Sometimes I buy the generic brand at the super market and it turns out it's just as good as the name brand.

Other times, I totally regret buying the generic brand.

For which kinds of products do you buy the generic brand and which do you buy the brand names, and why?

  • 3
    Too hard to tell, without knowing which product ? Medicines you can be sure about generics because of FDA regulations, but electronics you aren't sure always.
    – DumbCoder
    Mar 2 '11 at 12:33
  • 1
    Very difficult question to answer. I think it comes down to personal preference and experience.
    – fideli
    Mar 2 '11 at 19:28
  • You can't be sure about medicines: "generic drugs not the same". The FDA is not perfect.
    – bstpierre
    Mar 3 '11 at 2:52
  • @bstpierre - Don't jump the gun. There is no definitive research list on generics being useless. After all generic companies don't have the money muscle of the big corporations to sponsor reasearch to their likings. And moreover all major money earning drugs are cosmetically enhanced to elongate their patent protection. And morover not every generic is an equivalent of the original drug en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_drug (generics)
    – DumbCoder
    Mar 3 '11 at 10:58
  • @DumbCoder: I'm not saying all generics are bad, I'm just saying that "you can be sure about generics" may be an overly broad statement.
    – bstpierre
    Mar 3 '11 at 13:57

Clark Howard talked about a Consumer Reports' test on the subject.

Here is his summary:

Consumer Reports has taken a close look at the store brand vs. name brand question in the magazine's October 2010 issue. The verdict? Store brands offered taste that was better than or equal to name brands in many food and non-food categories.

In general, store brands tend to save you about 30 percent on average over their national brand counterparts.

In comparing Heinz tomato ketchup to Target's Market Pantry private label, Consumer Reports preferred the latter. In another example, Wal-Mart's Great Value potato chips got the edge over Lay's, according to the publication.

However, Consumer Reports suggests that you skip the store brand and go for the national brand when it comes to mayonnaise, french fries, butter, tuna and peas.

Clark's rule when it comes to store brands is to give them a try just once. If you like it, you save up to 30 percent each time you go shopping going forward. If you don't like it, you only lose money once. Many stores even offer a money-back guarantee for their products.

So remember, the potential savings can be so great that there's always a compelling reason to sample the store brand.

And here is the full article from Consumer Reports.

  • Was gonna reference this same article. Mar 3 '11 at 13:41
  • The key is consistency. If you tested the generic ketchup a year later, you may see dramatically different results, while Heinz is Heinz. Mar 4 '11 at 1:08

The only thing that I refuse to buy generic is trash bags. I've tried several different generic versions of trash bags and all of them ripped very easily. I'll spend the extra money for Hefty or Glad so I don't have to clean up trash.


I think your question is the reason why generics are cheaper. Part of what you're paying for in a "brand" is consistency.

Depending on what you buy and where you shop, it may be a no-brainer to buy the generic brand of certain products. Buying generic OTC drugs is in that category. It's amazing to me that anyone purchases Tylenol, when the generics deliver superior quality at half the cost.

But for other products, subtle differences can be significant. My wife would never purchase generic flour (which seems like it would be a commodity product) for baking, as she's a serious baker and there are qualitative differences and consistency issues between brands. If I were just making gravy, the those differences don't really matter.

  • 1
    I'm not so sure about generic Tylenol being superior quality vs the name brand because they are essentially the same thing.
    – stoj
    Mar 2 '11 at 21:34
  • @stoj: Normally, I would agree. But given the number of recalls of the product (tylenol.com/page.jhtml?id=tylenol/news/main.inc) and the potentially harmful manufacturing issues leading to the recalls, I would not buy any product made by McNeil Labratories. Mar 4 '11 at 1:05

I'll try just about anything generic. I haven't had the best luck with off-brand coffee, though.

One thing to check side-by-side is the ingredient list. My wife is sensitive to some ingredients so that plays into what we buy. Sometimes the generic brand has ingredients that she can have, but the name brand doesn't.

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