In these times of strained shopping budgets, many of us are reaching for “house brands” in order to fill up our supermarket trolley at less cost. House brands are the cheaper, unadorned packages of foodstuffs and other goods that go by names in NZ such as “Budget”, “Home Brand” and “Pams”. Are House Brands as Good?

Whilst they are indisputably cheaper, many of us find ourselves thinking – “why are these cheaper? Am I being ripped off? Do they put less in the packet, use inferior quality ingredients, or put in more sugar, fat, or salt?”

So your intrepid Super Shopper set off to find out the truth:

After pouring over countless fine print on the back of packages, it appears to me that almost all Dry Goods (flour, sugar, breakfast cereals), are exactly the same quality as their more expensive, branded cousins. For example, cornflakes have the same net weight of contents, the same nutritional information, and the same list of ingredients. Short of conducting actual lab experiments I can’t identify anything different about them.

Canned Goods, however, do have variations in contents, so be vigilant in checking the labelling. Look at the table below about baked beans:

Brand   Price    Weight  Price per 100g  % Beans  Cost of Actual Beans
Watties $0.99 420g 0.24 51% $0.46
Oak $0.89 420g 0.21 45% $0.47
Budget $0.59 410g 0.14 44% $0.33
Home Brand $0.59 420g 0.14 49% $0.29

Home Brand emerges as the cheapest. But remember to check the back label for ingredients — beans %? sugar % salt %? In this instance, based on the amount of beans in the can, Home Brand appears to be the best deal.

What about milk and dairy products? Doesn’t almost all of it get processed at the Fonterra factory? Consumers’ Institute chief executive Sue Chetwin said there was a range of budget or house brand milks on the market and she advised shoppers to check the labels to see if there was any difference between them and more expensive brands. “I suggest it’s probably just as good to go for the house brands.”

The golden rule is “buyer beware”. Check the back labels for quality. Take a calculator to compare the pricing. If in doubt, try a house brand, and then make an assessment for your future shopping decisions. Remember that all of the big supermarket chains want you coming back to buy more and more of their particular house brand.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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