Perhaps one of the biggest drivers in the evolution of the private-label industry has been the increasing level of consumer acceptance of store-brand products. SN polled shoppers on their feelings about store brands, and while some say they will always remain brand loyal to certain national brand Center Store products, many voiced their faith in the quality of the private-label lines they encounter most often. Here are some of the responses received:
Cocoa Beach, Fla., 75, retired
I compare store-brand canned goods with the more-known brands to find the better deal. I'm a very frugal shopper. Over the years, I've found that the quality of store brands has gotten better and some things like store-brand canned vegetables and fruits are sometimes better than the more-known brands.
Atlanta, 38, nanny
I don't think that private-label cereals and butter taste very good, so I don't usually buy those. And, the kids I take care of don't like any kind of macaroni and cheese that isn't a brand name like Kraft or Velveeta and they can always tell the difference even if they don't see the box. I stick to things like canned foods and dry pastas because there's not much of a difference in taste between private labels and other brand names.
Judy Debruyn, Rockford,
Mich., 49, registered nurse
I feel that most of the private labels are much better than what they used to be, the quality has definitely gotten better. I'll buy Meijer-brand products like paper plates, napkins, sandwich baggies, cereal, canned fruit and vegetables and detergent. I won't buy private-label toilet paper because it's usually much thinner and a lot of times I can get a better deal on Charmin or Angel Soft if they're on sale anyway. It's not worth buying a private brand to save money if you can find a national brand that you feel is better quality for the same price or cheaper on sale.
Grand Rapids, Mich., 58, truck driver
My wife does most of the shopping but when I go to the store I don't look for any specific brand, I look for the sale signs. Sometimes the Spartan or Meijer brands are actually more expensive than the national brands that are on sale, so I've learned to be careful about assuming that store products are cheaper. I buy store brands in just about every category as long as they're a good deal.
Atlanta, 43, business owner
I buy private labels because they're almost always less expensive, especially things like frozen chicken and fish. I'm always amazed at how much more national brands charge for a bag of frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts when the store brands are usually a lot less. I wish there was a bigger variety of store-brand frozen meats because that's one of the more expensive items you can buy in a grocery store and the quality is the same with store brands, they're just less expensive.
Monee, Ill., 34, special education teacher I mainly buy private-label canned goods like soups and vegetables like kidney beans and mushrooms. I feel the quality is just as good as some of the bigger names, but they're less expensive. I do wish there was more of a variety of children's cereals in private labels since cereal tends to be very expensive.
Philadelphia, 26, mechanic
I tend to buy whatever's on sale, which usually means a lot of store-brand products. I shop at Supervalu and feel comfortable buying most of their private brands. But, I almost always buy the name brands when it comes to foods like macaroni and cheese, which has to be Kraft, and catsup, which has to be from Heinz. Some foods just don't taste as good if they don't come from the big brands.
Milwaukee, 54, college professor
I don't really buy too many private-label brands because I don't feel the quality is as good as the national brands. With some foods, I have specific brands that I swear by, like Bryer's ice cream and Tide laundry detergent. But, with other things like shredded cheese or crackers, I'll bounce back and forth between different brands as long as they're names I recognize like Sargento and Nabisco. I'm sure there are some private-label products that are good, but I always associate them with cheap products and don't want to waste the money on something I might not like the taste of in the end anyway.
Grand Rapids, Mich., 29, teacher
I'll buy Meijer and Spartan brands occasionally, depending on what's on sale. I think private-label catsup is horrible, though, so I don't even try any brands other than Hunt's or Heinz no matter how much I have to pay.
Greenwood, Ind., 28, salesman
I buy some Marsh-brand foods, but when I buy soup I always get Campbell's. I always buy Kraft macaroni and cheese and Kraft parmesan cheese and don't really care for private brands of shredded or sliced cheese either because they tend to be dry and they don't melt very well. Canned veggies don't matter though because they all taste the same to me, Marsh brand or any other brand. I won't buy any kind of meat from a grocery store at all though; I buy it straight from a butcher or not at all. I'm not hung up on the brand names, but I won't sacrifice quality and taste just to pay less.