Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cereal & Milk Challenge: Store Brand vs. Name Brand #CompareandSwap

I recently had the opportunity to do a store brand vs. name brand head-to-head challenge with Smart & Final's First Street Brand. I'm a big proponent of store brands to save money, but my husband can tend to be pretty brand loyal. I insist that, on the whole, store brands are just as good quality as brand name. But he often retorts "it's just not the same." Admittedly, there are some store brands that aren't quite up to snuff. But others, including the First Street line of products, really are top-notch. When I'm at Smart & Final, I don't hesitate to try a First Street product if I have the option. It is always a money saver and I've never been disappointed.

So, when I found out I'd get to put his favorite breakfast cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats) up against a name brand version, I was excited to have the chance to prove my point once and for all! You can check out my whole trip to Smart & Final here. In a nutshell, I shopped for Honey Bunches of Oats and the First Street Oats & More cereal:

As you can see, there was $0.50 in price. 50 cents works out to about a 17% savings, which is decent, but I was actually a little surprised it wasn't more. Many times, there's a much bigger difference (like the First Street graham crackers that were half the price of the brand name!), but maybe it's because the HBO was a "Smart Buy" this month.

As far as nutrition, the 2 were pretty similar:
Honey Bunches of Oats 

First Street - slightly less fat, but also less fiber

Though a little bummed about First Street having less fiber (I am all about the fiber!), I was pretty impressed with the packaging, which included a recipe & crossword puzzle:
(The HBO box had no such fun!)

I also compared First Street milk vs. Alta Dena - a top brand here in Southern CA:

Here the dollar savings was similar - $0.60 - but that works out to a higher percentage of savings - about 22%. As for nutrition, they were identical, as was a stamped code on the top - making me think they may have been bottled at the same place with just different labels added (as is common with store brands - and supports my point that the quality is exactly the same!).

To test out my theory, I set up a blind taste test for my husband. I made up a quick survey for him to fill out as he tasted each combination (HBO cereal with Alta Dena milk vs. First Street cereal and milk).

The First Street was my "A" and HBO & Alta Dena were "B":

As soon as I poured out the cereals, my heart sunk a bit. The HBO was a lot lighter:

Seeing that my hubby eats HBO regularly, I thought for sure he'd recognize it right off the bat. But, I decided to continue. So, I added the milk and served up both options with the survey cards.

*cue Jeopardy music as we wait*

When he finished, I was surprised at the results. He scored the First Street brand higher on taste and texture - and actually though it was the HBO!

When I asked him about it, he said the First Street brand had more granola bites, which he liked and thought was a signal of a higher quality brand. He also said the overall flavor was better. In contrast, he thought the HBO cereal tasted a little metallic and got mushy too quickly. We did a milk vs. milk test to make sure that wasn't the metallic taste and he said both brands tasted exactly the same (and not metallic at all).

In the end, we both agree First Street is a clear winner on the cereal and a tie on the milk. I'm calling that vindication on this #CompareandSwap challenge - and it feels good!

So - what's your take on store brands? Do you think they have the same quality as brand names? Have you ever done a head-to-head comparison like this? Love to hear your thoughts!

If you live in CA, NV or AZ and want to learn more about saving with Smart & Final, you can check them out here on Facebook and Twitter. When you shop at Smart & Final through May 15, 2012 and purchase any two First Street products, a unique code will print on your receipt. You can then enter your code here for your chance to WIN one of these great prizes:
(1) One-year supply of First Street Pasta (based on a family of four)
(10) $100 Smart & Final SmartCash Card
(10) First Street Bag full of your favorite groceries (value over $50) plus a $50 Smart & Final Gift Card.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™. #CBias #SocialFabric. All opinions expressed are my own.

1 comment:

Sara @ said...

I love that you had hubby rate them and guess which is which. I then chuckled at the "nope" and "wrong" comments. hehe. Thanks for sharing, I too love HBO but would be willing to try First Street after your review!