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Screw brand loyalty

I’ve decided to change doctors. Bye-bye Dr. Pepper and hello Dr. K. Yes, I am switching to generic brand soda.

It’s odd that I’ve been so loyal to name brands in the soda aisle when in every other part of the grocery store I buy the store brand without question. It’s cheaper and it’s usually made by the same manufacturer. Sometimes they just package the same product in different boxes, though sometimes they use different recipes and the taste may vary slightly. You’re just not paying for their advertising budget. My only exceptions so far have been fudge pops and whipped cream. The store brand fudge pops tasted like they had a coating of chocolate fur, perhaps shaved from one of those chocolate Easter bunnies. The store brand whipped cream melted in my fridge, making it significantly less creamy or whipped.

For some reason I always had a negative connotation with store brand soda. I think I had some as a kid, spit it out, and forever thought it was nasty. However, my brother said he’d started drinking the stuff and hadn’t regurgitated it. He is a poor, college student, so I guess the extra 40 cents for a 2 liter of Pepsi would mean he couldn’t do his laundry. I had also read recently that when people did blind taste tests on soda, they couldn’t accurately pick the brand formula from the generic. So if science was telling me I was being stupid to pay an extra buck fifty for a 12-pack, I decided I would at least challenge my assumptions on this topic. I’m always a sucker for science.

I steered my cart into the drinks aisle and surveyed Kroger’s 12-pack selections. I like to bring soda to work, so I buy it in the cans. Kroger could really work on their product design because all the sodas were in similar white cardboard packaging. The only difference was the color of a wavy stripe, which wasn’t large enough to make a distinct difference. I read through the titles and grabbed some Diet Dr. K, Diet Cola, and some Diet Root Beer. They were only two bucks each, so if I hated them I wouldn’t have lost much money.

I stuck them in the fridge that night and the next day opened the can and opened my mind and took a sip. It tasted fine! I was genuinely surprised. I thought I might have problems switching, like the difficult two weeks when I’d transitioned from regular soda to diet. My taste buds had been pissed at me. Every time I would take a sip of diet they’d scream “This tastes like dirty water!” The funny thing about tastes though is that you really can acquire them. After you eat or drink something for awhile, it becomes familiar and normal.

I think I will save enough on soda now to compensate for the amount that they are raising my rent in a couple months when I renew my lease. My only complaint is that Kroger doesn’t have the convenient “fridge packs” that are longer and stack the sodas 2×6. Instead they have the old 3×4 boxes. I suppose they’d have to buy whole new machinery and redesign their packaging to switch over, which might raise the cost of soda, which would betray the whole point of buying generic anyway.

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bazu • March 28, 2007 at 10:04 am

Yay for generics! You are right that they are often just as good (and some stores even have “fancey” store brands like Albertsons and Target.)

I don’t really drink soda any more, but some of my favorite generic soda memories from childhood: Shasta cola, 25 cent store brand cola from a vendin machine, and foreign imitation brands of coke!


susan • March 28, 2007 at 10:23 am

PQ: you can actually buy a rack for the refrigerator that stacks the cans in that same fashion. I’ve seen them for under $10


Pam • March 28, 2007 at 12:27 pm

I’ve used store brands forever – I mean, I know Stop & Shop isn’t making this stuff in a back room somewhere, they’ve cut a deal with the manufacturer.

Once, I bought S&S Light Rye Bread and when I opened it up, the inner packaging said it was Weight Watchers Rye Bread – and I paid half the price for S&S! Such a deal!


spacedcowgirl • March 28, 2007 at 1:02 pm

pastaqueen–I agree, the generics are often really good. I haven’t had a problem with Meijer whipped topping (which is NOT the same thing as whipped cream, but that’s just my bitterness about Cool Whip talking. Anyway. :)

Your mention of Kroger reminded me that, as I am currently bugging all known cat owners like a crazy person, I might as well do the same to you. I wanted to make sure your cat wasn’t on any of the foods affected by the Menu Foods recall (I’m sure you would have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about it, but just in case). And unfortunately, to pass along an anecdote I heard… someone I know online had a family member who went to Kroger the day of the recall. Kroger was clearancing the recalled food, presumably to get rid of it. This is the same food that has killed an estimated hundreds of pets since that time. Take with whatever degree of seriousness you feel is warranted, since it’s an anecdote heard on the internet, it was probably just one store pulling a boneheaded move and not a Kroger policy, and all the other standard disclaimers. But I’m personally taking a break on shopping at Kroger for a while.

Anyway, that notwithstanding and since you do shop at Kroger, I recommend the Big K Diet Cherry Cola. Only available in 2-liters, unfortunately, but it is excellent. I hate Diet Cherry Coke now that they’ve started using the acesulfame K in it (too sickly sweet for me) but the Big K version tastes like the Diet Cherry Coke of yore.


PastaQueen • March 28, 2007 at 1:33 pm

spacedcowgirl – I’m aware of the recall and all the Science Diet foods that were on it were wet foods. I only feed my cat dry food, so he’s safe. Recalls like that are scary though.


