The problem of house brand goods looking suspiciously like their big-grand counterparts is not a new one. Consumer advocate Choice says the practice is on the rise, with supermarkets reserving premium shelf space for their own brands at the expense of other suppliers.
It’s not as simple as “the store brand is always more visible”, of course. The dirt-cheap store brands are almost always on the bottom shelf, but the sneaky replicas do seem to be getting more prominence.
Potentially deceptive packaging aside, Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just notes there are other issues in the rise of supermarket brands and their increasing visibility in stores:
For the consumer who is watching their budget, the rise of generic brands may be a good thing. For the shopper who wants an independent product however, their choices become more limited.
Supermarket brands account for 25 per cent of current sales, and that number is expected to increase. Choice’s research also examines how the rise of supermarket brands makes it harder for smaller suppliers to compete. But the brutal truth is that very few consumers are complaining when products overall are cheaper.
House brands are often a contentious issue. Some people flat-out refuse to buy them; for other products, such as eggs, they are already the dominant format.
Our stance at Lifehacker has been that it’s worth testing: for products that work out equivalent, you can save a lot of money, though it definitely varies by product, as we discovered when we tested ALDI’s house-brand Vegemite.
The biggest savings are generally on the products that don’t even try to mimic an expensive brand (think Home Brand and Smart Buy rather than Select and Coles), but in terms of saving money it still comes down to actually trying out products to see if they meet your needs, rather than taking an all-or-nothing stance in either direction.