Generic items vs the big brands

With the major supermarkets continuing to add generic products to their shelves, shoppers can save big dollars on their weekly shopping, but compromising on a brand name does not always come at the expense of quality.

While home brand items used to be the domain of the penny-pinching shopper, times have changed. Many generics now offer equal or better quality than their higher-priced competition.

Tom Godfrey, spokesperson for consumer advocacy group Choice, says there’s no shame in thrifty shopping.

“Our love affair with fancy packaging and miraculous sounding credence claims can really hurt the hip pocket,” Mr Godfrey says. Indeed, many generic brand items do not look like generic item.

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The opportunities to save money without sacrificing quality are growing rapidly. As The New Daily reported, analysts say that supermarkets will generate up to 50 per cent of their revenue from generic items, and will devote between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of their shelf space to them.

“Australia is very fast catching up with the European retailers in that private label isn’t just a budget offer. It’s becoming a genuine branded offer,” says Professor Mark Ritson of the Melbourne Business School.

“You get an extra level of offer. If you can buy an equally good tin of baked beans for 30 per cent less that’s got to be a good thing.”

Here are the top quality, modestly-priced generic items to look out for.


While many might shudder at the thought of skimping on this favourite treat, generic chocolate is an area or big potential savings.

A 2014 study by Choice tested 11 plain milk chocolates on taste and price by using an expert panel of judges including Sydney chocolatiers Jodie Van Der Velden and Tina Vamviukakis, who has been making chocolate for 20 years.

Interestingly, judges ranked Coles Milk Chocolate third behind brand names Lindt and Green & Black.

But on the plus side Coles chocolate costs just $1.35 per 100 grams compared to the leader at $3.89. Chocolate

Coles chocolate also beat both Cadbury Dairy Milk and Haigh’s Milk Chocolate in overall rankings, showing brands names aren’t always superior.


When Choice investigated the humble carton of milk it found generic brands were much the same quality as major branded versions, just much cheaper.

As well as costing less, generic milk also contained similar levels of protein, fat, and calcium as the big brands.

Aldi and Woolworths told Choice they’re able to sell generic milk cheaper due to lower marketing costs.

Olive oil

Olive oil can set you back big dollars in the supermarket but price doesn’t always indicate quality.

When Choice tested olive oils on the market based on performance indicators including quality and taste, it ranked Coles Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top ahead of more expensive name brands.

Disposable nappies

Recent research from Canstar reveals mums and dads who purchased Aldi Mamia disposable nappies were more satisfied than those who bought name brands.

Canstar regularly surveys 2500 Australians consumers across a range of categories and results were based on 375 shoppers who bought disposable nappies in the past three months.

Its results showed two thirds of people feel disposable nappies are too expensive.

The generic brand excelled with regard to value for money, leak prevention, and baby comfort.

Frozen foods

When analysing frozen meals through its annual Taste Awards in 2013, Canstar found Coles products were the most popular and similarly, Aldi topped the frozen chips and vegetables category.

The methodology of the awards is based on customer satisfaction, with survey respondents asked to rate for taste.

Medicine painkillers

Generic pain relief drugs often contain identical ingredients to their more expensive brand counterparts.

Many products contain 500mg of paracetamol so you’re simply paying extra for the label.

Choice’s Tom Godfrey says buying generic medicine is a no-brainer.

“When it comes to pain relief there’s not a lot of point paying for fancy packaging,” he says. “By comparing active ingredients buying generics is painless.”

Hot Cross Buns

Choice tested hot cross buns earlier this year and ranked the Coles bakery offerings second behind Baker’s Delight, which achieved a perfect score of 10/10.

A good hot cross bun supposedly has a thin but firm crust and an even distribution of fruit. hotcross

Choice’s home economist Fiona Mair said of the Coles product: “Very nice appearance – shiny, sticky top, nice colour, nice flavour, good amount of fruit and spice.”

The generic product cost 67 cents per bun in a pack of six compared to $1.17 for Baker’s Delight.

Block cheese

In Canstar’s Taste Awards category ‘Best In The Fridge,’ Aldi’s block cheese was voted the best item behind Yumi’s dip and Paul Newman’s Own salad dressing.

Research from Roy Morgan also shows that block cheese is a popular home brand item, ranking ahead of name brands. Figures show almost 20 per cent of national shoppers bought block cheese in the past four weeks over the past year.

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