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Battle of the brands
W H I C H S T O R E B R A N D S B E AT T H E B I G N A M E S ?
Is Bounty really “the quicker picker
upper”? Which food-storage bag is
sturdier, Ziploc or Wal-Mart? Is Dannon tops in low-fat strawberry yogurt?
The answers might surprise you.
Three store-brand paper towels absorbed just at fast as the Bounty we
tested; Ziploc and Wal-Mart bags were
equally strong; andif you think Dannon
wins hands down, you haven’t sampled
Stop & Shop or America’s Choice yogurts.
In tests of 65 products in six categories—facial tissues, paper towels, plastic bags, canned peaches, french fries, and
yogurt—we pitted the leading name
brands against big store brands including
Albertson’s, America’s Choice (A&P and
several chains under its banner), Kirkland
Signature(Costco), Safeway Select (Safeway and all chains under its banner),
Trader Joe’s, and Great Value (Wal-Mart).
The product categories are among those
that visitors to our Web site, Consumer
Reports.org, told us they buy most often in
store brands. We rated the foods on overall quality, the other goods on attributes
that count, such as strength and softness
for tissues.
Store-brand yogurt came outon top,
and in most other categories store brands
performed at least as well as the competition, including big names such as
Kleenex, Brawny, Dannon and Yoplait,
and Ziploc. Only in facial tissues was
there a clear name-brand winner: Puffs,
from Procter & Gamble.
Buying store brands can not only get
you high-quality products, it can save you
hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars ayear. When you buy a big-brand
12

C O N S U M E R R E P O RT S

&Z

A U G U S T 2005

cereal, say, you pay for a lot more than you
can eat—the enormous advertising and
marketing costs that made the brand a
household word, plus hidden extras such
as slotting fees, which branded manufacturers pay for placement on shelves.
You also pay for “the trust and love”
that accompanies namesyou’ve known
for years, says Stephanie Childs, a spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers
of America, a trade association for national brands. “You’re buying innovative
products that companies have invested
heavily in and that assure 100 percent
consistent quality,” she said.
In our tests, however, the quality of
Hefty storage bags and Kirkland yogurt
proved uneven, demonstrating thatconsistency can be an elusive target no
matter the brand.
When we averaged the amounts that
staff shoppers paid across the U.S. for
many samples of each product we tested,
we found that national brands cost an

CR Quick Take
Our tests of 65 products in six
categories—facial tissues, paper
towels, plastic bags, canned peaches,
french fries, and yogurt—show:
• Many store brands are at least asgood as national brands.
• Switching to a store brand can cut the
cost of a product by as much as half.
• The companies that make store
brands are often household names.
Our behind-the-scenes peek shows
that they include Sara Lee, Del
Monte, and Birds Eye.



Expert • Independent • Nonprofit

average of about 25 to 50 percent more
than similar-quality store brands. (The
exception:Trader Joe’s peach halves,
which came only in glass jars and were
about 11⁄2 times the price of top-rated Del
Monte slices in a can.)
Sales and promotions make prices a
moving target, but among the differences
we found when we shopped were: an average of $2.72 for a package of Ore-Ida fries
vs. $1.71 for the same-size Winn-Dixie fries
(both brands were very good), and $1.70
per 100 sheetsfor Brawny vs. $1.10 for
Kirkland (Kirkland was better).
Details about how name-brand products compared with store-brand in each
category are spelled out in Quick Picks,
on page 15. The highlights:
Facial tissues: Name brand wins.
Of the dozen brands tested, only Puffs
could withstand a big sneeze yet were
extremely soft. There was little to distinguish the rest of the pack, including...
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