Special Post Thanksgiving Food Feature: Store Brand Ethics

Dr-PublixI may be the only person who cares (other than the company’s that are losing sales to the tactic), but look-alike labeling, branding and packaging are ethicly objectionable if not flat-out fraudulent, and if it isn’t that, it’s a insult to shoppers’ intelligence. I particularly detest kids DVDs with the same titles and similar graphics as Disney DVDs, but containing cheap knock-offs that look like Hanna Barbara cartoons when the cartoonists were having a bad day. Now that my kids video purchasing days are over, it’s over-the-counter drugs and food packaging that trick me when I’m not paying attention and in a hurry, and with me its one or the other, often both. I got caught Wednesday, in fact, buying a Safeway knock-off that had the same colors as the real McCoy.

Thus I’m grateful to Consumerist, which recently asked for readers’ to send in photos of the most ridiculous examples of store brand imitations. With these, it’s not the lame attempts to fool consumers that’s annoying so much as the laziness and the pure lack of respect and creativity involved in the effort or lack of it.

There was a theme on the late, lamented film satire show Mystery Science Theater 3000 when the special effects or other aspects of the cheesy science fiction and horror movies they mocked were particularly ridiculous: “They just didn’t care.”

That’s what’s going on with this Hamberger Helper rip-off…


and this pathetic “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” clone…


Then there are these “What the hell, let’s call it, uh, this..,” cereal knock-offs of Fruit Loops and Grape Nuts…fruity nuttynuggets

The champions of this category, however, have to be these, also in the cereal category. Apparently because “Looks and Tastes Kinda Like Chex” was deemed a possible trademark problem, Market Basket sells these…


There’s a “Square-shaped Wheat” too, of course.

They just didn’t care.


Spark, Pointer and Source: Consumerist



7 thoughts on “Special Post Thanksgiving Food Feature: Store Brand Ethics

  1. That site you linked to is Amazing.

    “As pointed out by Cracked: Though simplifying or misunderstanding computer technology is common in fiction, NCIS may be the first show to misrepresent how keyboards work, having two characters use a computer simultaneously by each hammering away at half of one. Considering at least one keyboard was probably used to create the script, apathy becomes much likelier than the writers genuinely not understanding the very devices they were using to write. Then again, in the same show, a character looks at a computer monitor to make a guess at the number of cores in the processor, and in the same scene, a character is described as having “the high score in virtually every massively multiplayer online role-playing game”, a feat that would be unachievable in a human lifetime if most MMORPGs even had high score tables.”

  2. Another great site in mouseprint.org. In some instances, the store brand is the same as the more well-known product. Seen that in the juice industry.

    My personal ire is directed at Breyers Ice Cream now owned and packaged by Unilever. Check it out. Most of their products are “Frozen Dairy Desert” and do not meet minimal government standards for ice cream. Yet they charge far more than the store brands that are real ice cream.

  3. This looks like the off brand stuff I see at Dollar Tree or another cheepo store. You don’t pay much and keep your expectations low and you’ll be ok.

  4. If I remember my basic intellectual property law from law school (back before electricity), this sort of packaging is not only unethical, it’s actionable misappropriation of what I think is termed “trade dress,” if not outright trademark infringement.

  5. Agree with Other Bill, or at least have the same question. When does imitating logos/product design become a patent infringement? Who calls it?

    • The same question immediately occurred to me. Yet, I’ve seen other Dr. Pepper rip-offs with a “Dr… Something” on the label. For these in-store brands, I believe it’s a matter of those stores buying the powdered basis of the soda from the company to create a watered down and cheaper version. Apparently, the soft drink companies are therefore complicit with it and still make enough money to turn a blind eye. As for these other imitations, it’s hard to say why there are no copyright lawsuits, except that it might be considered too costly to pursue.

  6. Speaking of business ethics. If anyone thinks about using Budget Rentals-


    Those guys can go out of business and be begging tomorrow and I wouldn’t shed a tear.

    They’re customer service is infuriating and their ground staff is worthless.

    I’ve never sworn at another person over the phone in anger. But their method of resolving complaints: to just keep repeating the same line over and over until the customer quits or screams is crap.

    Dear Budget: I hope you fail miserably. And I don’t hope people fail…ever. But you just made the list.

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