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Are Generic Brands Really So Bad?

Are Generic Brands Really So Bad?

If you’ve been grocery shopping, then you’ll understand the dilemma when choosing between generic brands and brand-name products.

Clearly, choosing the right cereal is a crucial task, especially if you have picky eaters at home. The last thing you want is someone throwing a tantrum. Not even necessarily just the kids.

Sad man eating cereal.
Without a doubt, this was a bad cereal choice.

While standing in the cereal aisle, you see several choices of brand-name cereals and their “copies.” You grab two options of the cinnamon-covered cereal boxes. You know you can trust the brand-name cereal. You’ve had it for years. However, you’ve never tried this off-brand one before...

Generic brands cereal and brand-name cereal
The cereal dilemma.

First of all, it’s important to mention that you are not alone in this struggle. Many consumers are reluctant to try off-brand. But are they something to always stay away from? Let’s take a look at what drives the idea that buying generic is bad.

What Are Generic Brands?

Before anything else, it’s important to understand what we mean by generic brands. This refers to consumer products that have the absence of a brand name. One can only identify them with product characteristics. Simply put, they’re usually a “plain” version of brand products. At least when it comes to packaging.

Generally, they imitate more expensive branded products, competing on price. As a result, they usually have lower prices. However, this means that consumers perceive them as lower quality. Therefore, another term for them is off-brand.

Generic brands experienced a period of popularity in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The idea behind them was to pass on savings to consumers if you eliminated the cost for logos, fancy packaging, etc.

Several generic brands
Off-brands became a fad in the 80s.

Give Generic Brands a Chance

Indeed, people often stereotype generic brands as less tasty, poor quality, or less effective. However, the fact remains that brand-name products demand more of your money. So it’s probably worth reviewing how much of a difference there is between off-brand and brand-name products.

Generic brands drawing
Extra savings are a plus of generic brands.

When it comes to food, you might be surprised by this interesting truth. While it’s true that some companies exist that exclusively create generic brands, this isn’t always the case. The reality is that many brand-name manufacturers often use their excess capacity to create generic label products.

Brand-name versus generic chips
Many generic products are the same or very similar to brand-name ones.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, compare the nutritional information and ingredients list between a generic item and its counterpart. Even if they’re not always identical, you’ll most likely find how similar they can be.

Another bonus is that studies show that, on average, generic brands are 30% cheaper than brand-name products.

Image comparing prices.
That’s a pretty big price difference.

It’s All About Looks

Why then do many customers insist on purchasing brand-name products exclusively? The answer is pretty simple: packaging. Fancier, brand-name packaging very likely plays a major role.

For example, in one study, university students were given free coffee. They then had to rate the coffee. Here’s the interesting part: all the coffee from the study was the same.

There was only one difference. Some of the coffee was served with cream and sugar in fancy containers. The rest of the coffee was served in styrofoam cups with “messy” labels. Obviously, the latter wasn’t a visually pleasing option.

Image showing how the placebo effects our taste.
The placebo effect influences our taste preferences.

Unquestionably, most of the students went for the “fancy brew.” They weren’t aware that both options were the same. The placebo effect can greatly influence our taste preferences. That’s something to consider on your next shopping trip.

As a person mentions in the following video, sometimes the generic version is better. Plus, you save money!

Let’s see what happens when you take away all the packaging.

Could you pass this generic vs. brand name taste test?

Generic Pharmaceuticals

Additionally, generic brands aren’t limited to supermarket goods. Generic drugs have been around for a while.

In the 1920s, the company that made Bayer aspirin tried very hard to keep generic versions off the market. However, the company lost in court. This provided consumers with many options in generic aspirin.

Even so, can you really trust generic pharmaceuticals? In this case, it’s safe to say you can place your trust in generic brands. This is because they need to be the same as the brand-name medications.

For example, ibuprofen is sold with names such as Advil or Nurofen. Although they can have different names, you’ll find these pills contain the same thing.

Drawing with drugs checklist.
There’s nothing to fear from generic pills.

These off-brand drugs go through strict regulatory testing. So the only difference you might find is with their filler ingredients. This refers to things such as gelatin, starch, flavor, etc.

Today, generic drugs are widely available and carefully regulated.

Not-So-Friendly Brand-name Giants

So what do brand-name giants think about all of this? Actually, they quite enjoy the fact that generic brands are viewed poorly by consumers. This increases their “value” in the eyes of the public.

In addition, these brands rely on the fact that people look for social acceptance and care about their image. Therefore, pushing the idea that generic equals bad or cheap further promotes their own brand. They’re actually quite clever about it.

Generic versus brand name

Of course, we’re not saying it’s bad to consume brand-name products. Some generic products do sometimes vary in quality. We’re simply saying to allow yourself to look at other options that might save you money.

Generic Brands Give You Options

Finally, what we want you to consider is to be open to different options. While brand loyalty is a positive thing, giving a chance to generic products can also be beneficial to your pockets. Go find what works best for you! It’s a world full of material possibilities.

Let’s talk.

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Laura Amarillas
December 20, 2021
min read

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