Written by Robert Bester, Consumer Finance Expert Robert has been a writer for six years, specialising in consumer finance and the UK lending market. Concentrating on consumer credit products, Robert writes informative articles that help customers manage their personal finances efficiently.
11th October 2021
3 minute read
- Branded products are charging up to 30% more than their low budget counterparts.
- Some brands have exactly the same ingredients as their copycat products, but you could pay more for them.
- Your brand shopping basket could cost more than twice that of a non-branded one.
The Imitation Game: Can you tell the difference between a branded product and a copycat counterpart?
An investigation from Money Guru has revealed the branded products that are charging up to 30% more than their copycat counterparts.
Budget supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl both sell a selection of products that are often close competitors of branded products, with packaging that looks extremely similar. They may be purposely playing to the loyalty that a customer can feel to a particular brand, but with certain products the ingredients are the same. Sometimes they’re even made in the same factory as their branded doppelgänger.
In researching the cheaper versions, Money Guru found that these kitchen essentials contained almost exactly the same ingredients as their branded counterparts.
When it comes to choosing the food items we buy, brand loyalty often plays a huge part in our decision. There’s a reason why marketing companies spend billions on advertising. They sell us brand values and we often end up buying a product based on these ideals, rather than the quality and enjoyment of the product itself. Brands work hard to establish trust too. Customers will repeatedly buy the same products or services, even if there are changes in price or convenience.
Some supermarkets however are cashing in on our need for high quality items that cost less. Our recognition of brand values and packaging can evoke the same loyalty towards a copycat product as we feel towards the original.
How much could you save?
Taking items from the food and drinks sections of the consumer price inflation basket of goods 2018, as used by the Office for National Statistics, we’ve looked at a 20 item basket from the leading supermarkets compared to the Aldi and Lidl versions, to see how much you could save. Now that we know many of these products have the same ingredients, how much is a brand actually costing you?
Brands cost you more than double your money
Some products weigh in differently to their branded counterparts, meaning that a brand basket costs 144% more than a copycat version. When we standardised to work out the value per 100g or 100ml, the copycat version came out as £11.26 and the brand version as £16.04. This puts brands in a better position, as it shows their products to cost only 43% more per 100g. This is still a hefty price to pay for those attempting to save money though and we don’t buy everything per 100g. We buy in pack size.
Does quality cost?
These budget products wouldn’t be so successful however, if they weren’t also really good quality. If you’re wondering whether the saving is worth it, or whether you’d be sacrificing on taste, we’ve checked that out for you too. Our in-house taste test was conducted “blind”, with packaging removed. Some people however, convinced that they knew which ones were brand, chose those as the better tasting ones, only to find out they were the Aldi or Lidl version. Which proves that we don’t just choose our products on taste alone.
We compiled the results though and here are the winners and losers of our taste test.
The Imitation Game
Lookalike products have emerged in both Aldi and Lidl, where the similarities between their versions and the branded versions are striking. This lucrative method is used in stores around the world. There’s even a Reddit forum dedicated to discussing and showcasing “off brand” products. Some are hilariously absurd, and others so similar to the original that they are almost identical and you wonder how legal action is not taken.
Abigail Woodhouse is Senior Attorney and Head of Trademarks and Copyright at Stratagem IPM Limited. She says,
“Decisions in this field tend to be based on the common law right of Passing Off, meaning that a copycat product is passing itself off as another, well known product. In order to succeed in such an action, the brand owner must show that they have goodwill in the market in the UK and that the copycat is misrepresenting its product by using a similar getup, and that this misrepresentation is damaging.”
She goes on to say that
“Companies like Aldi and Lidl like to associate themselves with branded products, to trade off that confidence in the brand, but they are careful not to overstep into the field of passing off or trade mark, design or copyright infringement.”
Although there have been cases that have set precedents in this field, the most recent one being Specsavers V Asda in 2012, where Specsavers argued that Asda using overlapping oval shapes in its mark for optician services was causing confusion, they are few and far between. Asda also lost to United Biscuits over a Puffin biscuit that was in competition with United’s Penguin and JIF lemon were able to prove the necessary level of confusion between their squeezy lemon shaped bottle and a competitor. While these cases must cause supermarkets to take note, there clearly haven’t been enough of them to warrant any significant scaling back in their copycat efforts.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the official views, beliefs or position of MoneyGuru.com