Evolution of the Generic Brand

Several years back, I remember the “generic” branding of cereal. I would make the early morning shuffle to the pantry and pull down a box of “Corn Flakes”. My enthusiasm, while not great at 6am, was much diminished after looking at this breakfast choice. An off white box with army font staring at you in black print, and the mouthwatering graphics…. Umm, none. I was generally the first to pry open the bag inside the box, only to see ¼ of the box filled with brown flakes. Occasionally, in the bowl and covered in milk, I would find the burnt flake. Was it caught in a machine or not a flake at all? Let’s just pull this out of the bowl and place it on the side. On an occasional weekend, sleepover at a friends or vacation, we would enjoy a sugar cereal. A box of Quisp, Quake or Lucky Charms would start the day off with a smile. Surrounding myself with a wall of cereal boxes as a breakfast fort as I read about the prize that I had already found in the first 30 seconds of the meal. Asking my brother to help find the plastic car from under the couch was the plan of the day.
The cost savings with a generic brand is a driving force of a consumer.1 In the past, the goal was to clearly identify to the consumer that the product was at a lower cost. Its best indicator was less attractive packaging. The look was so unattractive that it caught the eye in simplicity and blank space. Today, generic brands are colorful and unique. They rival the national brands in look and feel. One cannot venture down an aisle at Trader Joes without seeing a pirate logo or a catchy phrase on a food product. The battle of the food on the shelves will be fought beginning with standout packaging.


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