Generic brands. They are everywhere and they are growing in market share. When I was younger it seemed pretty simple. On basic staples there wasn’t much, if any difference in quality, but the prices were often much lower. And the mantra was: all you’re paying for in a branded item is a fancy label and millions and millions of dollars in advertising. So, with my own frugal mindset, I’ve tended to buy generic brands when I couldn’t find a quality difference.
But as I’ve grown older my outlook has become more nuanced. And lately I’ve been hearing other ideas. About how the supermarkets that produce the generic brands are driving what they pay to the farmers and producers down and down and down. About how we could end up eventually with the generic brands holding a monopoly for some items, and then what happens to the price? Or that the generic brands may out compete the local products and we have no choice but to buy imported food for certain items.
Now my frugal brain is clashing with my ethical brain. And it seems to be coming down to an item by item choice. I no longer buy generic brand pure soap as the only other producer is an Australian company (but I can’t tell any difference in quality between the two brands). I still buy generic brand salt (iodised, I care about my family’s thyroid functioning!). When I switched to organic milk, I switched to branded milk as well (I also have concerns about industrialised organics but that’s another post). I still buy generic brand sugar (why? I think because I use sooo much of it in jams and other preserves that my frugal brain is winning). I still buy generic brand tinned tomatoes – but I now only buy the tins labelled “Australian tomatoes”.
Frugal, ethical, green, local, seasonal, organic, humane, free-range, fair-trade, carbon-footprint, water footprint, heirloom, slow-food…. It’s a continual labyrinth filled with my own personal experiences and preferences, scientific facts, ethical arguments, time and money constraints, and lots of grey areas. I think the journey is as important as the destination. Luckily, it’s a journey I enjoy!