Garlic bread recall offers a rare insight into supermarket house brands

Angus Kidman 19 January 2017

GarlicBread702

Is every store brand made by the same supplier?

Earlier this week, George Weston Foods recalled 11 brands of garlic bread sold in Australia after it emerged that the margarine used may have been contaminated with plastic. That's unfortunate, but it does provide an interesting insight into how many of the store brand products sold in supermarkets actually come from the same suppliers.

If you look at the label on a store brand item, it will invariably say "Packed for Woolworths" or "Packed for Coles", and won't give any indication of who the actual manufacturer is. The George Weston Foods incident highlights how much the various supermarket rivals rely on using the same manufacturers. That's obviously not something the supermarkets want to draw attention to, since they would prefer you to believe that their offerings are superior. But the evidence suggests otherwise.

These are the garlic bread brands that have been recalled from supermarkets (there were also some garlic breads produced for the catering trade, but those needn't concern us here):

  • ALDI Me'n'u Garlic Bread Twin Pack 450g
  • Woolworths Homebrand Garlic Bread 450g
  • FoodWorks Best Buy Twin Pack Garlic Bread 450g
  • Foodland Garlic Bread Twin Pack 450g
  • IGA Bakers Oven Garlic Bread Minis 4 Pack
  • IGA Bakers Oven Twin Pack Garlic Bread

In other words, if you buy store-brand garlic bread from ALDI or Woolworths or IGA, you're getting the exact same loaf. The only big supermarket chain that appears to source its garlic bread elsewhere is Coles.

This shouldn't surprise us. Supermarkets constantly need to cut costs to appeal to bargain-hunting shoppers. If a supplier is able to sell a product to one supermarket chain, why not maximise efficiency and sell to all of them?

Unfortunately, there's no register that lists the suppliers for store-brand products, so it's only when a recall like this happens that we can see just how little difference there is between brands. As a shopper, your strategy for finding the best house brands has to remain trying them and seeing if you like them. But when you do that, try and avoid any biases of the "stuff from supermarket A is better than supermarket B" variety. It's very likely to be the same stuff.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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