Does anyone know anything about store brands?

I was going to write this in and ask Cecil, but I won’t bother if someone on here knows. Does anyone know how store brands are made? I orginally thought it was one giant store brand factory that makes hundreds of different items, but I saw a message on a first aid product that said that the manufacturer didn’t make store brand products. In a typical factory, Kraft for example, are there two conveyor belts? One with Kraft American cheese singles, and one with the store brands, where they use crappier ingredients and do whatever they can to make the product worse. I’m sorry if this question seems confusing, but I would like to know exactly how store brands are made and how they are always worse and cheaper.

They are often made at the same facility and same lines as the name brand products, at times with no product quality differences (certain contact lenses). Then there are some plants that make only store brand versions of a given product (a diaper facility near Waco, TX, used to be Paragon, I think they have been bought). Store Brand Produce can have higher quality requirements than some major brands, but packed in the same facility as the Name Brand. It is all over the map.

According to this page:

Manufacturers of store brand products fall into four classifications:

[ul][li]Large national brand manufacturers that utilize their expertise and excess plant capacity to supply store brands [/li][li]Small, quality manufacturers who specialize in particular product lines and concentrate on producing store brands almost exclusively. Often these companies are owned by corporations that also produce national brands [/li][li]Major retailers and wholesalers that own their own manufacturing facilities and provide store brand products for themselves [/li][li]Regional brand manufacturers that produce private label products for specific markets[/ul][/li][/quote]

The answer to your question is “depends”. Some companies manufacture all their products in one central facility while others purchase the products from manufacturers overseas and then stick their label on it. Totally depends on the product.

As some people have said, sometimes store brands are not worse. Research has shown that store brands are more useful in generating store profit if they are marketed as quite good quality and medium price rather than “el cheapo”.

They help in generating store loyalty and attracting shoppers to the store, where they will then also buy national brand items.

The other day I was in Safeway, and saw their brand of orange juice with an extra sticker on the shelf tag: “$2.09 Buy Safeway instead of the national brand and SAVE!” The “national brand” next to it was $1.99.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Store brands have a label which includes language like “Distributed by XYZ Supermarkets, Inc”. This means they don’t actually manufacture the product, only distribute it.

Well guess what?

In recent years, many heavily advertised national brands such as Wheaties, Cheerios, Star Kist tuna, or Hormel chile are now “distributed by”. I take that to mean that these companies are merely shells and that they have closes their manufacturing facilities and farmed out that work and merely live off their reputations.

Check your pantries. I think you will find many examples.

Oops! Almost wrote “Check your panties”.

I just want to point out that logic does not require store/generic brands to be worse to be cheaper. The money saved on advertising would allow them to use the same ingredients and processes and still make money.

Personally, I can in no way tell the difference between store brand dried spaghetti and brand name dried spaghetti. This has been true across a wide variety of brands. OTOH, oatmeal varies greatly. I have had good luck buying the store brand of anything the first time, and if it’s fine, stick with it. If it’s not, look for a brand you like.

The OP may be thinking of the generic products that were a fad about ten years ago. An article I read recently talked about their demise.

These products were deliberately produced in the cheapest possible packaging so that they would look inexpensive and stand out from the fancy brand names. At first, they were close to the same quality as the store brands but as more competitors entered the market with ever cheaper generics, their quality also went south. Gresham’s Law at work. Soon all generics were tainted with the poor quality label.

Store brands, as noted, come in all varieties. Some supermarkets even have premium lines of store brands that are presumably higher quality. But however they are made, they are extremely profitable. At an average, IIRC, 12% of sales are store brands but 25% of profits come from them.

An example of quality store brands is the old Sears Kenmore brands - when I was a kid, at least (and I believe it’s still true), a Kenmore washer/dryer was a GE set that said “Kenmore” instead, and a Kenmore sewing machine was a Singer with a different label. I suppose it promoted store loyalty. I am pretty sure that this is no longer true about the sewing machines, but I think it is about the other appliances.

Years ago I worked at a tomato cannery that labeled its output with a regional brand name. Occassionally, we processed green beans for the same label. Product was stored in warehouses for awhile till shipped out.
I was there maybe two years, and once we had to unpack, strip labels, relabel and repack hundreds (or thousands) of cans of beans for a store brand and another time we did it for a national brand. The same beans under three different labels.
Another time we canned red, and black beans, separately, for a company that supplied the beans and labels to us and just used us to process their product. Later we processed fish spread for them.
Don’t put too much faith in can labels.

For a year I worked at a company that produces store brands: Topco. They were at the time the nation’s 2nd-largest provider of private label products (after Kroger).

Topco is an odd case: it is actually a non-profit company owned by what it calls its “member-owners”: the regional supermarkets that own shares in it. They are the ones who buy its store brands, finding it better to cooperate in this way than start private label programs for themselves. A case involving Topco also made it to the Supreme Court in the 70s or 80s, as companies wanted to be able to buy Topco’s store brands without actually being members (restraint of trade, that kind of thing). The ruling went against Topco, but I’m not sure what the status of things are today. I think Topco might have to sell its general store brands (Food Club, etc.) to those who will pay, but it also makes store brands for many different stores (in their own proprietary names).

I always felt pretty good about the products. There are many, many food processers in the US, and Topco does business with many of them (it does not have its own production facilities IIRC). As other posters have indicated, some of these processors make their own famous brands, some do not. There were testing labs in the company that were quite busy. The basic principle was that a brand had to be as good as a major label, or they would not make it. I think they generally made good on that promise. I worked in the meat department (yep, I’ve worked in the meat industry), and we bought meat from all the major packers and did very good business.

