Is There A Real Difference Between Name Brand And Generic Canned Goods?

It seems like groceries aren't getting any cheaper, and when you are faced with nearly identical items on the shelf at different price points, it's hard to know why you're paying more for those higher-priced items. Canned goods are the perfect example. Side by side, you'll see items like diced tomatoes with a store brand or generic label for a much lower price than nationally branded tomatoes. The same goes for nearly every can of beans or vegetables at the store, leaving you with a quandary — are they really different? You'll be glad to know that any store-brand canned items, also known as 'private label' products, come directly from the same packing and processing plants as their flashier labeled shelf companions. 

Some large chain grocers have their own private brand programs to source foods outside the big-name companies. By putting the store's name directly on the can label, the company is standing behind what's inside. You're getting high-quality products created with care and good safety protocols in all these cans, so you can feel perfectly comfortable letting your wallet guide you in selecting these pantry staples.

Advertising and brand recognition add cost, but not value

National brand canned goods have large budgets for advertising, adding to the cost of their final product. Those companies are banking on you recognizing their labels at the store, and they spend a lot creating a brand story to bend your choice to their product and drive sales. That's not necessarily a bad thing if it helps consumers choose healthy foods as a result — creating a canned bean trend, for example. But their marketing efforts don't mean higher food quality when it comes to most canned items, so you can make your own informed decision.

Your grocery store also pays more for well-known brand items, so they need to mark the shelf price up accordingly to keep their profit margin healthy. Private-label generic or store brands cost your grocer less to stock, which keeps prices lower. You can feel comfortable that whichever you pick, both generic and name-brand canned goods will be safe and delicious, and possibly even the same inside the can. There is one big exception to this general rule of thumb: prepared foods (canned goods that are not simply fruits or vegetables, but based on proprietary recipes). For example, baked beans versus simple canned beans. A brand's recipe is far less likely to be shared, and you may have a preference for your usual version.