Tuesday, May 29, 2012

generic brands don't always have the same ingredients

Have you been buying more generic brand groceries than you used to? It seems like many of us have been, probably in response to the economy tanking in 2007 and being very slow to recover. In those same few years, a lot has changed with generics. Retailers have given more shelf space to their own store-branded labels, there have been a proliferation of money-saving and coupon-cutting websites, and the generics seem to have improved their quality.

I use the generic brands pretty often these days. In fact, I've gotten to the point where I stopped reading the labels, and just assumed the generic was the same product sold at a lower price. However, last week I was wrong.

I normally buy the name brand juice. Last week I saw both juices on the shelf (see picture above), and figured they were the same thing, but the generic was 45 cents less (about 17%), so I bought the generic. Then, at some point during the week, I read the label while I was pouring some juice.

Wow - not the same ingredients. The name-brand uses cane sugar, while the generic adds high fructose corn syrup!

I'm not on the anti-hfcs bandwagon, per se. I'm more concerned about overall balance and total calories, rather than specific food groups and ingredients. I think most things are probably ok in moderation. But when given a choice, I'd prefer to eat the natural version over the man-made version, every time.

So, keep this in mind the next time you're grocery shopping. The packaging may look the same, and the products may be named something very similar. But that doesn't automatically mean they have the same ingredients. It pays to take a closer look.

-Chris Butterworth