It seems like having a well-known brand name is vital for success. With a brand name, there is a sense of security when we shop, even if we have never tried a specific product before. People think to themselves, “If so many other people use it and it’s well-known, it must be good.”
Retailers capitalized on the success of brand names, and thus the store brand was created. Store brands are the knock-offs of those well regarded name brands that we love and enjoy. Stores like Walmart, Target, and Costco create similar (if not exactly the same) products to the name brands we know.
These products usually have the same look and packaging. They often have silly and very generic names. Their exterior may be the same, but can the interior be the same, too? My friends and I decided to go on a delicious journey exploring the tastes of some of our favorite name brand snacks to figure out whether the store brand could compete against the name brand.
We chose four different name brand products and their store brand counterparts from two stores (Target and Aldi). Some of the testing was done blind to see if we could tell the difference between the two.
Let the battle begin.
1. Macaroni & Cheese by Kraft VS. Macaroni & Cheese Dinner by Market Pantry (Target)
Kraft: We could tell these were the real thing, right from the first bite. They were in Star Wars shapes because, let’s face it, mac and cheese taste best when it’s shaped. This was very true with Kraft. These were the Droids we were looking for. 4.5/5
Target: These were called “Sports Shapes.” I guess Target can’t take any of the licensing deals away from Kraft. They were alright. They tasted like mac and cheese but couldn’t compare to the original.
To add to that, my friend said that the shapes made her feel bad about herself since she is uncoordinated and can’t play the sports she was eating. The one thing that this had over Kraft was that the box was much easier to open and caused less frustration. 3/5
2. Wheat Thins by Nabisco VS. Thin Wheats by Market Pantry (Target)
Nabisco: One friend said that these crackers had a weird and unnecessary flavor and the other said they needed cheese. With that said, we were torn on the Wheat Thins. We weren’t highly disappointed and we weren’t amazed. 3/5
Target: These were less “wheaty” than the other ones, but were quite a bit saltier. In fact, when I poured them out of the bag, salt flew everywhere. They were still pretty much the same. However, we did appreciate that the name of these was just Wheat Thins flipped. They also had a recipe on the back for cheeseballs, and we’re excited about cheeseballs. 3/5
Honestly, we couldn’t tell the difference between these two, as they tasted the same. I know that some retailers use the same facility and product as their competitor and just use different packaging, so this may be true for Wheat Thins. They even had the same nutritional information and ingredients.
3. Watermelon Candy by Sour Patch VS. Soft Sour Watermelon Chews by Market Pantry (Target)
Sour Patch: These are good and chewy like they should be. They’re sweet and enjoyable — it’s as simple as that. One downside that someone pointed out is that the candy did not resemble a watermelon (what rind looks like that?), but will that stop us from eating them? No, it never will. 4/5
Target: These taste nothing like the original. They resemble the flavor and texture of Hubba Bubba bubble gum and candy corn put together. In the words of my friend, “I don’t like this, this is torture. It taste like vinegar water with a bunch of chemicals you shouldn’t inject into your body.”
Also, you can bite right through them, which means they’re not a true chewy candy. Although it resembled the shape (“very triangular”) and color distribution of an actual watermelon, that couldn’t save us from its taste. 1.5/5
Winner: Sour Patch, by a landslide
4. Oreos by Nabisco VS. Chocolate Sandwich Cookies by Benton’s (Aldi)
Nabisco: The original of the originals, milk’s favorite cookie, and the best cookie that’s terrible for you. One bite in and it screams “I’M OREO!” It smells better than the knock-off, and it seems much more chocolatey. One negative about the Oreo is that it was dryer than its Aldi counterpart. 4/5
Aldi: These didn’t crunch right — the cookie part wasn’t on the same level as an Oreo. It also had a weird aftertaste. Even though both of these cookies are completely artificial, the Aldi version somehow tasted more artificial than Oreos and were not as sweet. 3/5
Winner: Oreo, the classic cookie
Overall, the name-brand products won hands down. They were better and more liked, but that is to be expected, as we are comparing the off brand products to the way the name brand products taste, as opposed to ranking them separately.
So, is it worth it to buy the store brand products? Really, it depends. Some of them are pretty good and can stand up against the real deal. If you don’t feel like spending a ton of money, they’re a good alternative. The Kraft mac and cheese was $1.32 and its Target brand counterpart was $0.73, which is nearly half the price. However, it’s difficult to match the original tastes and experiences of name brand products that we grew up with. Oreos will forever be my only love.