Store-brand products are worth the risk

adunn@newsobserver.comOctober 31, 2013 

Awhile back, I asked readers to weigh in with their thoughts on buying store-brand products to save money versus using coupons on national brand products.

The question was prompted by a bargain shopper who was weary of all the work involved in using coupons.

Dozens of you emailed, commented and called with your thumbs-up and thumbs-down recommendations on store-brands.

Bargain-minded folks, in general, gave the store-brands high marks. Kroger peanut butter was mentioned frequently, along with Food Lion’s hand-tossed pizza, Aldi appetizers and Harris Teeter ice cream.

Target products in its Market Pantry line were also praised.

Several readers gave a thumbs-down to store-brand cereals, with one notable exception. Lisa Mead of Cary highly recommended Food Lion’s version of Chex cereal, calling it “better than name brand.”

Readers also advised against store-brand cake mixes in general and the Great Value macaroni and cheese sold by Walmart.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s cheap if no one will eat it,” reader Amy Wingfield of Holly Springs wrote.

For a complete list readers’ picks and pans of store-brand products, check the bottom of this post.

Probably the best thing about store-brand products? You can try them at most stores risk-free.

In other words, most of the major store chains have generous return policies giving you as much as double your money back if you don’t like the product.

Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods, for instance, will refund the price of the product, plus replace it when you bring in a receipt.

At Harris Teeter, a customer dissatisfied with a meat, seafood or produce purchase, will receive a refund for double the purchase price.

At Food Lion, bring in the package or the receipt and get double your money back. Kroger will refund your money or give your a replacement product when you return the product with your receipt. And at Target, call the phone number on the package and a gift card or replacement coupon will be mailed to you.

The column on store-brands also drew the attention of a gentleman from Raleigh who makes his living selling store-brand toilet paper, which I had panned.

Store-brand bath tissue, as it is known in the trade, has come a long way, said Marc Robinson, zone sales manager for the Clearwater Paper Corp., which makes toilet paper and paper towels for several regional and national store chains at a Shelby, N.C., factory.

Today’s store-brand rolls aren’t necessarily the rough and see-through thin stuff that folks might think of in a store-brand toilet paper.

Clearwater makes four levels of toilet paper, from basic or “economy” to “ultra,” with each level emulating a national brand, explained Robinson, who works out of a North Raleigh office, his desk surrounded by pyramids of stacked toilet paper.

It’s fairly easy for shoppers to find a store-brand comparable to their favorite national brand, Robinson said. Most are packaged with the same colors as the corresponding national brand and will be placed next to the national brand on the shelf.

Try a store-brand toilet paper and you’ll save 15 percent to 25 percent, he said. Watch for sales and you’ll save more.

And if you’re not satisfied, remember those money-back guarantee policies.

If you have a favorite store-brand product -- or one you have on your do-not-buy list, please share in the comments section below.

Here’s the list of store-brand products that fellow readers gave a thumbs up:

Aldi: appetizers, oatmeal, baked potato chips, half and half, butter, hummus, natural peanut butter, sour cream, chocolate chips, natural gummies candy, 75% blackberry jelly, not-from-concentrate orange juice.

Costco: diapers, baby wipes, disinfecting wipes.

Food Lion: hand-tossed pizza, 100 percent apple juice, block cheddar cheese, light yogurt, Chex-like cereal, plain yogurt, potato chips.

Harris Teeter: ice cream, cheese, canned tomatoes, margarine, hamburger buns, chocolate chips, canned peas, canned cream soups, instant butter grits, granola bars, cheese.

Kroger: peanut butter, instant butter grits, granola bars, cheese, ice cream, cream cheese, orange juice, canned pumpkin, Private Selection ice cream.

Target: Market Pantry ice cream, crispy chocolate chip cookies, sugar cones for ice cream, crushed pineapple, nuts, peanut butter and strawberry preserves.

Here’s the list of store-brand products that fellow readers gave a thumbs down:

Most all store-brand cereals

Most all store-brand cake mixes

Walmart: macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets

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