For the most part, I am immune to having to buy brand name groceries if the store brand generic ones are similar enough. However, there are exceptions.
Have you ever tried generic mayonnaise? I have, and it did not sit well.
I like the taste of real mayonnaise. In fact, I’m a big fan of this white condiment.
Traditionally mayonnaise is made by emulsifying egg yolks with oil and lemon juice or vinegar. Emulsification is the process of combining two or more liquids that are naturally able to mix. In the case of making mayonnaise, the lecithin in the eggs acts as the emulsifier that keeps the mixture together.
RICH & CREAMY
There are any number of mayonnaise manufacturers out there. While there are many regional brands, Kraft, Heinz, and Hellmann’s are the national brands found in most grocery stores. Of them, Hellmann’s is the clear champion.
In the Mashed.com article Popular Mayonnaise Brands Ranked from Worst to Best, author Kori Ellis states (correctly) “There are two varieties of mayonnaise: Hellmann’s and everything else.”
The fact is that mayonnaise is big business. It’s actually the most popular condiment in the United States. American foodies consume over $2 billion of mayonnaise each year.
So, what about store brand mayonnaise? Where does the generic fall in the commonsense rankings of mayonnaise options you’ll encounter at the store? It’s pretty much the worst.
Considering the relatively simple recipe for making mayonnaise, it comes down to the amount of each base ingredient and the addition of any supplemental seasonings.
Store brand mayonnaise tastes like Miracle Whip. Introduced in 1933 as a low-cost alternative to mayonnaise, Miracle Whip doesn’t actually live up to the criteria to be considered mayonnaise. To wear the moniker of mayonnaise, a product has to be at least 65% vegetable oil. Miracle Whip does not meet this measurement. Rather, it is deemed a “salad dressing.”
Nor does Miracle Whip taste like mayonnaise. Packed with sugar and lacking in oil, the knockoff condiment is far too sweet and has a different consistency. The taste is also marred by the addition of mustard, paprika, and garlic.
Why the makers of generic mayonnaise have chosen to pirate the flavor of Miracle Whip rather than a real mayonnaise brand is lost on me. But that’s exactly what they have done, creating a product not fit for human consumption.
As such, I recommend you leave generic mayonnaise off your shopping list. When you need mayonnaise go with Hellmann’s or another similar brand. Don’t ruin your sandwich with the overly sweet sludge of store brand mayo.
Ritz crackers were introduced by Nabisco in 1934. The name “Ritz” was chosen to make buyers hit by the Great Depression feel like they were being given “a bite of the good life.”
Identifiable by their rich, buttery taste complimented by just the right amount of salt, the Ritz crackers brand is now owned by Mondelēz International. The company also manufactures BelVita breakfast biscuits, Triscuit crackers, and both Chips Ahoy! and Oreo cookies.
The store brand knockoff of Ritz crackers is identified as “buttery rounds” – seeming to promise a taste experience either identical or very similar to their name brand counterparts. One taste and you’ll adamantly argue that such a promise is wholly unfulfilled.
According to the Mashed.com article The Surprising Reason Ritz Crackers are Banned in Other Countries by Lauren David, Ritz crackers are the third leading brand of cracker in the U.S. Per Statista, Ritz crackers annually bring in sales of over $485 million.
What sets Ritz apart from imitators traditionally has been the use partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil. This ingredient helps the other components mix properly and also increases shelf-life.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled in 2015 that partially hydrogenated oils (known as PHOs) are not safe for human consumption. The FDA set a final deadline of 2020 for companies like Ritz to remove PHOs from their products. There are conflicting reports on if this has come to fruition.
If Ritz has indeed removed PHOs from their recipe, it has been a successful retooling of ingredients. The Ritz crackers you buy at the store today taste the same as they always have.
In terms of the generic buttery rounds that American grocery stores offer, the recipe is simply wrong. They taste like whole wheat cardboard. They lack the trademark butter taste of Ritz crackers. The mix of white and whole wheat flours is also off. And, the proper amount of salt is not sprinkled on top. There is nothing ritzy and regal about the substitutes. They are just plain bad.
SPREAD IT ON THICK
Peanut butter is another product with a simple recipe. So, you’d think it would be hard to screw up. Yet, generic peanut butter just doesn’t measure up.
I am a dedicated fan of Peter Pan peanut butter. I started buying it in my youth because I love the character of Peter Pan created by J.M. Barrie. If they made Superman Peanut Butter or Lone Ranger Peanut Butter, my allegiance to Peter Pan might be tested. But such fantasy brands do not appear in the works.
I am not the only Peter Pan fan to be lured into buying this nut spread. Introduced in 1928, the Peter Pan brand was the very first branded peanut butter in the United States.
For a product to be labeled as peanut butter, the FDA requires that it contain no less than 90% peanuts. The only other ingredients allowed are salt, sweeteners, and hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Peter Pan peanut butter has just the right sweetness and also has a very nice creamy texture. It is the best all-around peanut butter on the market. Jif, Skippy, Planters, and Reese’s also market tasty peanut-based nut spreads.
However, generic peanut butter simply misses the mark. “It looks like peanut butter, and it smells like peanut butter, but the taste is somewhere between disgusting and revolting,” surmises the Mashed.com article Peanut Butter Brands Ranked Worst to Best.
I’m not advocating a ban of all generics. For the most part, I am very happy with store brand alternatives to commercial brand names. I’m all about saving money when possible.
However, there are a few generics that aren’t worth the price savings. Hellman’s mayonnaise, Ritz crackers, and Peter Pan peanut butter are three brands that inspire customer loyalty based on superior taste; the store brand imitations just aren’t good.
What are your opinions on generics? Which store brands do you find to be great substitutes for higher priced commercial brand name products? On the flip side, which generics do you feel should be avoided at all costs?
I started the list. Now you add your two cents.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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