Josh Onysko of Pangea and I talked this issue over a few years back—and ever since I’ve avoided grocery shopping for house brands. It’s not that they’re bad, but they’re not good. And for the past few months, every time I’m in one of Boulder, Colorado’s four Whole Foods locations, and I’m spending an extra quarter to support a small, independent company, I’ve wondered if House Brands really were, if not bad, not good.
Then, along came my idol Umbra, of Grist, with wisdom and wit to save the day:
Private labels give the grocer a higher profit margin — 8 to 10 percent, according to one source — while offering copycat products at lower prices to consumers. Whether these products are good as the others in your eyes is up to you. As I said, they are technically meeting the organic guidelines. To me, however, they represent the further consolidation of the food industry, away from a diversity of purveyors and to the detriment of farmers, who certainly do not get any more of your food dollar. Additionally, any farmer large enough to supply a grocer’s private label — or even the organic versions of mainstream products like Oreos and Raisin Bran — is farming at a very large scale indeed, and though large-scale organic is better than large-scale conventional..
…for the rest, go to Grist.