What's The Deal With Generic Food Brands?

Visit your local supermarket and you're bound to find some generic food products, sometimes lacking a brand name entirely or carrying one that's specific to the store. Generally priced lower than "name" brands, these have been a source of some serious confusion over the years. So to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, what's the deal with generic?

First of all, it's been proven in multiple tests that the quality of generic products is comparable to that of name-brand foods; these companies (even though their names might not be on the boxes) work really hard to duplicate each specific product, and they tend to do it very well. The reason we don't know much about generic and store-brand products is because that's what the big companies intend; they spend billions on marketing and advertising every year, so why would they want us to know that the plain white box is of a comparable quality, but far less expensive?

Private label products (which are sold under a brand name that's only available at one specific store) are essentially the same as generic products (which may not have a brand name at all). These less-expensive options exist for several reasons. One, store brands can bring in a much larger profit margin than major national brands, because the store owns the brand. Two, some name-brand companies have large factories with excess production capacity, and find that it's in their best interest to sell the same exact product for less money; they still make a profit because while buyers are spending less money on their product, they're still not buying from a competitor. Three, a small food seller can put his or her own shop's name on a private label product — that way, consumers think that the shop is the only place to get it, although, in reality, it's simply a generic food item.

So yes, it's all a bit confusing, but at the end of the day, the presence of generic food items is a win-win for everyone involved. The store makes a higher profit, the manufacturer gets rid of of excess inventory while still making money, and you, the consumer, end up saving a boatload. The one store-brand product we suggest you don't buy, however? Herbal supplements