We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

10 Beloved Grocery Items That Have Gained A Cult Following

Add these to your shopping list and pray they're not sold out.

Whether you call them "generic," "store brand," or "private label," non-name-brand groceries were once considered a bad thing.

"It wasn't very attractive, but people were looking for ways to save money," marketing professor Jan-Benedict Steenkamp told Marketplace about consumers' perception of generic groceries when they came on the scene in the '70s. "And for retailers, they were seeing it as a way to meet consumer demand for cheaper products. Neither of the two parties really liked them so much."

Times and perceptions have definitely changed, however. A worldwide pandemic and record-breaking inflation have had a major impact on how we shop for groceries—perhaps permanently. In the quest to save money on staggering grocery bills, coupon clipping is suddenly cool, warehouse shopping is all the rage, and store-brand groceries are increasingly becoming many shoppers' first choice.

According to a survey released by YouGov in April that studied shoppers' awareness of "shrinkflation," almost half of respondents (46%) said that they plan to save money by buying private label products. And the Private Label Manufacturers Association reports that store brand sales increased 11.3% in 2022, "nearly twice the growth of national brands."

The quality of generic products is also just as good, and sometimes better, than name brand equivalents—so much so that there are lots of store brand groceries that have developed a cult following. Take a look at our list of the most beloved generics on the market, and take note for your next grocery run.

Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Costco)

A lot of words have been spilled about Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, including more than 900 reviews on Amazon. Its most notable fan is probably Samin Nosrat of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat fame (both the book and the Netflix series), who name-dropped it in her very famous book. But these bottles of first cold pressed oil made from Mediterranean olives probably didn't need any celebrity endorsement, as they're consistently well reviewed in sources like Consumer Reports and New York Magazine's The Strategist. The oil also earned almost 120 upvotes on a 2022 Reddit discussion of "What was your favorite Costco purchase of all time?" At a price of $20–$21 for two liters, it's a steal compared to name brands.

Advertisement

365 Ginger Sparkling Water (Whole Foods)

LaCroix gets all the hype, but store-brand seltzers cost significantly less than name brands, and sometimes, as in the case of Whole Foods' 365 brand ginger flavor, they're in even higher demand. With all the satisfaction of a cold can of ginger ale minus the sugar, this flavor is sold by the case (usually around $4.50) and is regularly cleaned out at most Whole Foods stores. Sporked recommended it as the best choice for a belly ache, and one reviewer on Amazon (which owns Whole Foods) says, "Everything a flavored seltzer should be! Great carbonation. Great clean, natural tasting flavor. I love ginger ale, but can't have the sugar, but also don't like the sweetness of soda anyway. This is perfect!"

Advertisement

There was a bit of a disruption in availability in 2022 as the entire line of sparkling waters underwent a packaging redesign, which struck fear in the hearts of devotees. One Redditor who works at Whole Foods wrote at the time, "I've got people busting down my door asking for that ginger sparkling water hahaha."

Butter Boy French Butter With Sea Salt (Wegmans)

Wegmans, in general, has a very dedicated customer base that is not unlike Trader Joe's, and a big part of the draw is its high-quality private label products. Wegmaniacs (yes, that's what they're called) have a long list of favorite products, including pasta, yogurt, and snacks. The store stocks quite a few highly coveted private label specialty foods, too, especially in the cheese and charcuterie area, which is where you'll find Butter Boy French Butter With Sea Salt. This decadent butter is too fancy for baking or melting; you'll want to snack on it instead, letting its flavor stand out. It's hand-churned by Rodolphe le Meunierin in France (per Real Simple) and regularly sells out. If you're all-in on the buttered saltine cracker trend or just looking to elevate a crust of baguette, grab some Butter Boy next time you see it.

Advertisement

California Roots Moscato (Target)

Trader Joe's might have revolutionized the wine trade with its "Two Buck Chuck," but it's not the only contender when it comes to cheap vino. Target's house-brand line of wines, California Roots, clock in at just $5 per bottle, and while they're not going to win any elite awards, these bottles are regularly rated pretty favorably, even among reputable wine critics. The crown jewel in Target's private label lineup has to be the California Roots Moscato, which is rated five stars by more than 75% of Target's online reviewers. This wine succeeds on two fronts. First, Moscato is generally a pretty unserious wine and has a tendency to be overly sweet, but this bottle is refreshingly balanced. In fact, Wine Enthusiast gave it a very solid score of 83 points. The second is the price: There's probably no other wine that gets poured over ice or mixed into sangrias and wine-based cocktails more than Moscato, and at $5 you can get a couple of bottles for a party without breaking the bank.

Advertisement

Mandarin Orange Chicken (Trader Joe’s)

There is so much to love in the frozen food aisle of Trader Joe's, but no single product comes out more consistently on top of customers' best-of lists than the Mandarin Orange Chicken. The sweet and sour chunks of breaded chicken were released in 2004 and have gone on to become the highest rated product in the TJ's roster nearly every year since. Even six out of ten Trader Joe's employees polled said that it was their favorite product, and some even keep an "emergency bag" of it in the freezer at all times. While the chicken is super delicious just tossed in a bowl and warmed up in the microwave (rice optional), it has also spawned many hacks and recipes across food blogs and social media. At just $4.99 for a 22-oz. bag, it's super affordable to grab two bags on your next shopping trip—one for dinner emergencies and an extra for experimenting.

