21 May 2007

Name brand, Shmame brand

I've written before on my love of generic-brands. Most of the time generic-brands are just as good as the name-brand equivalent. There are a few exceptions, but generally those products are only slightly inferior to their expensive, name-brand counterparts that I would still rather save money by buying the generic-brand than the name-brand.

A year ago Eric and I lived in a couple's house, and we took care of their 33-year-old son with Down Syndrome. We came to really discover our love of generic-brand while caring for John because his parents have trained him to love name-brand food. We did an experiment in which we filled John's empty Cheerio box with the Malt-o-Meal equivalent. Surprisingly, he noticed. He told us, "They changed the Cheerios. They're still good, though."

For the next few weeks, we are living with John again while his parents travel around Europe for their 50th wedding anniversary. On Thursday we purchased John a gallon of Western Family Skim Milk. His mother usually purchases Viva! Skim Milk for him. On Saturday night, Eric poured John a glass of his skim milk; the container was more than half full. By Sunday morning, John had placed his empty milk container on the counter for us to see that he needed more milk. We were rather astonished that John had gone through more than half a gallon of milk in just one night! We are pretty confident that John disposed of his generic brand milk by pouring it down the drain. Today we bought John some more milk; we chose Western Family again. We're putting our feet down.

When store-brands first began, they were far inferior to name-brands. However, times have changed, and most store-brands are great! I suppose if you did a taste test where each subject ate the store-brand and the generic-brand right after one another (using a random, matched-pairs design), you may discover that the store-brands are usually better. But, without the other product there to compare, it's rather difficult to tell. Meaning, if you always eat Western Family crackers, you'll hardly notice that they aren't as good as Saltines because you never eat Saltines, and the difference in the two brands is marginal.

Which brings me to my next point. Many products are what they are, and labels just don't mean anything. Milk is one of those products. Skim milk is skim milk. It comes from the same source. It is treated in the same way. It has the same fat content. The end. Thanks to homogenization. You could easily argue that Sprite is better than Lemon-Lime Shasta. Those products have different recipes, but milk, my friends, is just milk. Or medicine. Name-brand and generic-brand medicines are the same. The exact same. Ask any doctor.

Not to mention all the money you save by buying generic brands! Sometimes the generic brands are almost half as much as their name-brand counterparts. Even when we are rich one day (because we will be rich one day) we are going to still buy lots of generic products. And that is how we will continue to be rich, by living frugally. As my cooking teacher said, "Live frugally and travel."


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. The only name-brand item I must have is Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup. I think most of their soups are superior, but usually it is not worth the extra money you pay. But I have never found a generic cream of mushroom that tasted good at all! I also prefer real Cheerios.

Janssen said...

I think shampoo is one item where there is an obvious difference between, say, Suave and a salon shampoo. Ah, how I love real shampoo. I buy brand name lunch meat, too, because HEB doesn't make their own pastrami or corned beef.