Ever Wonder How Much Cheaper Store-Brand Groceries Are? We Did the Math
See exactly how much you'll save swapping out your favorite name-brand groceries for their generic counterparts. Spoiler: it's a lot.
Pamela is a freelance food and travel writer based in Astoria, Queens. While she writes about most things edible and potable (and accessories dedicated to those topics,) her real areas of expertise are cheese, chocolate, cooking and wine. She's a culinary school grad, certified sommelier, former bartender and fine dining captain with 10 years in the industry. When not sitting at the keys, she leads in-home cheese classes, wine tastings and cocktail demonstrations.
We all have our favorite brands, but are those name-brand groceries really worth the extra money? With grocery store prices continuing to rise, many folks are deciding that they're not. Generic, store-brand groceries have always been an option but with sticky high prices on drinks, snacks, cereal and canned goods, those cheaper foods with less snazzy packaging suddenly seem far more attractive. So how much cheaper are store-brand items versus their name-brand counterparts? I did the math and the savings are even bigger than predicted.
On average, generic and store-brand groceries are about 40% cheaper than name brands. To find the delta, I compared the cost difference of buying name brands versus store-brand products at two popular grocery stores. In an ongoing series on saving money to combat inflation, we've calculated whether it's cheaper to buy groceries online or in person and laid out some strategies for saving at Whole Foods. But it turns out one of the most surefire ways to save at the supermarket is by letting some of that brand loyalty go by the wayside.
First things first, it's well documented that most major food manufacturers label their products under a number of different brands, including generic or store brands. According to recent statistics captured by the Private Label Manufacturing Association, one in five store-brand products is manufactured by a private label manufacturer. It makes sense: Those manufacturers can then appeal to people who are paying at either price. But they want you to go for the brand name price, rather than the store brand. That's why advertising exists; to make you believe that brand name products are somehow better, when the truth is that identical products are often going down parallel conveyor belts, getting two different labels at the end of the production line.
Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that all store-brand, O-shaped, toasted oat cereals are actually General Mills Cheerios in disguise, but it stands to reason that for a lot of store-brand products, the quality or flavor is potentially equal to their name- counterpart. And considering the opportunity for savings, they're certainly worth a taste test. While some brand-name products are unlikely to have a generic equivalent, (like, is anyone really seeking off-brand Cool Ranch Doritos?) commodity items like canned beans or rice would seem especially safe bets in the store-brand category.
Here's how much you can save buying store brand: Wegmans vs. Stop & Shop
I chose both Wegmans and Stop & Shop to represent high-end and average grocery store chains, using Instacart to generate current prices.
Discount grocery stores such as Trader Joe's and Aldi keep their costs low because they deal primarily in their own brands. Wegmans is an interesting example since it has a lot of its own brand loyalty, not only as a grocery store chain, but also for its Wegmans label. (Seriously, I know people who would cross state lines to stock up on its flavored seltzers. Take that, LaCroix.) Stop & Shop is generally perceived as a midrange grocery chain, with good selection and good quality, and not considered expensive, but neither is it revered for its generic brand, which is simply called SB or Store Brand.
Despite perceptions, however, both Wegmans and Stop & Shop are relatively aligned on prices, for both national and store-brand products. Wegmans came out a little ahead in price for name-brand products, in fact: The whole order was about $2 less than Stop & Shop's. Store-brand prices were within 20 cents of each other for the full list at both stores.
*Indicates store-brand item whose quantity was greater for listed price
Buying store brand can mean huge savings
For both Wegmans and Stop & Shop, the huge savings in buying generic products can't be denied. The original shopping list of 20 staple items amounted to about $125 in both locations, with the store-brand version of the list coming to just under $75. That's an average of 40% savings over the whole list.
Granted, this doesn't represent a complete shopping list, since certain grocery categories were excluded intentionally. Some of these items, such as condiments, are products that you might shop for once in a while, rather than weekly. Regardless, the math is clear: Store-brand products are significant potential savings in your grocery shopping experience.
How I evaluated name brands vs. store brands
Using grocery shopping list templates available online, I generated a list of 20 common staple ingredients from the pantry, bakery, dairy, deli and freezer sections, covering a variety of prices. Items such as whole fruits and vegetables and butchered meats aren't typically subject to brand (or they're rarely revealed) and I discluded them for the purposes of this investigation. For each of the items I selected, I compared prices between national, well-known brands and the store brand of the same item, at roughly the same size, using Instacart. If there's a discrepancy in size, I've noted that with an asterisk, but did not adjust the price accordingly, since I wanted to reflect an accurate total of what you'd pay for a grocery list's worth of either name-brand or store-brand products.
In most cases, the store-brand model was the larger size of the two items anyway, meaning even more savings if you factor in its relative value. For example, at Wegmans, Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves are $6.39 for 13 ounces, whereas Wegmans brand Strawberry Preserves are only $4.09 for a full 18 ounces, nearly 50% more product. The savings on your grocery receipt will amount to $2.30, but if you scale up the Bonne Maman price to match the same amount of store-brand product, its price would become $8.85, representing a savings of $4.76, or over 50%, for the Wegmans brand.
Where are the biggest savings on store-brand items?
Between both Wegmans and Stop & Shop, the more the brand-name item cost, the more savings were typically available, not only in terms of pure dollars and cents but also as percentage savings between the brand name and store brand. Brand-name items above $5 tended to result in the largest percentage discount, with bigger-ticket items such as olive oil, coffee and spaghetti sauce pushing 50% off or more for their generic or store-brand counterparts.
Less expensive items, especially those under $2 to begin with, may offer only 10% to 30% savings overall. For example, approximately 17 ounces of Colavita Extra virgin olive oil costs $12.79 at Stop & Shop, whereas the equivalent store-brand olive oil costs only $5.79, which amounts to over 55% off the name-brand price.
On the other hand, 16 ounces of Goya chickpeas are only $1.19 to begin with. With the store brand being only 10 cents less, the savings only amount to 8%. Olive oil, however, is more likely to be subject to quality and flavor nuance, so while the savings can be much larger, it may be a matter of personal preference if the savings are worth it. Chickpeas are generally less subject to flavor or texture scrutiny.
Does every grocery store have its own brand?
While store brands are growing, not every grocery store has its own brand, and many just carry no-name or generic brands in addition to name-brand products. Among store brands, there are those that carry the name of the store in its proprietary label, such as Wegmans, Publix, Kroger and others that have a separate label for store-brand products, such as Stop & Shop's SB, Walmart's Great Value and Costco's Kirkland Signature. Whichever the case, it's worth getting to know your local grocer's store-brand products, to see where you may be able to generate huge savings in your grocery bill.