GENERICFOODSUS (12/1/2013) - Generic foods line the aisles of grocery stores, often right alongside more well-known brands. Many consumers know that generic foods cost less, and price is a definite selling point. But how do these products measure up in taste and quality? Very often the differences are negligible, meaning generic products make smart buys.

By switching to generic or store brands, shoppers can save hundreds of dollars a year. Generic foods tend to be less expensive than brand-name items because manufacturers of generic products do not advertise or market such products, not because they are made with inferior ingredients. With no television commercials to pay for, generic manufacturers can pass the savings on to the consumer. This helps consumers stretch their food budgets that much further.

Alittle-known secret of generic brands is that many are actually produced and shipped from brand-name facilities. A company that produces a certain brand of breakfast cereal may also package that product under a generic label. The ingredients are identical, but the price is not.

In many instances, the taste of generic foods may be comparable to brand name alternatives. When generic products do taste differently, such differences are often minor. At the very least, generic ingredients can be used in recipes where differences in taste are nearly impossible to notice.

Those ready to try generics can begin by experimenting with a certain products. Buy a small serving size of the desired product and try it, then try it again, and you may be surprised by the results.

* Cereal: A consumer can save anywhere from 25 to 50 percent on generic cereal. If children insist on a brand that they saw on a commercial, buy it once in the branded variety, then save the box and refill it with a generic cereal.

* Soda: Although relatively cheap to produce, brand-name sodas are often much more expensive than generic versions. Many generic colas are comparable to the better-known brands.

* Salt, flour and spices: Generic baking ingredients can save consumers lots of money, and few people are likely to notice a difference in taste. Flour is flour, and there is likely only a minimal difference between one packaged by a store and one packaged by a name company.

* Frozen french fries: French fries are simply potatoes sliced and fried, then flash-frozen. There is little taste difference between unseasoned varieties of french fries between brands.

* Medications: Opting for generic pain relievers can save you quite a lot of money. These drugs are subjected to the same rigorous testing as name-brand medicines, so consumers can rest assured that they are safe.

* Produce: Whether an apple has a name brand on it or a generic label, it will taste the same. Lettuce, vegetables and other foods sold in the produce department can all be purchased as generics rather than brand names without sacrificing quality.

* Baby formula: There is a public perception that generics are cheap and bad for you, which is why some shy away from generic baby formula. But parents who compare the containers side-by-side are likely to find the same exact ingredients in formulas. The taste and the texture may be slightly different, but the products are nearly identical. The Infant Formula Act requires specific procedures be followed in making infant formulas, which means the generic brands must be just as safe as their brand name counterparts.

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