By Mike Thayer
Every morning, millions of Americans wake up to (or need it to wake up) a cup of coffee, java, joe, brew, mud, bean juice, morning jolt, wakey juice, call it what you will.... Many of those folks can't drink it black however, it's GOT to have some creamer in it.....
I'm in that latter category. Creamer is must! If I had to drink my coffee black I'd be more of a curmudgeon than I already am.
My preference is Hazelnut flavored creamer, Italian Sweet Cream is my Plan B if a Hazelnut selection is not available. Coffee with cream is just one of those simple pleasures in life, a good way to start the day and that Hazelnut flavor kicks off that start better than any other flavor for me.
But regardless of what flavor of creamer you might prefer in your coffee, have you ever wondered if you're paying too much for it?
In a Bachelor on the Cheap evaluation of creamers, I bought two national brands, a store brand as well as a discount grocer brand and compared them. All creamers purchased were 32 ounce containers. I considered price, label/ingredients and of course, taste. Here's what I found in this test, tasting each creamer starting with the highest priced first:
1st Cup - Coffee Mate, cost - $3.29: This is the standard, that creaminess you come to expect when you add a splash to a cup of coffee. There is a reason so many restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and convenience stores offer Coffee Mate, having it available on their tables, bars and counters and Coffee Mate has the sales force to make that happen. My first cup of coffee this morning was smooth and I uttered that coffee "Mmmmm" with that first sip.
2nd Cup - International Delight, cost - $2.99: I've bought International Delight before but I can't recall ever buying their Hazelnut flavor. I've purchased their seasonal offerings like Pumpkin Spice or Peppermint because it was on sale or a promotion, but never their Hazelnut before this challenge. I won't be buying their Hazelnut again anytime soon either. My second cup of coffee this morning was a disappointment. A review of the ingredient labels of the four products I purchased shows International Delight uses palm oil (rather than vegetable oil) in their creamer recipe, the others don't. With that being the only distinguishable difference, International Delight comes off not as sweet as Coffee Mate and well, more savory if you will and that's not a good thing. There's also a hint of bitterness in the finish. The taste of palm oil is hard to describe, I just know I don't like it in my coffee.
3rd Cup - Kroger (store brand), cost - $1.99: Ahhhh, back to a good cup of coffee with the third...... If I conducted a blind taste test on myself - put that on camera, right? - I don't know that I would be able to tell the difference between Coffee Mate and the store brand and I'm saving $1.30!
4th Cup - Friendly Farms (discount grocer brand, a.k.a., Aldi), cost - $1.99: Also a good cup of coffee and the price is right, also saving $1.30 over Coffee Mate. But if I had to give a nod to Friendly Farms or a store brand like Kroger, it would have to go to Kroger. Friendly Farms is a plan B to a store brand but still a preference over paying the premium for Coffee Mate.
To sum.... I will continue to buy a store brand or discount brand of Hazelnut coffee creamer before I'll buy Coffee Mate and International Delight is now totally out of the picture, even their seasonal/promotional stuff. There is no distinguishable taste difference between a store brand like Kroger and Coffee Mate and I like saving $1.30. I go through a jug of creamer a week, that translates into a savings of over $67 a year - just on creamer alone. Buying the store brand saves!
A lot of people think that store brands are really just a national brand slapping a grocer's label on their product via some negotiated and/or bidded contract but that's not true. Kroger didn't go to Coffee Mate to have them make some Hazelnut creamer and put a Kroger label on it. Coffee Mate isn't about to do that, it would shrink their market share. And why pay for all that advertising to become the top brand then? Think about it, why do those name brands insist that grocers put their products on the prominent and/or eye level shelves? And remember that sales force on the payroll that gets/keeps the name brand in the restaurants, coffee bars, hotels and convenience stores. The reality behind store brands is, there are all kinds of small food companies out there dedicated solely to the development of store brands. They work directly with the grocer to develop the item, package and label it. The reason behind the cheaper price is that there is no advertising/marketing/sales force costs involved in that development.
Save with the store brand, you won't notice the taste difference, but you'll definitely notice the price difference!
Spend wisely my friends......