Supermarket shopping: when own brand beats branded goods

Supermarket shopping: when own brand beats branded goods

Some own brand goods are identical to their branded counterparts in all but price. Make sure you don’t overpay on your supermarket shopping.

lovemoney staff

Household money

lovemoney staff
Updated on 31 January 2020

It’s a technique used by most of the major supermarkets – pit your own brand products against more well-established brands and demonstrate to your customers that there is really no difference between the two.

Except, more often than not, there is. Despite the claims of many retailers, generic or own brand products can often differ in quality significantly from their well-known counterparts.

There are, however, a number of products for which this isn’t the case.

In fact, when it comes to the products listed below, there is actually no difference between the well-known brand and the generic – except of course the price.

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Do you know what the only ingredients are in standard table salt? Salt (naturally) and the anti-caking agent Sodium Hexacyanoferrate II. That’s it.

It’s pretty much the same whether you opt for a kilo of salt from a well-known brand like Saxa (£1.20 in Asda) or the same amount of a generic own brand version (Tesco table salt: 35p, Sainsbury’s table salt: 47p, or Asda’s table salt: 36p, Lidl's table salt: 4p). 

The only difference, clearly, is how much you're being charged for it.

Saving: £1.16

When own brand is cheaper

Most painkillers and medications

Over the counter medication – like all medication in the UK – is regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

That means they have been approved as safe to use. The active ingredient, i.e. the chemical component that makes the medicine work, has to be the same. It’s the law. So why pay more for branded medications?

For example, a packet of 16 Panadol Advance tablets costs £1.40 at Asda at the time of publishing.

However, Tesco’s Paracetamol (16 caplets) costs just 50p, and Morrison's Paracetamol (16 pack) is only 45p, and 16 paracetamol tablets costs as little as 25p in Lidl. All of the products contain the same active ingredient – 500mg of Paracetamol.

Saving: £1.15


You can’t have salt without vinegar and luckily you can make a saving here too by ditching the brand names.

Standard malt vinegar comprises two ingredients – barley malt vinegar and barley malt extract.

You wouldn’t think so, however, when looking at the difference in prices. Popular brand Sarson’s Malt Vinegar costs 99p for 400ml from Asda (24.8p per 100ml), whilst Tesco’s generic malt vinegar is just 7p per 100ml and Asda’s is just 5.1p for the same amount.

Saving: Almost 94p per litre

Cheapest supermarket home deliveries: costs at Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Iceland compared

Porridge oats

For a healthy, filling breakfast you can’t go far wrong with porridge oats. But you can go wrong with the price, depending on which type you buy.

Here, generic brands can differ slightly from well-established names, primarily in the fact that big brands like Quaker use rolled oats while supermarket generic brands tend to use oat flakes (flakes are ‘wetted’ before they’re rolled in case you were wondering).

But – and this is where it gets interesting – there is absolutely no difference between the basic generic brands and the luxury generic brands.

As an example, Morrisons The Best porridge oats (750g) costs £3 (£4 per kilo), however, the supermarket’s budget range M Savers porridge oats (1kg) cost just 75p. And the ingredient for both? 100% oat flakes.

Saving: £3.25 per kilo


When own brand is cheaper

Free range eggs

Fancy skipping the porridge and opting for eggs instead? You could be losing money there too.

Given the risks of unpleasantries like the treatment of chickens and concerns over salmonella, it’s not surprising most shoppers are willing to look for quality over price when buying eggs.

But thanks to a nifty little thing called the British Lion Quality mark, you can be sure your free-range eggs are of the highest quality and have been laid by British hens vaccinated against salmonella.

And, interestingly, most free range eggs come with this seal of approval whether it’s the Happy Egg Company’s large free range eggs (six for £1.50 at Asda), Sainsbury’s large free range eggs (six for £1.20), Morrisons’ large free range eggs (six for £1) or Aldi's free range eggs (89p for six large ones).

Saving: 61p

Can you shop ethically on a budget?


Cleaning products are one of those things that can benefit hugely from a good advertising campaign, mainly because the majority of us are looking for a quick and easy solution to doing the housework.

But when it comes to plain old, bog-standard bleach there really is no point in opting for anything other than a generic product.

All bleach is basically made up of the same ingredients – Sodium Hypochlorite, non-ionic surfactants (or detergent to you and me) and perfume.

So why would you pay, say, £1 for Domestos Original Bleach (750ml from Asda) when you can get the same amount of pretty much the same stuff from generic brands like Sainsbury’s (65p), Tesco (60p) or Lidl (39p)?

Saving: 61p

When own brand is cheaper


Store cupboard ingredients are also something to be careful of when it comes to overpaying by big name brands.

Take a store cupboard staple, self-raising flour, for example. Have a look at the back of any packet and you’ll see the ingredients are the same – wheat flour, calcium, iron, niacin and thiamin and raising agents (mainly sodium bicarbonate).

However, a big name brand like Homepride will cost you £1.50 for 1kg while a generic brand can cost less than half the price for 1.5kg. At Tesco, for example, it will set you back just 60p, and in Asda you can grab the same stuff for only 49p.

Saving: £1.01

Cheapest supermarket home deliveries


Finally, if you’re thinking of restocking your spice rack, think again before being wooed by packaging or branding.

Take ground turmeric for example. A 37g jar from Schwartz will set you back £1.65 – the equivalent of 44.59p per 10g – while a generic brand like Tesco’s own costs just 85p for 45g (just 19p per 10g).

Going to an Asian grocery store, or specialised supermarket aisle, could save you even more, as they often sell spices in larger packets.

Saving: 80p

***Total saving: £9.53***

So there you have it. Just by switching to generic brands – without compromising on ingredients or quality – you could shave almost £10 off your shop.

To save money every week, take a look at our supermarket deals round-up. It lists the best supermarket sales, what's on offer and our top picks for the week.

You can find our supermarket deals round-up here.

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