Target: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly From Consumer Reports

Target Stores

Over the last few years private brand products at Minneapolis based big box Target have been frequently reviewed by Consumer Reports’. Archer Farms, Market Pantry, and Up & Up have all made successful appearances in the magazine – however the retailers brand have occasionally scored badly.

Target winners

Next time you’re in the grocery section of Target, stop off at the condiment aisle. Consumer Reports expert taste testers deemed Market Pantry Ketchup every bit as balanced and full-flavored as Heinz. They also liked Market Pantry Mayonnaise, which rivaled Hellmann’s in taste and texture, but could cost at least 25% less. And for your morning waffles and pancakes, grab a bottle of Archers Farms 100% Pure Maple Syrup. The magazine appreciated its thickness and big, bold flavors.

Frozen foods
Target’s frozen food cases have also had several winners in our past tests. Best of the bunch were the Market Pantry frozen mixed vegetables, which were found to be just as crisp and fresh tasting as those from Birds Eye.

Paper products
Ther well-priced Up & Up Full Sheet Puddle Busters paper towel offers solid absorbency and wet strength, so it should do the job on everyday spills. Over in the tissue aisle, grab a box of the Up & Up Aloe & Vitamin E Lotion facial tissues, which were exceptionally soft in our tests.

Snacks and treats
Testers also liked Market Pantry Peanut Sweet & Salty Granola Bars, noting the big roasted-peanut flavor with a nice hint of honey and toasted grains. Another tasty treat: Archer Farms Jumbo Cashews, which met testers’ standard for freshness. And Archer Farms Trail Mix rivaled Planters for its flavorful mix of peanuts, almonds, raisins, and tasty candy-coated chocolate pieces.

Generic drugs
Target did well in a survey Consumer Reports ran last year of drug prices, beating out drugstores like CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens. Up & Up Ibuprofen, cost about $2.50 for 100 caplets, compared with about $7.50 for Rite-Aid’s store brand. Up & Up Naproxen, sold for $5.50 at Target, versus $8.50 for Walgreens’ store brand.

Target also offers hundreds of discount generic prescription drugs, costing as little as $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for 90 days. Examples include the generic diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage) and antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac).

If customers are in Target’s pharmacy section during hot weather—or before a vacation to a sunny clime—they may pick up a container of Up & Up Sports SPF 50 sunscreen, one of the highest-rated sprays, with superb SPF and UVA protection.

Target washouts

Paying $55 for a 16-piece cookware set might sound like a bargain. But Target’s Chefmate Aluminum 16 piece set came in 12 out of 13 tested models in the latest tests of nonstick cookware. The problem: its nonstick coating did not hold up well in durability testing, which involves scrubbing the surface with steel wool up to 2,000 times.

Market Pantry Classic Roast coffee is second from the bottom in the current Ratings of 26 blended coffees. It lacks complexity and leaves behind a bitter taste.

Salad dressings
The Market Pantry Caesar dressing was dominated by black pepper and dehydrated spice flavors.

Target also-rans

Detergents and cleaners  
Several Target private brand detergents and cleaners did well enough in testing. For example, Up & Up HE Free and Clear laundry detergent, 12 cents per load, fared well overall, but struggled against tough blood and ring-around-the-collar stains. Up & Up Dish Packs, 17 cents per load, were excellent at cleaning dishes, though only so-so on pots. And the Up & Up All-Purpose Cleaner with bleach, just under $2, did a decent job, though it’s more prone to streaking than other cleaners we tested.

The latest wine Ratings include a pair of boxed wines carried by Target. The Wine Cube Chardonnay was actually quite drinkable, with complex wood and butter notes balanced well by clean fruit flavors. Several wines scored better, but for $6 you might want to pick up a box. The similarly priced Wine Cube Merlot didn’t fare as well with our testers, but it might stand up to a plate of BBQ ribs or spicy meatballs.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.