Every shopper makes a trade-off of price versus taste. But where do you draw the line? We decided to taste test a number of common name-brand products and the generics that set out to compete with them, to see which was a better value.
Click through our gallery to see when it is worth it to pay more for the name brand and when you can save money on the generic equivalent ... without sacrificing quality. ' Plus: The Nitty-Gritty on Generic Brands
Brand: Kroger Double-Filled Kid O's Cookies Price: $2.39 Review: Passable, but harder and not as much chocolate flavor. Verdict: Kroger's are OK, if you don't have a real Oreo sitting next to the Kroger cookie. Once you do, however, you'll see how much more moist and chocolatey the real Oreo is.
Generic: Kroger Wheat Crisps Price: $1.24 Size: 10 oz. Review: Taste just like Wheat Thins, but contain less salt. Verdict: Kroger's crisps are virtually indistinguishable from Wheat Thins. Both have no trans fat or cholesterol. Wheat Thins have two and half times as much salt as the Kroger crackers. Maybe Wheat Thins are a little more crispy, but certainly not $3 worth of crispy.
Generic: Whole Foods 365 Organic Vegetable Soup Price: $1.69 Size: 14.5 oz. Review: Virtually the same as brand name, but carrots were a little smaller. Verdict: Tie -- and tie goes to the store brand because it's cheaper. The soups seemed just about identical. The carrots in the Muir Glen were slightly bigger, but they both had the same generous amounts of green beans, peas, carrots, celery and potato. Neither had that fluorescent orange oil spill on top.
Generic: Whole Foods 365 Organic White Corn Tortilla Chips Cilantro & Lime Price: $2.79 Size: 13 oz. Review: Heavy, bland and lacking in lime. Verdict: Tostitos blows the generic away. The Whole Foods chip is so heavy I had to recheck the bag to see I didn't inadvertently buy a baked chip. I couldn't really taste any lime. I know they face added pressure for meeting organic standards, but this kind of bland fare gives organics a bad name.
Generic: Whole Foods 365 Organic Fruit & Nut Granola Price: $3.49 Review: Lots of tasty fruits and nuts. Verdict: The Whole Foods cereal is actually better. It had fruit (mainly just raisins but also cranberries) and nuts (both pecans and almonds!) that you could easily spot and taste.
Generic: Kroger Chocolate Malted Milk Balls Price: $1.50 Size: 6 ounce bag Review: The generics are big and clunky, with a thick, shiny, waxy chocolate coating and a mildly mushy malt center. Verdict: The real Whoppers are better. They are more delicate: the malt center is crisp, the outer chocolate is thin and fine.
Generic: Kroger Crunchy Cheese Curls Price: $1.69 Size: 7 oz. Review: Cheesier and more satisfying Verdict: The Kroger brand is actually better. It feels more dense. They still turn your fingers orange. It's everything I want in a cheese curl.
Brand: Walgreen's Shortbread Fingers Price: $2.99 or 2 for $5 Size: 5.3 oz Review: Made by Walker's too, but not that much cheaper. Verdict: I bought the Walgreen's shortbread thinking that cheap shortbread is better than no shortbread at all, but I was suspecting disaster. Then I tasted it. It was just as buttery as I hoped. No stinginess with ingredients. As it turns out, Walgreen's buys the shortbread from Walker's -- one of the very few instances of a name brand making its own competition. Then again, it's not that much cheaper. Next: Yogurt
Generic: White Rose Raspberry Lowfat Price: $.69 Size: 8 oz. Review: Amazingly creamy and delicious for a store brand yogurt. Bigger size, but more sugar and calories. Verdict: Generic yogurt used to be poor quality. The last time I tried it, it was gelatinous, almost slimy. This time I was amazed at how creamy the White Rose yogurt was. The downside is that White Rose has nearly twice as much sugar and calories as Stonyfield.
Brand: Pathmark Frosted Flakes Price: $2.99 Size: 17 oz. Review: While the flakes were a little smaller, darker and not shiny, there was virtually no taste difference. Verdict: The significant savings makes it more than worth the price -- and the generic goes on sale as much or more so than the name brand, making it sometimes an extra special value.
Brand: Pampers Baby Dry, Size 4 Price: $44.99 Size: 176 case Review: There's a reason Pampers are the industry standard -- they fit, they absorb and they don't smell. In a large case from 1800diapers.com or a warehouse store, they are cost-effective.
Brand: Lulla-Bee (Pathmark brand diapers) Price: $22.99 Size: Case of 92 diapers Review: For one penny difference per diaper, there's no reason to go for diapers that are bulky, bunch up and don't absorb odor. They are truly stinky.
