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When Canadians were first introduced to No Name products

Fancy packaging? Who wants to pay extra for that?

Loblaws began promoting its branded generic groceries and products in the late 1970s

In 1978, Take 30 described so-called No Name products to its viewers. 0:20

Fancy packaging? Who wants to pay extra for that?

That was presumably what some early-adopting consumers were thinking when they embraced generic, non-brand name products that started showing up in Canadian grocery stores four decades ago.

"The consumer gets a choice of three price ranges — national brand-name price, the lower store brand price and the least expensive generic price range," the CBC's Hana Gartner told Take 30 viewers on April 4, 1978, when describing Loblaws' No Name products to them.

"Savings can range from over $1 a pound for ground coffee to over $1.50 for a six-litre bag of laundry detergent."

'A little inconvenient' ... but cheaper

Hana Gartner asks a Loblaw executive and customers about the potential savings that No Name products offer. 0:46

That's right — a bag of powdered laundry detergent. Because a box would just drive the price up.

A bag of No Name brand laundry detergent is shown on CBC's Take 30 in April 1978. (Take 30/CBC Archives)

"It's a little inconvenient at home, but if you pour it in a bucket, you save that expense," explained Michael Bregman, who was then a business manager with Loblaws.

Bregman said buying the generic brand products could save consumers between 10 and 68 per cent, depending on the item.

He told Take 30 that Loblaws had already tried to market so-called "exceptional value" products to customers a few years earlier, but it didn't take.

"We feel the conditions are right now," said Bregman. "We've done it at the time we feel it will go."

More No Name products?

In 1978, Michael Bregman talks to Take 30 about Loblaws' future plans for its No Name products. 1:15

Bregman said Loblaws would look at expanding its line of generic products if they caught on with consumers.

If they did, he predicted that the trend would last and that competitors would follow Loblaws' path.

"If one [grocery] chain has a good idea, other chains are going to pick it up," he said.

A few months after the Take 30 report, The National visited the first No Frills store to open in Canada.

The value-driven chain where many No Name products are sold has since grown to more than 250 stores across the country.