Monday, July 18, 2011

Own brand vs. premium

With the nation bracing itself for a long haul of spending cuts and austerity measures, many households are scrutinising their budgets to see where they can make savings.

The weekly shopping bill is one area where many Brits are opting to cut costs by considering low cost alternatives to big name brands.

Recent research has shown that one in two shoppers believe quality is no worse in own-label items than in premium brand food, while nearly one in five said they think own-brand products outperform the big sellers in the market.

Supermarkets do not have the resources to run the number of factories and processing outlets that would be necessary to produce their own-brand products so the question is, where does own brand food come from?

The answer is that own brand food can come from a variety of different sources, but in many cases it is produced on the same production line, by the same company, as the premium label item.

The fact that both products have an identical source accounts for the similarities in taste and quality, but without the marketing costs, the item offers considerable savings to the shopper.

Many consumers are able to maximise their savings by switching to own-label products for more generic items such as vegetables, pasta and squash drinks.

For those cooking a recipe from scratch, such as a chilli con carne, using own brand ingredients is becoming commonplace, with most shoppers saying there is no difference in the final flavour.

However, the general consensus of opinion seems to be that for those products which have an iconic taste, such as a particular brand of cola or tomato sauce, only the premium name product will do.

In terms of nutrition, big name products and own label items also seem to be on a level playing field. A recent study, the results of which were reported to the European Congress on Obesity, found that overall branded products were slightly lower in fat for meat and fish dishes.

However, they also found that own brand products were healthier on the whole for dairy based products, such as ice cream, custard and rice pudding. Other products such as ketchup were also found to be nutritionally better than their big-name counterpart.

Overall, the study found that shoppers could enjoy their savings with a clear conscience, knowing their nutritional intake was not being compromised by buying a cheaper item.

Despite the findings, many shoppers may be reluctant to switch from a well known brand, even though there are significant savings to be had.

One way to trial the different item is to carry out a blind taste test. This involves tasting the two products without knowing which one is which and deciding which one you prefer, maybe even giving it a mark out of ten.

In public taste tests, generic and big name brands tend to come out evenly matched, with some participants finding to their surprise that they actually prefer the cheaper version.

No-one is suggesting that premium label food is always a waste of money; some things are worth paying that little bit extra for, especially when it comes to luxury items. But the vast majority of store cupboard essentials can easily be switched for low cost alternatives and for those times when only the brand name will do, hunt down the two-for-one deals to cut costs.

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