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What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying Generic Brands?

A generic brand is often cheaper than the name brand.
Generic brands of prescription medications are often sold at a reduced cost.
Generic aspirin contains the same ingredients as brand name aspirin.
A drawback for generic brands is that the quality of the product can often be lower than that of name-brand goods.
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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Many people — whether they are at a drug store, supermarket, clothing store, or the makeup department — look back and forth between the generic brands and the popular brands, trying to figure out which one is better. Generics are usually cheaper, and saving money is one of the biggest benefits of buying such products. Many generic products also have the same quality as popular brands; generic aspirin, for example, contains the same active ingredients as brand name aspirin. At the same time, some of these products may be less effective, especially in pharmaceuticals. There also may be inferior ingredients that affect taste, texture, or other aspects of the products.

The primary benefit of purchasing generic brands instead of name brands is saving money. Except for a few isolated cases, they usually are significantly cheaper than name brands. The packaging may not be as colorful as a name-brand product, but most people do not mind this difference when it means saving a few dollars. With clothing, many unadvertised brands' pants and shirts look very similar to those of name brands, so more generic clothing may be preferred unless a very specific look is required.

Many generics are made from the same ingredients as their name-brand counterparts. This goes for foods, drinks, medications, and many other generic products. Those that share the same ingredients as established brands usually have the same, or very similar, quality, so the consumer is saving money without sacrificing much of anything.

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While there are many benefits to generic brands, there also can be many problems. When it comes to some medications, makeup products, and toiletries, the generic version is not always as effective. Generic aspirin and many cold medicines may have the same active ingredients as brand-name medicine, but there are other medications with ingredients that are not as effective at healing patients. Brand-name makeup tends to stay on better and have better color than generic types; and most generic toiletries are not as effective at cleaning, nor are they as absorbent.

Along with not being as effective, some generic brands also use inferior ingredients. For foods, a generic may use ingredients that cannot replicate the texture or taste of brand names, which means the consumer will have to sacrifice quality if this is the case. Before purchasing a generic product, the consumer should check the ingredients to see if it is comparable to the brand name.

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Discuss this Article

anon962879
Post 17

I can't do it, I have to admit. I must buy the good brand of everything I need from shoes to where I buy food. Like I wear most of my clothes from Hugo Boss. I can't take less. It just feels better, is better and fits my personality.

bluespirit
Post 16

I think that when it comes to food products, along with other products, comparing the ingredients will help make you make the most informed/best decision. It seems as though if the ingredients are exactly the same, the taste should be the same, or at least quite similar. The quality should be around the same also, if the ingredients are the same.

To really find out whether you prefer name-brand items over generic or not, is to try them both out and compare and contrast. If they taste the same, or the generic brand tastes similar, it seems obvious to go with the generic brand. But if the name-brand taste better to you, you should stick with the name-brand product.

Also, you should not feel any pressure to get the name brand product or the generic product, based on what others’ think. It is your money, so spend it the best way you know how and want to.

runner101
Post 15

I think as with anything related to shopping matters, what brand or brands someone buys depends on their personal preferences.

I have to take Prozac because I have obsessive compulsive disorder, but I take the generic form of it and always have, and it seems as though it is doing a great job.

I personally prefer to buy generic over-the-counter medicine, as it seems to work just as well as the regular.

This being said, I only buy pain relievers or cold medicine usually, so I don't know if the same is true for the other type of over-the-counter medicines.

My guess would be as long as they have the same active ingredients, in the same amount, that the generic brands should work just as good as the name brands.

Misscoco
Post 14

I've tried generic food several times when the food budget was a little tight. But I've come to the conclusion that generic food is simply not as good taste-wise, texture-wise or nutritionally as good as brand names. A lot of manufacturers of generic foods add fillers which compromise the healthfulness of the product. I try to look for specials and coupons to make the brand names less expensive.

I think that we can depend on pharmaceutical drugs that have become generic to be just the same as the brand name ones because the FDA scrutinizes them carefully.

But I'm not so sure about over-the-counter medication. I bought a drugstore brand of a medication and it didn't do what it was supposed to do. Then I bought the name brand and it worked very well. This ended up costing me almost double. Next time I'll just go ahead and get the name brand first.

sweetPeas
Post 13

There are certain types of generic products that serve my purposes just as well as expensive brand name items. Such items as office supplies - paper,pens, tape that are generic seem to work fine. Aspirin in generic form works just as well as brand name and also medical supplies for minor injuries are okay.

I do draw the line at buying children's toys. The generic ones don't have the reputation behind them for good safety standards. I've found that generic tools don't hold up too well.

kylee07drg
Post 12

@lighth0se33 – I agree with you about generic potato chips. I can also tell you that generic cookies are frequently even tastier than the original. My cupboards are stocked with generic snacks, and I don't even have to use coupons to save money.

It's sad to me that some shoppers look down on generic products simply because they are cheaper. I live in a rich neighborhood, and I have gotten several disgusted looks in the checkout line when people see my shopping cart filled with cheap food.

I have a rich friend who reacted this way when we went shopping together. Through a lot of pleading, I managed to get her to try some cheap cookies when we got home. She ended up loving them, and now she buys them herself!

cloudel
Post 11

I buy generic medication whenever it is available, and it works just as well as the brand name kind for me. Generic cough syrup, acetaminophen, and even eye drops have never let me down.

One generic medication that I am especially grateful for is my antihistamine. I can get it for about $15 less than the brand name version, and it has the exact same active ingredient.

