Savings from store brands anything but generic

Foodtown generic brandsWhen a recent Nielsen report published in theBoston Globe said sales of grocery chains' own discount brands had increased 8% since 2007, I thought the number was conservative. Who is going to sweat the negligible difference in packaging and quality -- if any -- when buying ketchup when the rent is due?

So I talked to Bob Peterkins, a manager at a Foodtown in Brooklyn, N.Y. He estimated that in the last year alone, his store experienced a 20% rise in sales of products with the Foodtown label. The chain has supermarkets in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"We like to push our stuff," he told WalletPop. "Even though the profit isn't larger, we want our name out there."

One major chain, Stop&Shop, said in the same Globe piece that shoppers could save an average of 25% with their store label. That seemed low to me, too, for most generics. So I grabbed 10 random ordinary items at Foodtown -- one name brand, one Foodtown label of each -- and compared. I saved 36% on the generics. If I grouped my top five items in price gap -- cat food, cereal, peanut butter, pasta sauce, and yellow mustard -- the difference climb to a staggering 41%.

"Buy the store-bought brands and use the manufacturers' coupons," Peterkins advised. "It's tough out there."

WalletPop's Bargain Babe, Julia Scott, also reminded me that coupon hunting is worth the effort. "Savvy shoppers will get the lowest price by pouncing when brands go on super sale," she said.

Unfortunately I'm not a coupon guy. I want the discounts just by walking into the grocery store. Besides, I'm going to doctor the spaghetti sauce, no matter who makes it.

Here are the results of my experiment at Foodtown:
Store brand peanut butter, 28 ounces, $3.49; Skippy, 28 ounces, $5.49.
Store brand cornflakes, 24 ounces, $2.99; Kelloggs, 24 ounces, $4.99.
Store brand spaghetti, one pound, $1.29; Barilla spaghetti, one pound, $1.69.
Store brand pasta sauce, 26 ounces, $1.69; Prego, 26 ounces, $2.89.
Store brand ketchup, 36 ounces, $1.99; Heinz, 36 ounces, $2.99.
Store brand yellow mustard, 9 ounces, 79 cents; French's mustard, 8 ounces, $1.59.
Store brand can of corn, 15.2 ounces, 99 cents; Green Giant, 11 ounces, $1.49.
Store brand macaroni and cheese, 7.25 ounces, 79 cents; Kraft, 7.25 ounces, $1.39.
Store brand white rice, 5 pounds, $2.99; Carolina, 5 pounds, $3.99.
Store brand cat food, 5.5 ounces, 50 cents; Iams Proactive, 5.5 ounces, 99 cents.

Granted, I've done a tiny sampling, but it's food for thought.

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