Prices on store-brand items are on the rise

Man wearing mask shopping in grocery store

Major brands from P&G to Kellogg’s to Kraft-Heinz have recently announced price hikes. But what about store brands, those inexpensive alternatives? Some of those items are going up in price too.

That’s unfortunate for shoppers like Mary Jackson, who turn to store, or “house,” brands to save money.

“They’re running out of all the generic stuff because everybody’s buying it because they’ve upped the prices on everything,” Jackson said.

Carol Pearson suspects prices on even generic brands are going up too.

“Those are pricey too, even the house brand,” she said.

Of course, it can be tough to remember if prices on a store brand items have gone up — unless a shopper happens to save receipts over a several-month period.

So, we did just that.

What our price-check found

Receipts from one Ohio Kroger grocery store show that since last September:

  • Store brand napkins that were $1.79 are now $1.99
  • Store brand canned seltzer water that was $2.75 jumped to $3.99.
  • 2-pack paper towels that were $3.79 are now $3.99 for the exact same item.

In the meantime, at a Target store in Missouri, there were hikes on several store products, including milk, which is now 20 cents higher than just a few months ago.

Kelly Goldsmith, a marketing professor at Vanderbilt University, is not surprised.

“They couldn’t keep them down forever and that’s why now we’re starting to see these increased prices,” she said. “Regardless of if you’re a national brand or a store brand, everyone is dealing with supply chain shortages.”

Gunnar Rathbun/AP Images for Walmart

The future of store brands

But does this mean store brands will be the first to cut prices when supplies improve?

Walmart, Target and Kroger did not respond to questions on price increases with their store brands. However, a Kroger spokesperson did issue a statement, pointing to comments that CEO Rodney McMullen made during the company’s Q3 earnings call.

“Kroger’s strategy to lead with fresh and accelerate with digital continues to connect with our customers,” McMullen said on the call. “Our agility, and the commitment from our amazing associates, is allowing us to navigate current labor and supply chain conditions and provide the freshest food at affordable prices across our store and digital ecosystem.”

But Goldsmith says shoppers should not worry about big price jumps in-store brands.

“These are well-managed, highly profitable companies,” she said. “They want to make money by selling to you, so it’s in their best interest to solve this problem.”

That means that store brands know that most consumers won’t buy if they are as expensive as big-name brands, such as Tide, Kleenex and Bounty, so they are likely to keep prices down. And that way you don’t waste your money.

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John Matarese

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