/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Own-label vs. big brand food – what’s in your trolley?

Lots of different types of baked beans

Is our love affair with food brands dying out? New research into who buys what at the supermarket indicates that it’s certainly on the wane – and that we could be enjoying supermarkets’ own-labels in their own right.

More than two-thirds of people believe own-brand foods are as good, if not better than, leading famous brands. Half think they’re identical in quality and 19% go so far as to say that they’re superior.

It’s a far cry from the days when it was seen as cheap and chavvy to buy own-brand foods – the preserve of students and slackers. Nowadays, not only are we buying the supermarket’s own, we’re also rather enjoying them.

Market analyst, Datamonitor, which carried out this research, says that nearly half of us are choosing where to shop based on where we can get our faves. ‘Consumer perceptions are evolving,’ says Datamonitor analyst Mark Whalley. ‘No longer is there an overwhelmingly ‘snobbish’ mentality towards supermarket brands.’

He says that sales of own-label grub increased during the recession, but now people are realising that there are some very credible alternatives to big brands, and many of us are continuing to buy based on quality, not cost.

So where do you sit on this fence? I’m definitely wavering in the middle. When it comes to cereal, juice and tea I regularly shun the brands, but I’m not being torn apart from my favourite Yeo Valley yoghurt or McVities Digestives. And on the rare occasions when I need a fizzy caffeinated drink, only a Coke will cut it.

It’s good to hear the humble own-label is enjoying the limelight for a change. While I am a self-confessed snob on some brands, making do with foods that aren’t all-singing and all-dancing is something more of us should aspire to.

What do you think of supermarket own-label food?

It varies so I buy according to product (76%, 254 Votes)

It's good quality and I buy a lot (19%, 62 Votes)

Can't stand it - I don't buy any (5%, 18 Votes)

Total Voters: 334

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Benn99 says:
7 March 2011

I’ve always been a fan of own brand, but often found value products to be pretty nasty. About two years ago we started shopping at Aldi just to give it a go and save some pennies, and I honestly find their meats and veg to be much superior to the bigger local supermarkets, just a shame they don’t have the things for treats, like instore bakery and hot counter.

Zerocredit says:
7 March 2011

Keep hearing good things about Aldi. Do you have particular bargains you can recommend?

Zerocredit says:
7 March 2011

It’s really a case of trying them and deciding which ones you like. In my case I like most own brand things and mostly go for the ‘Basic’ or ‘Value’. For tins of tomatoes, plain natural yoghurt, frozen peas – you’f be hard pushed to tell the difference. One or two things I have tried and not liked and so go back to the brand – because in my view its worth it. It’s really a question of whether the better taste is worth the extra – and that to some extent depends on your budget.
I would recommend anyone to try the basic brands just once – and even test it out in a ‘blind’ taste, before they continue automatically buying the more expensive brands.


Depends on the individual items – as ZeroCredit says.

In Waitrose and The Co-Op I think own brand is almost always superior than big name brands.

I would never dream of shopping in Tesco to save my life, but I have had the misfortune to be given some Tesco brand foods at other people’s houses and it was diabolical.

Some Sainsbury’s stuff seems OK, but I must say that some seems a bit iffy.

I’m afraid I think more about whether the items I am buying are full of artificial additives than I do about the brand. If something cheap (regardless of brand) is less full of additives than something expensive I’ll buy the cheap one!


My Mum prides herself on having fed all her children ‘value’ brand food when we were young, so now that we’re adults we all genuinely prefer the cheapest options. Give me rubbish instant coffee and cheap OJ from concentrate any day of the week!


Depends on the product – I prefer Heinz Beans to Sainsburys – But Sainsburys “taste the difference” Porridge is superior to any Main brand. But one has to buy and taste to have an opinion.


Funnily enough, I’ve found myself recently surprised by brand names vs. own brands.

I’ve been on a stir-fry splurge just recently & have alternated between Waitrose & Tesco’s.

I admitted to my flatmates with some surprise that: –

Tesco’s win – in my opinion – hands down on the quality of their stir-fry ‘salads’ (own brand) and prawns (a personal favourite addition)

However Waitrose have Tesco’s beat on the quality of the noodles & sauces.

Daftly, I win as Waitrose sauces & noodles are less expensive than Tesco’s anyway – as is Tesco’s ‘salad’ & prawns.

Yay for stir-fry’s! 🙂

Fat Sam, Glos says:
8 March 2011

As Zerocredit says, it depends on the food and therefore a period of trial and error. My general rule is, if it contains the same thing then it must be exactly the same thing.

E.g why would anyone buy branded chopped tomatoes, because last time I looked on any of the tins they all said ‘Ingredients: tomatoes’. Same with spaghetti, pasta (all 100% durum wheat) and in any case, the flavour is produced by the sauce you’re making.

I swear by Tesco own brand – Fruit ‘n’ Fibre. Tastes just as good, contains the same nutrients if not more than well-known makes and best of all, is considerably cheaper.

You can apply the same to drugs. Why pay 10x more for branded paracetomol when you can buy exactly the same supermarket label for 40p?

The difference is where there is a mix of ingredients in a product. As mentioned above, I prefer Branston’s beans, Heinz ketchup, Whiskas meat in gravy (my cat, not me! well, only if I’ve had a skinful and am hungry), As a general rule, after some trial, I completely avoid anything from the ‘Discount Brand’ range. I don’t know if they haul the stuff across a factory floor and then run it through a wad of well-worn socks first but it tastes absolutely ranc’.

Zerocredit says:
8 March 2011

Wholeheartedly agree about basic drugs – paracetamol, Ibruprofen etc. I understand they are exactly the same as branded and yet many times cheaper – and if in any doubt you can always check with a Pharmacist. I remember seeing a tv programme where they checked branded paracetamol against unbranded – and people who took the unbranded but thought they were taking the branded – said they worked better. Shows its all about marketing!!