Store, name brands put to the test

LOS ANGELES It used to be when you walked down a store aisle you would see boring black and white packages containing generic brands that looked and tasted pretty bland. But in recent years, Consumer Reports' Tod Marks says, all that's changed.

"Consumer Reports has long surveyed our subscribers about their preferences when it comes to food," said Marks. "Seventy percent of those we surveyed said the quality of store brands is really quite high."

Consumer Reports' trained tasters compared leading brand names to store brands, trying 29 different foods. They did blind taste tests on everything from salsa to frozen strawberries. Betty Crocker's Au Gratin Potatoes went head to head with Great Value by Walmart. And the winner? Great Value, at half the price.

Old El Paso Thick N' Chunky Salsa battled it out with Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic. Kirkland's Medium Salsa is just plain tastier and is almost half the price. And Digiorno's frozen pepperoni pizza was pitted against the Archer Farms Pie from Target. The winner?

"It was a tie. But the Archer Farms was about a $1 cheaper," said Marks.

Overall, tasters found the store brands as good as or better than big-name brands 23 out of 29 times. So switching to store brands can be a tasty way to trim your grocery bill.

While store-brand foods have improved significantly, no doubt some of what you buy may not be to your liking. But many grocery stores are making a tryout worth your while by offering a money-back guarantee on their brands. So check for that at your supermarket.

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