Product research

CARROLL: Switching to Private Label as Product Prices Keep Rising

Gas prices are skyrocketing, and until supply exceeds demand, there is nothing we can do about it.

Well, there is one small thing. As you have noticed, rising fuel prices lead to higher food prices. If you haven’t gone for cheaper private label items yet, now is the time.

Savings are on average around 25%. A shopping cart with $60 worth of brand name products drops to $45 when you buy private label. It’s a kind of reverse gas pump effect.

Look for no-frills labels such as “Food Club” or “Great Value.” They don’t have catchy advertising jingles.

But you like cheese, and even though Kraft costs more, it has to taste better, right? Or you’re almost out of Kleenex. Well, paper is paper, so why spend more when you’re just going to blow your nose?

Is there really a difference? It depends who you ask.

Jesse Lewis, who for years was an executive at Red Food Stores, and more recently at Food City, is now a consultant. He is perhaps the store’s biggest fan of the brand. He admits that decades ago there was a huge gap in quality. But not more.

“Let me assure you,” Lewis said, “store brands are equal to and often better than national brands.” He is particularly impressed with cheese and dairy products. “The USDA has really tightened up,” he said. “Everything is inspected and regulated before being put on the shelves. These cheese and butter blocks are all good, no matter the label.

He said dairy products are basically the same, despite a huge difference in price. “You will see a $5.99 per gallon mark next to the $2.99 ​​store mark. Very often it all comes out of the same reservoir,” he said. “The key to good milk is refrigeration. You can buy milk for less with confidence and like all store brands, it’s 100% guaranteed. You can’t beat that.

Regarding ketchup and mustard, he says, “I never buy the big brands. Store brands taste great on a hot dog. I can’t tell the difference.

He admits that not all products are equal. “Despite their efforts, private labels have never matched Coke and Pepsi. Cheaper colas are OK, but they don’t quite taste like the big names.

Paper products were also a challenge. “Paper tissues, toilet paper and aluminum foil have been more difficult for private manufacturers to replicate. But they are much better than before. He says the quality of trash bags, regardless of brand, is easy to spot. “If you need strength, look for a 3 mil, not a 1 mil.” (The term “mil” is used to describe thickness in thousandths of an inch. “1 mil” is one thousandth of an inch, 3 mil is three thousandths of an inch.)

Where do cheaper branded products come from? Despite popular belief, off-brand cereal does not consist of the corn flakes that Kellogg’s rejected. Supermarket chains are joining cooperatives that manufacture and package these products for national distribution. There are no advertising costs and the products are not delivered in light trucks, like the ones you see for Nabisco. This alone saves costs.

When I did my own research, I was impressed with most store brands, but there were a few exceptions. I definitely prefer Kellogg’s “real” Pop-Tarts, Oreo cookies, Campbell’s soup, and Q-Tip branded products as opposed to their cheaper counterparts. My wife insists on name brand cleaning products. And I’m very picky about toilet paper. I have to squeeze my Charmin.

Jesse Lewis sums it up by saying, “American consumers are so lucky. We get the best value on groceries and the best nutrition from anywhere in the world. »

It gives some of the credit to private label labels. “They reduce costs. Imagine what famous labels would charge if they didn’t have that competition,” he said.

“What people don’t know would surprise them,” he said. “I wish they could see the journey that bananas take, from thousands of miles across Central America, to your local store. And then you can buy them for 15 cents each. We are truly blessed. Yes we are.

David Carroll is a news anchor and author in Chattanooga. You can contact him at