to continue buying just as many store brands as the economy recovers.
Senior projects editor for Consumer Reports Tod Marks said: “The study reaffirms that store brands are worth a try. For a family that spends $100 a week on groceries, the savings could add up to more than $1,500 a year."
The three store brand items that Consumer Reports’ testers voted as better tasting were Food Lion’s Lotsa’ Noodles Soup compared to Campbell’s Chicken Noodle for “a little more intense flavor”; Publix Premium over Tropicana for having “a bit less of a cooked flavor with slightly less bitter taste”; and America’s Choice beef hotdogs over Oscar Mayer’s for being more “juicy and flavorful”.
Although 11of the 21 food products involved in taste tests resulted in ties for perceived quality, the organization said this did not mean that the items were indistinguishable from one another.
“Two products may be equally fresh and flavorful, with ingredients of similar quality, but taste dissimilar because the recipe or seasonings differ,” it said.
It added that younger shoppers in particular – those aged 18 to 39 – were more likely to stick to branded products and question the quality of store brand items.