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The story is a familiar one. Consumer Reports magazine, in its October issue that hit shelves in early September, did a comparison of 19 grocery staples, pitting private label products against national-brand items.
The results? Giant Eagle’s chicken broth beat out Swanson, private label tied in nine categories, name brands won in eight.
That, however, isn’t really the point, according to Consumer Reports Senior Project Editor Tod Marks.
“Pretty much sometimes private label wins a few more, but more often than not, it’s a tie,” Marks said.
He went on to explain that the general public often did not understand how the taste tests could yield so many ties despite different flavors between national brand and private label products in food categories.
The difference, Marks said, was the objective standards that each product was held to by the rigorous taste testing panel. Rather than comparing the products against each other, he said, the products are compared with objective standards of excellence. So a Heinz ketchup and Archer Farms ketchup from Target might taste different from each other – one with more of a tomato flavor and one with more of a spicy flavor – but they met the standards of quality and excellence equally.
“As someone who follows this, and looks at the results across the spectrum, we see that the store brands, the private label brands, have really ramped up their specifications on the whole,” Marks said. “They’re giving customers a cost-effective alternative that can be just as good. Different in some instances, but just as good in terms of quality, the lack of off-notes and defects. They may have a different flavor profile, but it’s still pretty darn good.”