During one of my college Home Economics classes I learned this little tidbit. Many times National Brands, e.g. General Mills, Barilla, Johnson & Johnson, etc. will put their products in different (less attractive packaging) and put a generic or store brand label on it. By doing this, it allow them to capture more of the market and reach people who aren't willing to pay for the name brand products.
Most of the time the product and qualtiy is the same, remember just different labels. I always get a laugh when there is something wrong with a product and the store is forced to show what generic foods are made by the National Brand companies. (Not that I think it is funny when something is wrong with the food. Just making that clear. :)
There is however one thing that I will not buy generic - cream soups. I have bought and been happy with many generic products in my day, but nothing compares to Campbell's cream soups.
Now, let talk about the price of National vs. Generic. If you are NOT using coupons, I suggest buying generic brands. They are cheaper with the same quality - no brainer.
However, if you ARE a coupon* user, you can buy National Brands for much cheaper than the generic labels. To do this you simply combine a store sale with a manufacturer coupon. My pantry is loaded with name brand food that I buy for about 66-75% off the normal price. Sometimes I even get it for FREE. This is much cheaper than what I can buy generic brands for, even on sale.
Another thing to consider is the placement of these different brands in the store. Think of the shelves as real estate. The prime spots are at eye level of the consumer. A lot of people will just grab and go. So the most expensive foods are at eye level a.k.a. National Brands.
However, if you look at the bottom shelves, that is where you find the cheaper brands and generic brands. They can't pay as much money to get their product at eye level so they are put lower. And remember their quality is still great.
So take home lesson here: either use coupons to get National Brands cheaper, or be willing to buy uglier packaging to save money.
*If you are looking for a great way to organize your coupons you can buy one of my systems at www.TheCouponBinder.com. The binders are already put together so you just need to plug and play. Also included are the instructions on how to save 50% or more on your groceries.