Money, along with time and sleep, can be sparse for many college students. So, when students go grocery shopping and are trying to decide between choosing brand-name or off-brand products, the question generally boils down to, “What gives me the biggest bang for my buck?”
In an analysis of brand-name products versus their off-brand competitors, researchers have looked into price and quality components. During college, however, many students make up their minds about which products work best for them.
“I would typically go brand-name over generic, because to me it ensures quality,” Kaitlyn Goddard, senior in marketing, said. “A brand-name that is successful is most likely going to be a better product.”
In comparison, Kaitlyn Mendum, freshman in animal sciences and industry, said that she generally prefers generic products.
“I just kind of go for what’s cheapest, unless it comes to Pop-Tarts,” Mendum said.
In the U.S., more and more people are turning to off-brand labels. According to the Private Label Manufacturers Association, “Private label market share has reached nearly 25 percent of unit sales in the U.S. and is expanding faster than national brands.”
Even though the number of people using off-brand products is increasing, brand-name items still tend to be seen as better quality.
According to Jim Wang’s CBS MoneyWatch article, “In general, brand-name products are better than generic products. Or at least their marketing is. This concept isn’t really disputed because if generic vs. brand-name items were priced the same; you would go with the brand name every single time.”
As the products are not priced the same though, shoppers must decide whether to save money with generic products or to spend a little more for brand name.
“Trade big brands for store brands and you’ll save big bucks — an average of 25 percent, according to industry experts,” an Oct. 2012 ConsumerReports.org article reported. The organization surveyed its readers and found that “almost two-thirds of shoppers surveyed in May and June 2012 by the management consulting company Accenture said that their grocery carts were at least half full of store-brand products.”
Overall, people’s reasons for choosing products vary. In the three specific categories of toothpaste, laundry detergent and regulated commodities, however, general agreement was found.
Though Mendum said she usually chooses generic products, she does buy name-brand toothpaste, of which Crest is her favorite.
“You can definitely tell a difference, especially when it comes to toothpaste,” Mendum said. “The texture is different too. I feel like the off-brands just leave a weird residue on my teeth.”
Jonathan Kuttes, senior in mechanical engineering, also uses Crest. His reasons are different from Mendum, though.
“It’s the first thing I grab, normally,” Kuttes said. “I don’t really think about it.”
On Statista, a website with “statistics and studies from more than 18,000 sources,” a graph showing the sales of the leading 20 liquid laundry detergent brands of the U.S. in 2014 lists Tide as No. 1 with over 20 percent of the overall sales.
Like many U.S. shoppers, Goddard chooses Tide to wash her clothes. Her choice is mainly based on tradition, however.
“That’s what my parents have always used,” Goddard said. “I’ve been used to using it for so long and it’s worked well.”
Mendum also said she makes her detergent choice based on customs.
“My family has always used Tide, so that’s what I’ve grown up with,” Mendum said.
Though he does use some brand-name items, Kuttes said he generally chooses generic food products.
“I guess it depends; like for (detergent), I can definitely tell a difference,” Kuttes said. “As far as for food, I can’t really tell.”
In Wang’s article, he suggested going with generic products if they are regulated commodities. These products include over-the-counter medication; staple food products like flour, sugar, cornstarch and pepper; gasoline; electronic cabling and paper products such as napkins, paper plates and toilet paper.
“I go with generic products when I just don’t care about what I’m buying,” Wang said in his article. “It doesn’t make sense to spend more on something, especially if I can’t tell the difference and won’t appreciate the quality.”