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Coupon users saved $3.5 billion last year, according to the latest figures. But shoppers who bought store brands instead of name brand products saved $32 billion.

So forget all this coupon clipping, let’s all just buy store brands and be done with it, shall we?

The $3.5 billion figure is from coupon processor NCH Marketing. The $32 billion estimate is from the Private Label Manufacturers Association, an industry trade group that aims to promote the value of private label products. And now it’s offering evidence that you can save more not only by choosing store brands over name brands – but by buying store brands without coupons, instead of name brands with coupons.

The PLMA is out with its latest pricing study, which was last conducted around this time last year. For four weeks earlier this year at an unnamed suburban Northeast supermarket, the PLMA tracked prices of name brand products versus their store brand counterparts. As in previous surveys, prices on all items reflect available sales and promotions – and coupons. Prices were adjusted to deduct the value of all known coupons distributed in the local newspaper, in store circulars and in the store itself.

And their findings were as follows:

FOOD ITEMS National Brand Price Store Brand Price
Baked beans (Bush’s), 28oz $2.25 $1.49
Butter (Land-O-Lakes), 1lb $4.27 $2.84
Canned Chili (Hormel), 15oz $2.72 $2.00
Canned Peas (Libby’s), 15oz $1.19 $0.71
Cola (Pepsi), 12 pack cans $4.69 $2.75
Cold Cereal (Cheerios), 14oz $3.99 $1.99
Hot Chocolate Mix (Swiss Miss), 7.3oz $1.99 $1.50
Ice Cream, chocolate (Breyer’s), 48oz $4.49 $2.99
Instant Oatmeal packets (Quaker), 15.1oz $3.24 $2.00
Ketchup (Heinz), 20oz $2.49 $1.69
Mustard (French’s), 8oz $1.49 $0.79
Orange juice (Florida’s Natural), 59oz $3.79 $2.50
Pancake mix (Aunt Jemima), 32oz $3.47 $2.49
Pasta, spaghetti (Ronzoni), 16oz $1.22 $1.00
Peanut Butter (Jif) $3.61 $1.99
Saltines (Nabisco), 16oz $3.69 $2.00
Sandwich Bread (Freihofer’s), 20oz $3.62 $2.17
Sandwich Cookies (Oreos), 14.3oz $2.99 $2.00
Stuffing Side Dish (Stove Top), 6oz $2.49 $1.59
Table Syrup (Aunt Jemima), 24oz $3.62 $1.99
Tomato soup (Campbells), 10.75oz $1.00 $0.79
NON FOOD ITEMS National Brand Price Store Brand Price
Antacids (Tums), 150ct $4.49 $3.00
Aspirin (Bayer), 100ct $7.94 $4.00
Childrens vitamins (Flintstones), 60ct $6.99 $4.99
Cough drops (Halls), 30ct $1.50 $1.08
Cough syrup (Mucinex), 4oz $8.59 $4.00
Dry dog food (Dog Chow), 18.5lb $12.49 $9.99
Facial tissues (Scotties), 70ct $1.52 $1.00
Hand Sanitizer (Purell), 8oz $3.49 $2.29
Mouthwash (Listerine), 33.8oz $3.99 $3.00
Nighttime cold medicine (Nyquil), 12oz $6.99 $4.00
Paper napkins (Bounty), 194ct $2.59 $1.99
Sinus Spray (Afrin), 1oz $9.69 $3.75
Stomach Relief Liquid (Pepto Bismol), 12oz $6.19 $2.99
Toilet paper (Scott), single roll $1.19 $0.89
AVERAGE TOTAL $139.84 $86.09

By buying store brands, then, the study concludes that you could save an average of $53.75 a week, or 38.4% on your grocery bill – even after using coupons.


So does that really mean you should throw away your coupons and buy all store brands instead? Not necessarily.

The PLMA isn’t able to publicly reveal the name of the store where these prices were gathered. But it shared that information with Coupons in the News for comparative purposes. And a glance through that store’s weekly circulars reveals some missed savings opportunities.

One limitation of the study is that it doesn’t account for all coupons, such as printables. For example, Hormel chili was on sale at the store in question for $1 one week. Combined with a $.55/2 printable coupon, which the store doubled, you could get two free cans for each coupon you used.

The study also didn’t consider that you might get a better deal by buying multiples. For two weeks, Cheerios were on sale, 4 for $8. But you had to buy all four. Combined with doubled printable $.50/1 coupons, you could get four boxes for a dollar apiece, half the price of the store brand highlighted in the survey.

And since the prices are averaged over the several weeks of the study, it doesn’t account for a savvy shopper stocking up when a product is at its lowest price. Regular prices of most brand name products are usually higher than their store brand counterparts, but their sale prices are often better. For at least one week during the test period, products including Pepsi, Breyer’s, Purina Dog Chow, Scotties, Ronzoni and Aunt Jemima syrup either matched or beat their store brand equivalents on price.

Then again, several name brand products were never on sale during the four weeks. For a bigger-ticket item like Afrin sinus spray, you’d be stuck paying $9.69 – 61% more than you would by opting for the $3.75 store brand version.

As with previous studies, the PLMA explained, even though a savvier shopper might be able to do better with coupons and name brands, the idea is to illustrate a benchmark of savings that a typical shopper might find by choosing private label products.

The PLMA even has a website where you can check prices for yourself. StorebrandsUSA.com features a “consumer calculator” that allows you to make a shopping list, then compare the typical prices of national and store brand products in that category. The prices are compiled five times a year, averaging prices from five different stores in different markets. The site, explains the PLMA’s Dane Twining, is meant “to introduce consumers to the wide range of high quality store brands that are available today, and to encourage them to think of these brands as having a place in their homes as well as their lives.”

And depending on how you shop, and how you coupon, store brands just might save you some money too.

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