Advertisement

Unexpected Cheddar (Trader Joe’s)

Trader Joe's makes the list again, this time for its hall-of-fame Unexpected Cheddar Cheese, which has a lot of well-earned hype. There's stiff competition in the TJ's cheese section, but devotees consistently rank this one high on every annual Customer Choice Awards list. Foodies and tastemakers agree that this sharp cheddar, which has the tang of a cheddar but the crystallization and texture of a parmesan, is tops—and yes, the flavor is quite unexpected.

Advertisement

"This is a cheese which if you put it on a cheese plate for people who never tried it, you are guaranteed to get 'where do you buy this?'" says fan page Trader Joe's Rants & Raves. While not exactly the same, it's similar (and often compared to) Kerrygold's Dubliner cheese, except for the price: $3.99 per ounce for a 7-oz. package at TJ's versus $5.99 for the same-size chunk of Kerrygold (per Target). Unexpected Cheddar also comes in a spread, which will save you the trouble of trying to subject a block of it to the whipped cheese trend that's coming for all cheeses, apparently.

Kirkwood Breaded Chicken Breast Fillets (ALDI)

There are cult favorite grocery store products, and then there's ALDI's Kirkwood Breaded Chicken Breast Fillets, which are so beloved that there's an entire Facebook group dedicated to them with 25,000 followers. Dubbed simply "Red Bag Chicken" by its fans (not to be confused with purple, blue, orange, or green bags), devotees swear that these breaded breasts are identical to Chik-fil-A's, especially if they're cooked in the air fryer and served on a bun with pickles. Red Bag Chicken got a huge boost at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 when the Today show featured the Facebook group, and the love for Kirkwood continues to grow. You can find tons of takes on social media for making everything from tacos to salads, and of course all manner of sandwiches, which, at $7.99 for a 24-oz. bag of fillets, are budget-friendly to attempt.

Advertisement

LiveGfree Gluten Free Pancake & Baking Mix (ALDI)

One of the biggest reasons ALDI has such a devoted fan base is its affordable store-brand products that cater to shoppers with often expensive dietary restrictions, including dairy-free alternatives, vegan products, and gluten-free baked goods, flours, and mixes. The LiveGfree line is a godsend for any GF customer on a budget, especially since the products are actually good. At the top of the list of faves is the LiveGfree Gluten Free Pancake & Baking Mix, which sells for around $1.99 for a 16-oz. package.

Advertisement

This versatile mix makes fluffy pancakes and crispy waffles, of course, but its popularity also lies in its versatility. You can make delicious muffins and quickbreads using the mix as a base, as well as biscuits and dumplings, and even use it to bread proteins like chicken and catfish for frying. This mix also doesn't suffer from structural problems that plague a lot of scratch gluten-free recipes, and it takes only a few added ingredients to get breakfast up and running.

"Started getting their gluten free mixes for my very gluten intolerant daughter years ago and everyone in the house agreed they are among the best pancake mixes we've ever used," said one Redditor. "My blueberry banana pancakes are always a hit thanks to this mix."

Advertisement

Great Value 100% Arabica Donut Shop Coffee Pods (Walmart)

America might run on Dunkin', but don't discount the popularity of Great Value Donut Shop 100% Arabica Coffee Pods from Walmart. Let's be real: Dunkin' coffee is iconic, but it's not going to top the list of any gourmet coffee snob. It's a workhorse coffee that gets the job done, and is often consumed in volume (a 20-oz. iced Dunks is Boston's standard-issue accessory). Enter Great Value, whose pods expertly replicate the the Donut Shop's original blend (a light-to-medium roast with a rich, sweet character) at a fraction of the cost. You can get a huge box of 98 pods for $25.98—that's 27 cents a cup.

Advertisement

Of the more than 4,000 reviews, an impressive 3,900 are five stars, including one customer who said, "​​This Donut Shop is a favorite in our household. It's bold but smooth. A good coffee for any coffee lover. Don't get hung up on name brands — this is a good coffee."

Signature Select Ice Cream (Star, Safeway, Shaw’s, Vons, Albertsons, etc.)

The ice cream aisle of any Albertsons-affiliated grocery store (Star, Safeway, Shaw's, Vons, Carrs, Randalls, and more) is awash in choices, but you can look past all the the latest novelties and offbeat flavors, because the house-brand Signature Select Ice Cream was the highest rated product in the store in 2022 based on more than 150,000 customer votes (per Supermarket News). It comes in several flavors, all of which are pretty solid, but the classics (vanilla bean, chocolate, and strawberry) are as reliable as it gets.

Advertisement

Of the 355 reviews on Safeway's website, 316 are five stars, with many commenters insisting it's better than some name brands. At $5.99 for a 1.5-qt container—and often on sale as buy one, get one free—it's no surprise that the best flavors are often sold out right away.

Recommended

Advertisement