Brand: Huggies Natural Care Wipes Price: $3.99 Size: 80 wipes Review: Huggies Wipes are embossed with cutesy teddy bear shapes and are somewhat thicker than generic wipes. Unfortunately, they're alsoflimsier, and tear easily when you're taking them out of the dispenser, or when you're wiping enthusiastically.
Brand: Safeway Mom to Mom Price: $2.99 (or $5.99 for a three-pack) Size: 80 wipes Review: Mom to Mom wipes are textured with a simple dot pattern and, though they look flimsier than Huggies, are actually a lot sturdier; and seem to have a milder scent. Verdict: In my side-by-side testing, I was able to use fewer Mom-to-Mom wipes to get the job done. They were easier to remove from the package and had a less pronounced scent. Since they are far cheaper and sturdier than Huggies, I'll only buy Mom-to-Mom in the future.
Brand: Choice Organic Irish Breakfast Tea Price: $3.89 Size: 16 tea bags/1.1 ounces total Review: Choice tea is an excellent Irish Breakfast tea with a sharp but smooth flavor. The tea bags are usually good for a second steepingif you've brewed your first cup quickly.
Brand: Trader Joe's Fair Trade Organic Black Tea Price: $2.59 Size: 20 tea bags/1.4 ounces total Review: Trader Joe's is very comparable to Choice brand; though it's slightly less richly flavored and, when brewed atthe same time, took longer to reach desired strength. Verdict: These teas are very close in flavor and Choice brand is significantly more expensive, but Trader Joe's tea bags are individually wrapped in plastic, meaning every box sends 20 plastic wrappers into the trash. The entire contents of the Choice brand box can be composted or recycled. Next: Cranberry Juice
Brand: Target's Market Pantry Cranberry Juice Cocktail Price: $2.99 Size: 32 oz. Review: A little more watered down and a little more sugary-tasting than the Ocean Spray. Verdict: The taste wasn't that different, so for the money I saved, would actually go with the Target brand over Ocean Spray.
Price: $3.99 Size: 6 oz. Review: The No. 1 Most Popular facial scrub on Drugstore.com, and an Allure Magazinebeauty pick. I have been using this stuff for years, but I think they've recently changed the forumla. It now has a very unappealing scent,like an apricot gone bad. I still like how it scrubs my face, though.
Brand: CVS Brand Apricot Scrub Price: $2.99 Size: 6 oz. Review: A little less grainy than the St. Ives, but it has a much more appealing scent. It cleans my face pretty well. Verdict: I would actually lean toward the CVS brand since it smells so much better. I might use St. Ives every once in a while because it scrubs harder but CVS might be my new go-to scrub.
Brand: Kirkland (Costco) Whole Fancy Cashews Price: $12.99 Size: 40 oz. Review: Nuts are very large, meaty and satisfying. Not too salty. Seemed very fresh. Verdict: It's a close race, but I prefer the Kirkland nuts, especially for the price. They are bigger (almost none were in halves), meatier, and have a soft-yet-firm texture that makes them seem just out of the shell. My family favored the Planters, which are saltier, crunchier and, they argued, more flavorful.
Brand: Cascade Price: $4.39 Size: 45 oz. Review: Cascade really does seem to provide the extra "grease-fighting power" and "shine shield" that its label promises. Detergent is thick and smooth and easy to pour.
Brand: Kirkland (Costco) Liquid Gel Price: $7.99 Size: Two 125 oz. bottles (250 oz) Review: Cleans well, but gel can separate and be watery at first, then later get clumpy and harden around the top of bottle so it doesn't close properly. Verdict: I'll keep buying Kirkland on price alone. Cascade seems to get the dishes a bit cleaner and the liquid has a better consistency, but Kirkland does the job too and is much cheaper.
Brand: Bounty Paper Towels Price: $0.99 per roll Size: 69 sheets Review: The paper towels felt thick and fluffy. After spilling a little bit of water and laying a paper towel on the spill, it picked up most of it but water remained in some spots.
Brand: Wegmans Paper Towels Price: $0.89 per roll Size: 60 sheets Review: The paper towels were not as soft as Bounty but had the exact same results. Verdict: Since they are equally effective and the price works out to be almost the same, your choice basically comes down to whether you want floral print or plain.
Brand: Wegmans No Pulp Price: $2.59 Size: 1/2 gallon Review: Tasted great, but slightly less sweet compared to Tropicana. The color was a little lighter, too. Verdict: They both taste almost the same (neither are from concentrate), but the Tropicana OJ is just barely sweeter than the generic brand. If extra sweetness is worth 40 cents to you, go with the Tropicana, otherwise stick with the store brand.
Brand: Wal-Mart's Equate Children's Cold & Allergy Grape Price: $2.84 Size: 8 oz. bottle Review: The Wal-Mart version was great tasting and also helped me sleep. Verdict: Equate is the clear winner giving me a savings of $5.40. Other than the cost and the packaging the products seemed identical.
