Monday Memo: What’s in a Name?

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — All this month, my column outlines “Inflation Hacks,” easy ways to cut costs as our listeners (and we) are coping. To catch you up, here are the tips described here last week and the week before.

Shop “private labels”

Also known as a “store brand,” they’re simply products manufactured by one company and sold under another’s name. reports that Costco’s less-expensive Kirkland Signature brand batteries are made by Duracell. And from

Trader Joe’s orders most of its products from third-party manufacturers (including giants like PepsiCo. and Snyder’s-Lance), which agree to sell some of their items under the Trader Joe’s label. Many of these brands sell the same or similar products under their own names for a higher price. The catch is that Trader Joe’s and its suppliers all but swear to keep the agreement secret.

Retailers’ shelf space is precious real estate

  • Brands pay for eye-level placement, end caps, etc.
  • Stores exploit their home court advantage by displaying their house brands side-by-side with products that cost more because they advertise.
  • Browse over-the-counter pills – Ibuprofen, allergy meds, sleep aids, whatever — at CVS. The packaging looks quite similar to “name” brands, and invite you to “Compare to…” [the pricier brand]. Read the fine print on both boxes: same ingredients.
  • Same conveyor belt? Their lips are sealed.

“Best by…?”
“Use by…?”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Food waste is the single largest component in our daily trash. American landfills receive about 73 billion pounds of food waste every year.

With exceptions such as infant formula and some baby foods – which stipulate a strict “Use By” date — food labels display often-confusing terms, deciphered by talk radio icon Clark Howard:

  • “Best if Used By/Before:” This date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality — not safety.
  • “Use By:” This indicates the last date the product would be considered at peak quality. It does not indicate safety except in the case of infant formula.
  • “Sell By:” This date tells the retailer how long to keep the product on the shelves. States will oftentimes regulate Sell By dates. For example, Maryland prohibits the sale of grade ‘A’ milk or milk products past the Sell By date, according to one study. Other states may allow such items to be sold at discounted rates.
  • “Freeze By:” This date is a recommendation of when a food item should be frozen “to maintain peak quality.”

Your supermarket likely has an area where they mark-down meat, poultry, and other items nearing dates shown on the labels above. Eat-or-freeze today.

Holland Cooke ( is author of the E-book “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download here, and “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books. HC is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke