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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Generic Products of The '80s

 Generic products (not to be confused with store or house brand named products, although they are identical in quality) were a fad of the early 1980s. With stark packaging, listing little more than the product name, ingredients, nutritional information, manufacturer and UPC bar code.

The idea behind them was by eliminating the cost for logos, descriptive copy, and photos/illustrations on the packaging, the savings could be passed on to consumers. Even though much of these were stock images anyway and in reality bore little extra cost in the actual manufacturing process.

It's been said generic products were factory seconds and had little to no taste or nutritional value. That was pretty much false as generic products were often manufactured at the same processing plants as name brand items (even on the same lines!) and in any blindfolded test it was hard to tell the difference between say, a generic can of corn and a name brand one. And some even thought the generic packaged products tasted better.

First appearing in 1981, they reached their peak in 1983 and 1984. However, as I mentioned, the savings from printing on the labels was very small overall and many retail chains began repackaging their generic products under house/store brand names. They completely disappeared by 1988    

They were often in uniform aisles in the store, where every item was generic.

They looked like this.....
....but felt like this.
The rock group Public Image Ltd. famously spoofed the generic craze on their 1985 album, simply titled Album (for vinyl releases) Cassette (for cassette releases of Album) and Compact Disc (for CD releases of Album)

See also The Return of Generic Products


  1. Thanks for the great post. I vividly remember these products from the early 80s!

  2. I was a teenager when the generics first came out. A lot of people that I knew used to put these down quite a bit. My family was fairly low income so we bought them and it was a 50/50 split. Some things were good if not better than the name brands and some things were not. But we used the generics anyway. I think beer was the only thing nobody really liked. I usd to hear people compare it to "Billy" beer. LOL!


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