Brand Names vs. Off-Brand: Which Wins?

brand vs generic/ABC News

Everyone knows buying generic foods is easier on the wallet. Last year almost a quarter of all food served in American homes was a store brand.

But how do these store brands taste?

Consumer Reports' senior project editor Mandy Walker helped "Good Morning America" find out if those cheaper store brands taste as good as their big name counterparts.

The results were a surprise. We put popular store brands to the test against big national brands and found that in many cases, the store brands were better and cheaper. A lot cheaper.

VIDEO: Consumer Reports? Mandy Walker explains how to get the best bargains on food.Play

The generic store brands cost, on average, 27 percent less. So what are you paying for?

"There's a lot of marketing involved," said Walker. "We're all familiar with them, and they have paid big money for that."

A lot of the store brands are even made by some of the big name brands, she said.

"It's just a matter of personal taste."

Pizza Name Brand: $6.20 per pie Versus: Store Brand: $5.02 per pie

A "Good Morning America" audience member named Ron tried both the store brand and the brand name and chose the store brand.

However, Walker said that Consumer Reports found that they were both flavorful and tasted fresh-baked.

The DiGiorno pizza was a bit less spicy and had a bit fresher flavor. The Archer Farms generic from Target had more pepperoni, so meat lovers might like that. And it costs at least $1 less.

Battle of the Brands


Name Brand: $0.17 per serving Versus: Store Brand: $0.10 per serving

Which salsa should you serve at your Labor Day picnic?

Consumer Reports liked the generic Kirkland for Costco salsa better than a name brand. It was chunky, with crisp vegetable pieces and cumin and smoky flavors. The Old El Paso brand tasted kind of stewed.

"But if you like stewed tomatoes you might prefer it," Walker pointed out.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Name Brand: $2.98 Versus: Store Brand : $2.92

Which cookie is most likely to get stolen from the cookie jar?

While the "Good Morning America" random taste tester believed the name brand tasted the best, but the Consumer Reports tasters disagreed.

"The Archer Farms cookies from Target were a few cents cheaper, and they had a more complex taste," said Walker. "You could taste cinnamon and nutmeg.

Consumer Reports found the Pepperidge Farm cookies had a slightly bitter after taste.

Whipped Topping

Name Brand: $1.58 per container Versus: Store Brand: $0.87 cents per container

Whipped topping is perfect for strawberries, ice cream or anything else that can use some creamy sweetness.

Once again, Consumer Reports said the store brand won the challenge.

"The Wal-Mart had less of a chemical aftertaste than the Cool Whip brand whipped topping," said Walker.

Taste a Difference? Store Brands vs. Name Brands

Au Gratin Potatoes Name Brand: $1.85 per package Versus: Store Brand: $0.92 per package

Want to do the mashed potato? Instant is the way to go.

"The great value for Wal-Mart had more potato flavor at half the price," said Walker.

Consumer Reports found the Betty Crocker brand a little starchy with a dehydrated potato taste.

b>Dinner for 4 People

Name Brand: $11.20 Versus: Store Brand: $8

Ring the dinner bell! We've got lasagna, broccoli, vegetable juice to wash it all down and brownies for dessert. One of these meals was prepared entirely from name brands, the other entirely with store brands.

If you substitute the store brand for the name brand every night, you could save almost $1,200 a year, said Walker.

And that's just for dinner.

"The difference is more than $3 for just this meal. It really adds up," she said.