Generic or name brand?

(WBTV) - Store brands and name brands sit right next to each other on the shelves.  The store brands are tempting and sometimes they cost half as much.

We wanted to answer the endless argument: Are you sacrificing quality just to save a couple bucks?

Food chemists and other experts spend their days comparing the best selling national brand to the product that will carry their own labels.  Matthews-based Harris Teeter and Salisbury's Food Lion both have these hidden kitchens.

"I don't think people understand the science that goes into the quality assurance we put in to testing our products," Shavonne Clark, of Food Lion Private Brand Marketing, said.

It's a process that typically begins when a major company puts out a product that is selling well.

Brenda Bacon explained how the process begins at Harris Teeter Quality Assurance.

"We receive samples from manufacturers who may be able to produce a product similar to the Kelloggs item," Bacon said.

Then the tweaking begins.  They make sure the color is right.  That there are the correct number of almonds in the cereal, rice in the pudding.   They measure the amount of sugar in the orange juice. They do it over and over to make sure it's consistent.

Then the food gets the people test.

Combined, these companies have 10,000 private label brand items between them and we can let you in on a secret.  Some are made in the same factories as the national brands - occasionally even with the same recipe.

The goal here is not to simply meet the quality of the national brand, but to exceed it.  So if all of this is true, how can these stores afford to charge you less?

"Mainly because we don't do all of the marketing that brand name products do," Clark explained.

Which means they can keep costs down and prices low.

There are some items the scientists just can't replicate.  Pampers diapers, for instance, have certain patents by Proctor and Gamble (things like designs or the closures) and a grocery store chain cannot legally copy.