At first glance I thought I had saved myself a quick four bucks buying a generic brand coffee creamer (White Rose) for $1.49 instead of the big name brand (Coffee-Mate) for $5.49. And why not? Though spotted in different stores, the jars appeared to be the same size, shape and color. Even their lids were identical, so it was possible they had both been manufactured by Coffee-Mate, making it a still bigger bargain. Operating on a large scale, big name food brands sometimes set aside a portion of their production for the generic and store label market and still come out with a tidy profit.
Of course it could be argued that coffee creamers weren’t even foods at all. Heavy on preservatives and the usual artificial suspects, the ingredients wouldn’t win any nutrition contests. Not a big fan of the stuff myself, I only use it for rare emergencies when I run out of milk for my coffee.
Still, $4.00 seemed a pretty steep difference for essentially the same product. Except a closer look at the labels showed they weren’t the same product. The $5.49 Coffee-Mate Creamer was hazelnut flavored, which partially explained the premium price, although $4.00 for a chemical spritz of hazelnut flavoring seemed a mite over the top. But hello there, an even closer look showed the Coffee-Mate and White Rose Creamer weren’t the same weight either. Though their size was identical, their contents, according to the tiny print at the label bottom, varied in weight, with Coffee-Mate coming in at 15 oz. and the White Rose at a mere 11 oz. In some quarters that White Rose disparity could be called subterfuge packaging, an implication the contents of the two weighed the same.
To compound the confusion I found the regular non-flavored Coffee-Mate in another store in a much larger jar, which looked as though it would hold at least 1/3 more than the 15-oz jar. Wrong. Though an inch taller and way fatter, the jar contained a weensy 1 oz. more, coming in at 16 oz. Which in other quarters could have suggested an attempt to mislead customers into thinking they were getting a heck of a lot more in that huge jar than one measly ounce.
With this set up, the only way to really compare prices was to figure out the ounce cost. Here’s what three neighborhood stores were charging (rounded off) per ounce:
- Coffee-Mate Creamer, CVS……………..$.28
- Coffee-Mate Creamer, Duane Reade..$.26
- Coffee-Mate Creamer, D’Agostino……$.25
- White Rose Creamer ………………………$.14
So in the end, by buying 11 ounces of the White Rose Creamer instead of Coffee-Mate I saved between $1.21 and $1.54 depending on where I opened my wallet. Plus I got another lesson in staying alert while checking out the food industry’s hocus pocus pricing and Abracadabra packaging.