Brand: Slim-Fast Optima French Vanilla Price: $6.97 Size: Six 11 oz. cans Review: The Slim-Fast Optima tasted like a thin vanilla milkshake without the "mmm" factor. It also had a granular feel to the liquid. I drank the shake at 1 p.m. after breakfast at 9:30 a.m. (three eggs with green peppers and a yogurt). I was hungry three hours later.
Brand: Equate Ultra French Vanilla Price: $4.59 Size: Six 11 oz. cans Review: The Wal-Mart version tasted nearly identical to Slim Fast but with a touch more sweetness and no grainy feeling. As with the Slim-Fast, I was hungry three hours later. Verdict: Both drinks are fine to the taste, although the texture of the Slim-Fast was bothersome. However, Slim-Fast has 2.5 grams of saturated fat whereas the Equate has no saturated fat and ten less calories. The Equate kept me full for the same time, had no "grain" in it and saved me $2.39. Next: Peanut Butter Cups
Brand: Target's Market Pantry Price: $1.49 Size: 6 oz. bag Review: The peanut butter was very smooth, moist and very fresh tasting. Verdict: I thought the Target cup was better, but I had an additional 15 people test the cups. Out of 16 taste tests nine people preferred the Market Pantry cups -- which cost more per ounce. After looking at the saturated fat levels. though, I will stay with Reese's because they have 1.5g less saturated fat per serving and they cost less.
Brand: Fiber One Price: $2.34 Size: 5 bars Review: These fiber bars are delicious and I've been an addict to their great taste for some time. They are sweet, chewy, and nutty. They taste like a healthy candy bar. Each bar is 150 calories and has only two grams of saturated fat (the bad fat) per bar. Cost wise it works out to about 47 cents a bar.
Brand: Target's Market Pantry Price: $1.84 Size: 5 bars Review: These fiber bars don't look as appetizing, but they have a powerful nutty punch and they satisfy my taste buds. The bars work out to be 37 cents each. Verdict: They have a subtle taste difference that I think comes down to more of the amount of rice vs. oats mixed into the bars, Target having more rice. Since I'm a fan of the fiber bar and will buy a lot of these, my vote falls with the Target brand which is cheaper. Next: Cola
Brand: Safeway Go 2 Cola Price: $0.81 Size: 2 liters Review: Though it has more sugar than Coke, it's not as sweet. I just opened the bottle and the soda seems a little flat. Verdict: Coke is definitely better, but if I wasn't tasting them back to back I don't think I'd notice any of the shortcomings of the generic brand. I don't buy soda very often so since the actual difference in price is pretty small I'd probably just buy the Coke. If I bought it more often I'd definitely buy the generic since it's less than half the cost. Next: Applesauce
Brand: Giant Cinnamon Price: $1.79 Size: 25 oz. Review: The Giant brand was a little darker in color and had a much stronger cinnamon taste (too strong for me). But overall, the taste was decent. Verdict: They both tasted good. I would give a slight edge to Mott's on taste alone, but with the cost difference it becomes a tie.
Brand: Shoppers Food Whole Kernel Price: $0.75 Size: 15.25 oz. can Review: Kernels were inconsistent in size and color. Flavor was good. The overall color was not as yellow. Verdict: They both tasted similar. The consistency of Green Giant was better, but for the cost difference would probably buy Shopper's again.
Brand: Giant Vanilla Wafers Price: $1.99 Size: 12 oz. box Review: The generic brand wafers were not as crisp and didn't really taste like vanilla. They were bland, harder and had an after-taste. They almost tasted stale even though it was a brand new box. Verdict: I was surprised the generic was half the cost, but the taste was considerably different between the two. This is one case where I would definitely spend more to get the name brand over this generic brand.
Brand: Wal-Mart Root Beer Price: $0.67 Size: 2 liter Review: This root beer tasted very spunky; it had "zing." It is sort of a sweet and tangy root beer. However, after the sixth day it had gone flat. I really liked the taste at first, so I'd only buy it again if I knew it would be consumed fast. Verdict: I personally liked the Wal-Mart root beer better, especially in a root beer float. But since the generic brand went flat so fast, I would only buy again if I knew other people would be over to help me finish it off quickly. A&W wins because its fizz lasts longer. Next: More on AOL
Celebrity spokespeople have long been a favorite marketing tool of companies with products or services to sell. Some stars fit the bill so perfectly, that they became nearly synonymous with the brands they were paid to pitch.
From Brooke Shields and her Calvin's to Mark Wahlberg and his, click through our gallery as we count down our top 25 favorite celebrity pitchmen of all time.