Written by: Chaewon Lee
Let’s put it this way: food brands are like television channels. Sure, experimenting with them can be fun, but after awhile, it’s nice to settle on just one. They’re also like designer labels: knock offs are a major turn-off. As for me, getting food from a particular brand is more than just a desire; it’s a burning need. That’s why last month, when I opened my food cabinet to find my precious Honey Bunches of Oats cereal replaced by the similar Trader Joe’s Honey Crunch n’ Oats Cereal, I almost died.
Unfortunately, events like that happen way too often in the Lee household. From time to time, my mom will sneak cheaper no-name versions of my favorite food items into the spots of their original. And whenever she makes these sneaky substitutions, I can’t help but feel cheated of the type of satisfaction that only comes from eating good food. Whether the item in question is soup (Campbell’s only), instant ramen (Shin Ramen, please) or even powdered doughnuts (strictly Hostess), I want it to come from my favorite brand no matter what, and not some random, generic one.
I want to say no-name brand foods bother me so badly because they taste dreadful (or at least not as good as brand name products). Then maybe I would feel less guilty about rejecting them (because they really are much more economically friendly. Sorry mom). But in all honesty, most of the time, the no-name food taste, look and feel similar to their brand-name counterparts. Sometimes, they even taste better. I surprised myself when two out of three times during The Oracle’s blind food test, I chose the nameless brand samples over the popular ones. But even with the experiment’s results, I don’t think I’ll consider buying non-brand foods any time soon.
First of all, brand-name foods feel more trustworthy to me. Because they’re inherently popular, I think that their products must be top-quality and safe from sketchy ingredients. Afterall, if they weren’t well-made, they wouldn’t be popular in the first place.
Also, because of some weird sense of loyalty I feel towards my favorite brands, I convince myself that only they can produce certain foods exactly the way I want them. If I sample Safeway’s generic orange juice and think for a moment that it might taste better than any other juice I’ve tried, I remind myself that that can’t possibly be true, because I already like Tropicana’s juice the most. And when I try Tropicana’s juice again just to make sure it actually taste as good as I remember it to be, it always ends up tasting perfect to me.
Of course, logically speaking, it’s pretty unlikely that my all favorite brands are the best makers of their products. More likely, my satisfaction comes from the placebo effect. In other words, I believe so strongly that my preferred brands are the best ones out on the market that they end up making me happy me regardless of actual taste.
At the end of the day, I know that I’m being ridiculous when I refuse perfectly fine food from supermarkets, but I can’t help myself. It’s so hard to change my weird perception of quality and taste, because it’s been hard-wired into my brain for basically forever. So for now, I will still only buy Auntie May’s Freeze-Dried Fruits, Quaker’s Chewy Bars, Chips Ahoy! chocolate cookies and Tic Tac mints (and the list goes on and on).