Store brands vs. name brands: One better than the other?

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"I think there's more store brands available now than there used to be," Dennis Everly said.

Everly isn't the only customer at County Market at 48th and Broadway who is seeing the trend.

"With the economy the way it is, and with the rising gas prices, I think people are feeling the pinch and buying store brands is a great way to save money," Brad Nieman, the store director said.

Once stigmatized as a second-rate alternative, store brands are taking on their name-brand counterparts with splashier packaging and a growing number of organic, all-natural and higher-end products.

The push is part of a broader expansion of store brands into every corner of the supermarket. Shoppers can now find cheaper versions of their favorite pizzas, shampoos and chocolates.

The transformation of store brands - or generics and private-label brands - is being driven largely by economic conditions, including high fuel costs.

At the County Market's Broadway location, shelves are stocked with more than 3,500 different types of store brand products.

"Over the year's, I'd say they've definitely increased their packaging. They've put a lot of time and money into making it more appealing to the consumer. Also if you take a can of vegetables from the shelf and compare it to a national brand, a lot of times, the nutritional information is very close or even the same," Nieman said.

Nieman says about 30 percent of his store is stocked with store brand products. About 20 percent of sales come from those same brands.

"Private label suppliers have seen, over the years, that their products are really starting to move well. They've increased their production and variety of what they want to offer compared to the national brands," Nieman said.

Everly says he typically buys store brands over the name brand, but it all depends on the price.

"I think one is as good as the other, so I just go where the bargains are," Everly said.

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