Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My journey to value brand groceries

To boldly shop what I have never shopped shopped before

Everybody that ever walks into a super market is sooner or later confronted with value brand products. They usually have white packaging with a monochromatic colour scheme. The product name is usually the product itself, such as 'Lemonade', or 'Shampoo', or 'Spring roll'

There is also quite a bit of stigma to buying brand products, many a time have I observed people being shifty when putting value brand products in their trolley or at the checkout.

In today's society, you have got to be seen buying brand products. Brands are the new cool, and if you don't buy them, you may be regarded as backward.

It is easy to understand where this image comes from, after all, a massive amount of money is being spent in research and advertising to sell not just a product, but a feeling.

In this article I hope to convince you to overcome the taboo of value brand products, and show you that it really makes sense to consider generic when doing your groceries.

As to the stigma associated with the value brand foods, you may point out to your peers that they are content to use generic medicines, are they not, so if they trust their health to generic medicines, why not trust generic products for other things.

Before we proceed, a word of caution. I do not advice to blindly replace everything in your life with generic alternatives. My aim, however, is to underline their existence, and their quality.

On the Wikipedia article on generic brand, you may find such statements as “quality is equal to, if not better than established brands.”, and “may be a healthier alternative” Of course these are generalizations, and should be treated as such.

My journey into generic products began in May of this year. I was struggling with my new car finance and insurance premium, and on top of it I was heavily addicted to take away food.

After being completely broke the day after payday that month, I decided there and then that something would have to give. The first thing that went out the door were the pizza's and other take away. And so on and so forth until I sat down and calculated my monthly expenditure on food. It was a big shocker. 38% of my monthly income is spent on things that go in my mouth! After a full week of denying this figure I finally came to grips with it.

I set forth to bring balance to my diet as well as my budget. I explored my options, what about store brand products? I have no qualms over those. However, whilst they are cheaper they are often only a couple miserable pennies cheaper than their brand brethren.

I considered bulk buying but without a freezer, it is very impractical.

As I stood in the super market isle I noticed at one point that a generic packet of noodles costs 11 pence! Eleven pence. A super noodle packet costs 68 pence, six times as much!

I tentatively bought one packet of generic noodles thinking at worst I'd be out 11 pence.

Imagine my surprise when I actually liked the noodles. Better still, they have become my favorites. I now consider super noodles to be inferior to these ones.

My next gamble came with cheese. For a full 50 pence less than the main brand, I absolutely enjoyed a wedge of brie, which I couldn't fault on anything; Smell, taste, texture, packaging, all excellent.

On and on my experiments went. Each time I remember thinking: surely generic ones wont' be suitable for this, or I don't think I would trust generic for that, etc.

Until I come across cola, which for many of us, may be the most iconic of all products past, present, and future.

I must admit that the taste of the generic cola is significantly different than the brand taste.

To me it tasted like a cola flavored grenadine with carbonated water. However, taste is largely acquired, and we have been brainwashed for years how cola is supposed to taste.

If you are willing to give your body a couple days to get used to the taste difference, you may actually start to like it. What's more, you have the happy experience of only paying 17 pence per two liter bottle!

At times it will become apparent as to why a product is generic; for instance you may have a pack of assorted or only small sizes, whereas the brand has big, equal sizes, or, you may find yourself struggling with the generic packaging, whilst the brand has a packaging that opens easily. Other times there may be differences in preparation: oven cook only for generic, versus microwave cook, and oven cook for the brand, etc.

Another word of caution: the quality of the product can change in any direction without warning, according to the Wikipedia article, but so far, I have not come across any generic product I did not like, nor any of which I thought to be of questionable quality.

Things I have tried as generic


Average saving



0.57 £

Seasoning packet sometimes hard to open

White chocolate bar

1.79 £

(compared to organic)


0.51 £


0.48 £

Spring rolls

1.07 £

Lemonade / Cola

1.81 £


1.31 £


1.05 £


1.35 £

A lot of small chips

Kitchen towel

1.10 £

A bit thin, use 1 extra sheet


4.23 £

A tiny bit too liquid


4.19 £


Hand soap

1.61 £

Washing up liquid

1.40 £

A tiny bit too liquid

In conclusion, I will continue to embrace generic medicines, as well as generic grocery products, and I hope you will too.

PS: what is the I.T. angle, why is this posted on a Linux blog? In addition to my wanting to share my experiences with you, there is a clear analogy to the stigma of using Open Source products in corporate or SMB environments. The people in charge (of purchasing software) often consider a product more on its apparent value (higher cost equals higher value), rather than on potential merit.

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