Plum Sauce No name - © 2024 - Loblaw

Food Dupes: Have You Been Initiated To The New Cult?

“What the heck are ‘Dupes’?” I asked out loud to my otherwise empty workspace. My exasperated curiosity was relieved in short order on reading the opening para of the post. ‘Dupes’ are low-priced duplicates of popular premium products…

Dupes are claimed to be exact duplicates of popular products. But these copies sell at much lower prices. And that’s the whole point. A lot of folks want them, but they can’t afford the price for the real-deal brand name.

Started with cosmetics

The Dupe phenomenon apparently surfaced first in the cosmetic sector. Nowhere else in productdom are package contents smaller and profits bigger than in the skincare and cosmetics industry.

Counterfeit perfumes caught the world’s attention for a few newsminutes a few years back. Black marketeers were caught selling fakes of famous scents for reduced, but still high-profit prices. The fakes were, in fact, flooding the market. There was an international crackdown by Interpol. Because what the crooks were doing was indisputably a crime.

Then came Dupes…

The crucial difference between fakes and dupes is that dupes don’t claim to be the products they copy. Dupes don’t display the trademarks, names or logos of the original products. That would be illegal. Nor, usually, do they employ the same colours, shapes or label designs on their containers. No deception intended. But the products themselves strive to be veritable clones of the original.

Products can be duped relatively easily these days. Lab processes can reveal exactly what ingredients are in a name brand product. And a little test-kitchen fiddling, in connivance with some careful taste-testing, can nail the nuances.

There’s nothing illegal about that. As long as the formula for an original product is not patented. In that case, the dupers must achieve the same flavour, texture and appearance using alternative ingredients. And that, apparently, is not as hard as it might seem. Hundreds of cosmetic products by dozens of famous makers have been commercially duped. And new food dupes are hitting the shelves every day.

Where are they?

They’re becoming a huge online commerce phenomenon. The digital sales channel is a natural match. In the real world, dupes are largely sold in the ‘everything’ stores – of which Walmart is king. But dupes are rare in the big supermarkets. They don’t want competition for the name brands host, or their own house brand and No Name products (see photo, top of page). Which, come to think of it, are the original ‘dupes’! One crucial difference, though, is the the No Names and house brands have never claimed to be exact copies of the products they imitate.

Case History: Walmart

Walmart has its own line of dupe food products, sold under the ‘Great Value’ name, and differentiated appearance-wise from other products by simple, often mo0nocolour labels. Their physical packaging is also simple, and different from the often-fancy jars and bottles the name brands incorporate in their premium products’ shelf images. For example, a whole selection of Walmart dupe sauces comes in the same generic squeeze bottle – which reminds me a lot of my fave brand of dish washing liquid.

TikTokker Morgan (@morganchompz) devoted a long video post recently to her top picks from the ranks of the Walmart dupe legions…

‘Let’s start with sauce because what is life without it? Walmart’s Great Value brand has this chicken dipping sauce which is their version of Chick-fil-A sauce. I can’t taste the difference, my sister who works at Chick-fil-A can’t either, and this costs just over $2.”

That’s some recommendation! But the definitive pronouncement on the Chicken Dipping Sauce comes from 2¢ Chick‘s ‘cheap eating’ v-log. (See vid above.)

“Have you ever had the Hershey’s sundae pie at Burger King?” she asks viewers. “I’m not usually a chocolate cream pie fan but this one is fantastic, but it’s actually just Edward’s chocolate cream pie. You can get two slices here for $3.74.”

And so goes the guided tour through Dupeland.

My take

The newly spotlighted ‘dupes’ seem to me to be nothing more than a new generation of No-Names and house brands. And those have been around for at least40 years.Where I live, there is an extensive line of No Name discount-branded products that have always proven more than adequate substitutes for their name-brand cousins. Most of them come in the exact same, or very similar packages as their pricier look-alikes. You have no trouble telling what any No Name product is ‘duping’. But they all feature distinctive yellow labels you can spot from the head of the aisle.

Nothing really new here – except that the dupers are now trying to make sure you know what name brand products their copies are ‘cloning’. And they’re getting a lot closer to actually duplicating them. This whole ‘dupes’ phenomenon reeks of a fad perpetrated by young people who’ve never heard of No Name and house brands. To quote the mother whose son wanted to drop out of high school school, “He don’t even know what he don’t know yet!”

~ Maggie J.