I visited my old boss two years ago, and it was weird how little things had changed after 6 years. Good bunch of people.

Worked in retail food for over 20 yrs; nice stable business. Let’s face it; you ain’t gotta buy a Hummer (the car, that is), you do gotta eat. Anyway, private label items are:

  1. sometimes exceptional AND cheap
  2. sometimes exceptionally dreadful
  3. sometimes more expensive than a national item (when the nat’l is on sale)
  4. mostly produced by the same folks that make the national brands (or THEIR producers, as a former post mentioned)

Here in the Northeast, a regional brand makes many private labels (PL’s) for supermarkets. Same stuff, different label. Some * manufacturers do use lower quality ingredients in PL’s. From a manufacturing standpoint, it’s harder though. You stop the line, clean, reset the line with the new ingredients, run the line, then reverse the whole process to run your own line again. Inefficient. It’s more cost-effective to just use the same stuff, relabel it, and send it off. Try the product once, unbiased; if you like it, and the price is good, buy it! (Beware that consistent supply can be spotty; what you once loved can change in a heartbeat if the supplier changes. This happens often.) I challenge even the Master Cecil to discern the difference between national and PL yellow mustard. Too close. Mayo on the other hand… certain PL’s ain’t worth mayo wrestling in :D. That’s the dreadful part. Pricing, as someone pointed out, is not always less. A national brand, as a feature item, may be less than a PL due to manufacturer/supplier ‘givebacks’. They pay an allowance on every unit scanned and credit the retailer (gotta love computers, eh?). This allows the retail of, say, a major soda brand to be cheaper than a PL, for the feature week. In general, the PL’s will be cheaper, ahemless expensive”, over the long haul. The “black & white” generics of old are pretty much gone. Some were good, some were awful. The new private labels are often really good; the cost relief comes from no advertising. Hey, somebody’s gotta pay those expensive sports stars to hawk shoes, or phones or… pasta sauce! Bottom line is: Try it. If you like it, use it. If it changes, drop it. Spare yourself and your friendly supermarket (or other retail) staff the agony of complaining about a change; if the old style is gone, trust me, it’s GONE. The supply line is far more fragile than many know; inventories are razor thin; suppliers routinely outsource, and small markets don’t mean crap*. I’ll part with an amusing anecdote; one PL item (a disposable razor) sold in our chain is manufactured in Mexico, with overseas raw materials, shipped to Texas for assembly, and distributed in the US under a number of private labels. And you thought the global economy was a joke…

I once worked in a brewery. The heavily advertised “preimium” beer and and “cheap” brand was the same beer.

Bud Lite and Natural Lite are made by Anhauser-Busch. Wanna bet the Natural Lite isn’t the same beer as Bud Lite at half the price? Tastes the same.

Miller makes “Milwaukee’s Best”. Say, you don’t suppose…

A woman I work with used to work at a pie factory that made name brand pies and store brand pies. The only difference was the piece of pastry atop the pie with the name brand logo. When I buy icecream I buy one store brand simply because it is better than the non prestige alternatives.

One of the most interesting variations on this was the Ralston Purina company. For years, they manufactured Chex cereals. Then, the sold the brand to General Mills in order to concentrate on their store brand business.’

Thus, if you buy store brand Rice Chex (or whatever the equivalent is called), you’re buying it from the original manufacturer.

Says “Fruit of the Loon…” that’s a generic knock-off, right?

The main items I have noticed where there was (IMO) almost always a significant difference between store brand and national brand is in brand name cereals, mayonnaise and canned beans and vegetables (tomatoes specifically). Store brands just don’t cut for me it in those categories.

In the early 80s, I worked some in photographic retail at a city wide chain store in a major US city. We had a “brand” that we used on certain things form this one particular wholesaler. The brand went on the bags, filters, flashes, even lenses that we purchased from them.

Note, the wholesaler didn’t manufature them for us. They simply added our brand name to the products they purchased from the manufacturers.

This wholesaler offered us deep discounts on bulk purchases. So, we could undercut the big name brands on price while offering large spiffs (a form of commission) to the sales person.

Many of the products were of very high quality, too. In fact, we regularly had a game of “Guess who made this thing?” concerning our brand. We would compare not just specs, but even the actual physical looks, down too the pattern on the zoom ring or the engraving font for the aperture ring for instance. Especially in lenses, our store brand was often just a renamed major brand. Questions to our sales rep sometimes even got a specific answer, off the record, of course.

So, store brand doesn’t always mean inferior quality.

The problem for us was warranty. Once the store chain folded (mis managed money problems and stuff), the owner of the store brand lens, flash, other accsy…, was out of luck. That fantastic 5 year warranty lasted for as long as the chain did. When I went back to photo retail as a part time temp a few years later, my new (to me) store was getting some dissappointed people with now non warrantied items. Kind of a bummer. But, thankfully, since most of the previous store’s brand stuff was actually pretty good, that didn’t come up often.
In case you’re wondering, it was Houston, the brand was Unitar.

Actually, Ralston Purina got rid of its entire cereal business – spun it off into its own little company called Ralcorp.

Ralcorp then sold the Chex brand to General Mills, but continues to make store brand cereals. With one exception. For whatever reason, the deal with General Mills stipulated that Ralcorp wouldn’t make any version of Wheat Chex.

Quaker is another company that makes a bunch of store brands.