Sure, the package is lackluster, but I'm interested in what it can do for me, not how it looks. As long as I can read the words on the label, I don't care about any other elements of packaging.

lighth0se33
Post 10

I will try anything once, so if a product I need is available in generic, I will buy it first. In some cases, this has led to great discoveries of wonderful, cheap products. In others, it has led me to never buy the generic form again.

I absolutely love most generic potato chips. To me, the flavor is even better than that of the brand name ones.

I buy generic frozen vegetables, fish sticks, and french fries, and I'm perfectly happy with them. Pizza crust mix and pizza sauce are also great in the generic brand.

One thing that is not as good is teriyaki sauce. I use this a lot in stir fry dishes, and I was sorely disappointed in the generic version, which I will never buy again.

seag47
Post 9

@ZsaZsa56 – That is astonishing! I never knew that the contents could be the exact same. That explains why I can't distinguish generic milk from brand name milk.

However, I can definitely tell a difference between generic and brand name sodas. The variance in taste is so striking to me that I could pick them out in a blind taste test.

I hate generic soda, and I only drink it if it is the only thing available at parties. The taste is surely the reason that you can buy a can of it for at least thirty cents cheaper out of a machine.

honeybees
Post 8

I have had some bad experiences when buying generic brands, so usually try to avoid them.

I love to save money, so would buy generic brands when I was shopping at the grocery store. There were so many times that the generic brand just didn't have the quality or taste the name brands had.

I had always heard that many times they are made by the same manufacturers, but just have a different label on them. I didn't find this to be true.

It seems like I have been disappointed in such things as cheese, canned fruit, vegetables and meat, peanut butter, yogurt, and juice. I have been disappointed every time I bought a generic brand of these items.

Because of this I usually avoid the generic brands and pay a little bit more to get the quality I am expecting with the name brands.

bagley79
Post 7

I think you can save a lot of money by using generic brands. When I have to get a prescription filled, I always ask the pharmacist if there is a generic brand that can be used.

Depending on what the medication is, sometimes this has saved me a huge amount of money.

If I am looking to buy an over the counter medication, I always look at the ingredient label before buying. Most of the time they have the same active ingredient.

Once I make sure the active ingredient is the same, I then check to make sure there is the same amount of active ingredient as the name brand.

I have not noticed any difference in how generic pain relievers work as compared to the name brand ones. When you can save a couple of dollars on one bottle of basically the same ingredients, buying generic makes a lot of sense to me.

GreenWeaver
Post 6

@Drtroubles- I think that one of the biggest disadvantages to buying a generic brand is that they don’t usually offer coupons for these products.

Usually with coupons I can save at least 60% off of my grocery bill, but only if I buy the brand listed on the coupon. If I use the coupons in conjunction with a sale then I can save even more than if I bought the generic brand.

Also I tend to think that in a lot of products the name brand is better than the generic brand. The only time I think that it doesn’t make a difference is when I am buying over the counter medication. I know that these formulations are the same.

I think that you just have to shop smarter and get the most for your money. You don’t have to stick with generic brands to save money.

dfoster85
Post 5

The biggest savings I have ever seen buying a generic brand were on baby formula. When my son was about 8 months old, I had to start supplementing with formula because I had gotten pregnant again and my milk dried up.

Well, even at the pricier grocery store where I happened to be shopping, the store brand of baby formula was about ten dollars a can cheaper! And you go through 2-3 cans a month. My pediatrician said that all the brands are safe and nutritious, especially for an older baby who is still on some breast milk and also getting solids. (Newborns can be more sensitive to brand name.)

Now, with brands you can get pretty great coupons in the mail... but $5 off a can of Similac still leaves it being several dollars more than the store brand.

manykitties2
Post 4

@drtroubles - You actually have to be really careful if you buy brands online. I know that there are deals that seem really hard to pass up, but you have to make sure that what you are purchasing is actually legit. This is especially true when you are buying from online auction sites.

While I am not saying all fraudulent goods are coming out of Asia, there are a lot of sellers on online auction sites from places like China that are selling supposedly real designer handbags for a steal. The products aren't real, but I guess if you think you can get a real Louis Vuitton handbag for under $100 than you're setting yourself up.

drtroubles
Post 3

When I go shopping with my wife I often have to remind her that the generic brands are just as good as the popular brands, especially when it comes to daily use items. Things like bread don't really need to be a name brand, because frankly, toast is toast.

I think that the allure of buying brand name items really rests in having other people see what you get, and that there is a certain aspect of brand names being known to be the best. That for me though, is just really good advertising. I still to this day can't tell the difference between branded cereal and the store stuff. If you really want your brands, online is the best place to get them cheap.

ZsaZsa56
Post 2

It is more common than any of us realize for the product in the generic container to be the exact same product that is in the name brand container.

I heard a story recently about a Wal-Mart where all of the different brands of milk came from the same dairy. They all had different packaging and different prices, but it was all the same milk.

Its interesting because a lot of the way we perceive products has to do with the brand and the package. People might love real Mountain Dew but hate the generic equivalents that taste almost identical but come in different packages with different names. Sometimes you can taste quality just because you've been led to believe it's there. I almost always by store brands and it suits me just find.

truman12
Post 1

In my experience generic brands can be really hit or miss. I have had generics that tasted as good or even better than some of their name brand competitors. I have had others that tasted much much worse.

I think the only way to find out is really trial and error. There doesn't seem to be much logic to it and a lot of it comes down to how picky you are about certain products. I know that I could eat the cheapest canned peaches in the world and love them, but I absolutely have to eat name brand cereal, generic just does not taste right. Its weird I know, but at least I can get peaches at the lowest prices.

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