Shopping for store brands can save 20%-30% on grocery staples
Canned and frozen vegetables, pasta and some kitchen staples always end up in Amanda Zarzycki's grocery cart.
Zarzycki, of metro Detroit, buys store brands for most of those items.
It saves her a lot of money over the course of a year, she said, and there is "no discernable difference in the taste."
"The store brands are often processed in the same factories that produce the name brands, and in that case, when you choose the name brand, you are paying more only for the name," Zarzycki said.
U.S. Inflation is the highest in four decades, sending food prices soaring.
Fighting inflation by changing habits
Shoppers are finding savings solutions and changing how they shop and the products they buy. The Food Marketing Institute, a food advocacy group, recently released findings from its U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report.
The survey found that 35% of shoppers are turning to store brands to save money. More than half of those surveyed said they are looking for deals. A third of respondents said they'll "buy only when on sale," according to the report.
If you're not a brand-specific shopper or are flexible with the products you buy, store brands can offer significant cost savings and are sometimes even a better value sizewise.
Supermarket Guru likes store brands
Phil Lempert, a California-based food and grocery industry analyst also known as the Supermarket Guru, is a fan of store brands. Store brands can offer a 20%-30% savings, Lempert said.
"It's not the store brands our parents bought, and a lot of the store brands are better than the national brands now," Lempert said.
Zarzycki shops every week for groceries for her husband and kids. As a Shipt shopper, she's familiar with several grocery stores and their store brands, and shops at warehouse club stores too.
The savings Zarzycki sees on buying store brands, though it may not seem a lot at first, makes a difference when you have a full cart, she says.
"They (store brands) are usually quite a bit cheaper and they serve the same function," Zarzycki says. "I've never noticed them being deficient."
She's also convinced her husband, Earl Williams, to use store brands, despite him being a fan of national names.
"I do the cooking and he doesn’t notice a difference," she said.
Zarzycki still buys name-brand cereal because her kids won't eat the other ones.
Store brands have come a long way
Private label brands at stores have been around for years. Both Meijer and Kroger stores have several brands under their own labels and now have hundreds of products on store shelves competing next to name brands from big food companies.
Product lines include a variety, from pasta sauce to spaghetti to olive oil, bacon, cereal, canned vegetables, soup and much more. Meijer, which operates in the Upper Midwest and as far south as Kentucky, also has True Goodness, its organic line, and Kroger has its organic Simple Truth brand.
These organic lines include hundreds of products including crackers and snacks, meat and poultry, seafood, sauces, dressing, condiments, pasta and pasta sauce.
Aldi, a discount, no-frills grocery retailer, is known for its storewide branded items from chocolates to potato chips to cereal and bread.
In a previous interview, Supermarket Guru Lempert called Aldi brands "very high quality."
"I've talked to their quality control, been in their kitchens," Lempert said. "You will save money, there's no question, and you are going to get high quality. "
A basketful of savings
The Detroit Free Press spot checks prices at grocery stores and includes store brands in its market basket of goods. With some products, the cost was nearly half what the national brand cost.
For its total market basket cost, it gathered pricing from several local stores, factoring in the name brand if there was no equivalent store brand. The market basket contained 19 items.
On average, savings amounted to nearly $20 and sometimes more compared to buying name brands. At a Meijer store in Allen Park, a Detroit suburb, the market basket with name brands cost $70.18 versus $52.48, or $17.70 savings when substituting store brands.
Shopping at Aldi offered the most significant savings. Nearly all products sold at Aldi stores are under its private label brands from Appleton Farms to Happy Harvest canned vegetables to its Simply Nature line of organics.
Our market basket of goods included items such as milk, eggs, almond milk, canned green beans, peanut butter, paper towel and toilet paper.
Separately, we did a recent survey of eight other store brand items that included pasta, pasta sauces, salad dressing, mayonnaise and olive oil, comparing them to national brands.
Here are the products we found to have significant savings:
- Aldi had the best overall market basket pricing, coming in under $50 for all products.
- Meijer had the lowest prices for store brands of the recent eight products tracked.
- Since prices were first checked, the basket total at all stores we checked increased– some by 10%.
- Overall, the store brands of butter, canned green beans, peanut butter and jelly/jam/preserves and cereal offered significant savings over national brands.
- Store brand bacon prices are about $4 less than national brands.
- At Aldi, the price for bacon ($4.19) has been the same for several months.
- A 20-ounce bottle of Aldi's Burman's "Simply" ketchup, with no high fructose corn syrup was $1.49.
- Store brand bread at Kroger cost $1 less for a 20-ounce loaf than the national brand.
- Kroger's Simple Truth (its organic line) almond milk was $2.79 for 64 ounces versus $3.49 for the Silk brand.
- Meijer's version of Cheerios had the best value, $1.89 for an 18-ounce box compared to $3.49 for an 8.9-ounce box of Cheerios.
- A 24-ounce jar of Meijer pasta sauce was $1.39 for the traditional variety.
- Store brands of toilet paper and paper towels ran $1-$2 less than national brands.
- The lowest price for mayonnaise was $2.19 for the 30-ounce Meijer brand versus $5.09 for the same size jar of Hellman's.
- The price for a can (10.5 ounces) of Campbell's chicken noodle soup ranged from $1.17 at Aldi to $1.25 at Kroger. Meijer's version of chicken noodle soup was 59 cents for a 10.5-ounce can.
Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky and send food and restaurant news to: email@example.com. Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.