By Zarah Parker
Buying the generic brand at grocery stores has become a norm for most people. Personally, I find H-E-B’s brand pretty reliable as a trade-out for name-brand items.
There’s still a few items I can’t get myself to switch for. For example, I still buy name-brand ice cream and cereal. Anything else doesn’t taste right. While thinking over my own buying habits, I started to ask myself if there was a real difference in generic versus name brand. This turned into me questioning if I was truly buying the best products, and I realized the answer was that I probably wasn’t for most things.
This is because the best products, health-wise and taste-wise, tend to come from small business owners who usually set up shop at farmers markets.
For some items at the store, I buy the well-known brands because I already know what I’m going to get. At least, I know how it will taste. But as farmers markets have grown more popular, so has the spotlight on brands in the store and how they don’t always have the best ingredients.
The difference in ingredients is what Clifton Gillock says sets his popsicle business, KICPOPS, apart from more well-known brands.
“We have always made it a point to use the highest-quality ingredients and when possible source those ingredients from our great state of Texas, while more well-known brands typically are made using juice from concentrate, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup,” Gillock said. “We have a unique advantage over larger companies, which is our flexibility when it comes to production.”
Another edge KICPOPS has over massive companies is its ability to offer a wide variety of flavor profiles. KICPOPS changes its flavors with the season and has produced more than 100 different flavors, including boozy ones. You can find KICPOPS at The Market at Sawyer Yards, 1502 Sawyer St., on the second Saturday of each month from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Shane Nobles of Pain Train Salsa, another vendor at a local farmers market, said his products “differ from most big retail products in several ways. Ours are handcrafted daily using only the best ingredients with no artificial ingredients, additives or processed sugars. Each of our six flavors are unique to any other salsa.”
For example, Pain Train Salsa’s most popular flavor is its creamy avocado salsa and is made with almost a whole avocado per jar.
“We are also the only ones to make a fresh pineapple honey salsa using local raw honey from BZ HONEY in Tomball,” Nobles said.
Pain Train Salsa can be found at Eleanora’s Market, 2120 Ella Blvd., which operates on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Aside from open-air markets providing a potentially safer space for shopping, most of the sellers at markets are the makers themselves. This takes away the who-knows-how-many middlemen from product to grocery store. A market goer can speak right to the maker and ask about what’s really in their product.
“Customers are able to engage in discussions and ask questions with the makers, farmers and artist,” Gollick said. “No one is more knowledgeable about our products than us.”
For the sake of small business, for the sake of our sanity (markets allow for community interaction) and for the sake of putting a better product in your body, we should all make it a point to buy more handcrafted market items when we can.