Shelly • March 28, 2007 at 2:11 pm

I steer clear of Kroger…I know someone who worked in the deli at the one by my house. She told me when the sliced Turkey got a little old they would dip it in a light BLEACH solution! UGH! But, I am sure it is fine for soda. Of coures that recall thing is not to good. One more thing… you should look into carbon and the effects on your muscles since your doing weight training… unless you can’t live without soda…don’t look and enjoy!


Sandi • March 28, 2007 at 2:18 pm

It’s funny that you mention sote brand diet soda. In an effort to save some money Hubby and I recently tried the Walmart brand of soda. This is not liekly something we will try asgain. Not very good at all!! Maybe all store brands are not created equal.

I know for a fact that the Meijer store brand bread is produced by Aunt Millie’s which is GREAT bread!! I am eating the meijer bread as I type!

Just want to throw in that although I don’t comment very much, I read your blog EVERY day and am so inspired by what you have achieved!! You Rock! And the fact that you are a fellow Indiana resident doesn’t hurt either! :)


weird • March 28, 2007 at 6:40 pm

Am I the only East Coaster who gets weirdly hungry when i see the names of certain midwestern grocery chains like kroger’s and meijers?

I guess it’s because I only hear about them when I’m reading recipes online (or, I suppose, on diet blogs like this one).

I associate them with reading about delicious cake recipes on blogs and things!


Rachel • March 29, 2007 at 12:38 am

I’m going to have to disagree with you here. I am a DEAD LOYAL FAN to Diet Coke and will never change to generic. I don’t think it tastes the same AT ALL. My parents have started buying Diet Max cola from Albertson’s and it tastes like gingery yuck. Needless to say, I don’t drink sodas at their house anymore. Luckily, I buy my Diet Cokes by the 20 pack. ;)

PS I do indeed buy everything else generic and am usually 100% satisfied. The irony is that I used to hate that my dad bought all generic items and now I do the same. I guess he taught me the value of a dollar. Sigh.


lovelines • March 29, 2007 at 3:53 am

Don’t know, generic soda still tastes different to me, but then again, I don’t drink much soda. So who knows?


Lose Weight With Me • March 29, 2007 at 9:47 am

I don’t drink much soda, so that taste is lost on me. I was a major Pepsi-holic before I lost my weight. I find that drinking diet soda only makes me want the real thing, so I avoid it.



hollygee • March 29, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Here is the thing with generics — they bid out their supplier. It will remain that same taste only as long as that particular supplier meets their bid. As soon as the store finds a better bid, the supplier will change. This may not mean any change at all or could mean a drastic change in taste or consistency.

First time visitor here — good blog. And congratulations on your weight loss and welcoming to better health.


Trixie Belden • March 29, 2007 at 11:15 pm

Hooray for generics! However, I made the mistake of buying “Toasties” instead of “Cheerios”. (Okay, it was a conscious decision, not a mistake.) They taste like the cardboard the box is made out of. Oh well, I guess I’ve found my version of whipped cream and fudge pops!


Clam-bake • March 30, 2007 at 1:00 am

I love a bargain, but I’ve found Kroger to have the worst store brand foods. They bought a couple of local supermarket chains here, and when they changed over to their own generic stuff it was all terrible. I suppose some of it can be attributed to taste and being accustomed to something else – but one example was a plastic squeeze bottle of grape jelly. We never even got to try it because I couldn’t for the life of me squeeze anything out of the bottle. Even after taking off the cap and practically sitting my gigantic ass on it nothing came out.

Now I shop at Safeway most of the time.


Clam-bake • March 30, 2007 at 1:17 am

This might seem inappropriate, and if it is then forgive me. I just thought it was so funny and it made me think of you, even though I don’t actually know you and even though this site is the anti-you…. http://www.pimpthatsnack.com


Les • March 30, 2007 at 7:29 am

Hey, I’m a single, working but broke male. The cheaper the better!!!!!GGOOOOOOOOOOOOO DR K.


Mymsie • March 30, 2007 at 12:08 pm

I loathe Wal-mart, but their diet white grape is great!


spacedcowgirl • March 30, 2007 at 3:18 pm

Kroger having bad generics reminded me, the other product of theirs that I’ve gotta stand up for (other than the awesome Big K Diet Cherry Cola referenced above) is their “Nutty Nuggets” cereal. Despite the horribly misguided name, they are a good facsimile of Grape-Nuts.


La BellaDonna • March 30, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Clambake, forgive me if this is something you had already tried, but that squeeze bottle of grape jelly – you did take the squeeze part off first, peel off the “keep the jelly in” sticker, and put the squeeze part back on before you tried squeezing any jelly out, right? Because squeeze jellies have the same kind of weird silvery tops that a lot of peanut butters have to keep everything sanitary – but they’re hidden under the squeeze-out part.


Clam-bake • April 4, 2007 at 11:09 pm

La Bella Donna: I not only took off the “keep the jelly in” sticker (I like that one!!) – I even tried squeezing it without the cap on at all and I still couldn’t get anything out of it.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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