The Name Brands Hiding Behind Costco's Popular Kirkland Products

Costco is a force of nature (well, figuratively speaking). Sure, very little appears to distinguish the big box warehouse chain from its wholesale-centric competitors like Sam's Club or BJ's Wholesale Club, other than the fact it doesn't call itself Costco Club. But if you look closely, there's a penchant for superior quality from Costco that seems to set it apart. At least, it does when it comes to its beloved (and generic) in-store brand, Kirkland Signature.

Now, Costco isn't the only business known to offer deeply discounted generic items to its customers. And while the price of Kirkland Signature products is undoubtedly enticing — with those items costing 20% less (or more) than similar, name brand alternatives at Costco (via CNN) — the exceptionally high quality seems just as responsible as the price for members' sustained loyalty. Of course, there's a not-so-secret reason why Costco's Kirkland brand inspires such joy and devotion in consumers: Many of those items are simply name brand products sold under the Kirkland banner.

In fact, while many Kirkland-brand items disguise the original manufacturer, other Kirkland Signature products are almost stunningly honest about the (often well-known) companies manufacturing them. Frankly, there's a seemingly never-ending list of name brands masquerading as Costco's generic, in-house products. From coffee to batteries to numerous types of alcohol, we've gathered some of the more notable examples, and present those name brands hiding behind Costco's popular Kirkland products.

Kirkland Signature Espresso Blend (Starbucks)

The disparity between Kirkland Signature products that shield its original manufacturer versus those that proudly display the actual brand behind it was sort of fascinating. In fact, for every Kirkland brand product that required a deep dive into its background, there seemed to be one that did the work for us. Case in point: the 2.5-pound whole bean bag of Kirkland Signature Espresso Blend coffee, which plainly reveals it's "custom roasted by Starbucks Coffee Company."

Now, why would Starbucks — the world's best-selling fast food coffee chain in 2021 (via QSR Magazine) — willingly subsidize several of Costco's generic bags of whole bean coffee (including the Kirkland Signature House Blend, Medium Roast)? We're not entirely sure. It's not as though Starbucks-branded products aren't available at Costco, or sold right alongside the cheaper Kirkland Signature products.

Then again, perhaps it simply comes down to the idea that any potential profit outweighs the complete absence of sales. After all, it seems fair to assume Costco could provide a (slightly worse, but still quality) Kirkland coffee product if Starbucks didn't assist in its production. And since the coffee conglomerate can almost certainly afford the additional manufacturing costs of producing the Kirkland-brand coffee, it's actually fairly obvious how selling both Kirkland and its own products at Costco is advantageous to its own, singular offering.

Kirkland Signature Coffee Breakfast Blend K-Cups (Green Mountain)

While we understand the convenience factor of a single-cup coffee maker like Keurig, we tend to find it's more trouble than it's worth. Between the excessive cost and the devastating environmental impact caused by used and discarded K-Cup pods (via USA Today), we've generally opted to brew whole pots of coffee instead. Of course, we're not here to lecture anyone about their caffeine preferences; we're here to reveal that Green Mountain coffee has been producing some of the Kirkland Signature K-Cups since 2012 (via Reuters).

As Green Mountain told Reuters in 2012, the decision to partner with Costco on the production of two of its generic, Kirkland-brand K-Cups — like the 120-count Breakfast Blend K-Cup box — was driven by a desire to "create more options for value-oriented consumers." But facing an increasingly crowded K-Cup market at the time, the need to help its own bottom line clearly played a factor as well.

Since the coffee company found its stock shares boosted by 9% in the immediate aftermath of the announced deal with Costco, it's no wonder the partnership continues more than a decade later. We may choose whole bean, brewed coffee. But if you love K-Cups, save yourself some cash with the Kirkland brand.

Kirkland Signature Scotch (Alexander Murray & Co.)

The general origins of an alcoholic beverage, or the type of liquor used therein, may not matter if your only mission is getting drunk. Of course, if your main concern is obtaining a cheap drink, consider Costco. After all, many Kirkland-brand liquors offer the chance to imbibe on severely discounted alcohol ... whilst (perhaps unintentionally) obtaining a surprisingly top-shelf product in the process. This includes Kirkland Signature blended scotch, which is actually made and bottled by the distillery Alexander Murray and Co. (via Forbes).

Now, unless you're hip to each of the more than 140 scotch distilleries in operation in 2023 (via Scotch Whisky Association), you may not realize the caliber of scotch produced by Alexander Murray. Actually, considering 100,000 cases of Kirkland Signature blended scotch were sold at Costco stores in 2015 (via Market Watch), you very well may know how phenomenal the distillery's product tastes.

Named for the uncle of founder Steven Lipp, Alexander Murray and Co. has been the source of Kirkland Signature scotch since 2007. And after more than 15 years, it seems unlikely the collaboration will end any time soon.

Kirkland Signature Albacore Tuna (Bumble Bee)

Of all the generic food items we've purchased and sampled through the years, the most consistently decent product, across the board, was canned tuna. In that sense, we wouldn't expect anything less than excellence when it comes to Kirkland Signature tuna products — and that was before we learned Kirkland's solid white albacore canned tuna is made by Bumble Bee seafoods (via CNN).

Now, while the general rule of thumb dictates that any Kirkland Signature product will be cheaper than its name brand counterpart, that hasn't always been the case when it comes to solid white albacore canned tuna. In fact, in 2003, Bumble Bee solid white albacore canned tuna somehow cost nine cents less per can than Kirkland Signature.

While we'd usually urge you to obtain a name brand at discounted, Costco prices, that may not be possible when it comes to solid white albacore tuna. But since Bumble Bee tuna is an American institution itself, there's nothing wrong with sticking to the yum yum brand when you're craving tuna.

Kirkland Signature Tequila (Corporate Distillery Santa Lucia)

As you've likely noticed, a fairly wide variety of Kirkland-brand products across the food and drink spectrum are made by top-notch companies. But few food or beverage categories are more stellar, in more ways, than Kirkland Signature alcohol products. This includes Kirkland-brand tequila, which isn't made in some random Costco warehouse; rather, it's made by the Tesistán, Mexico-based Corporate Distillery Santa Lucia, SA de CV (via Forbes).

While Costco isn't ostensibly forthcoming with its tequilas' places of origin, it's actually fairly simple to determine where any Mexican-made tequila came from. After all, as dictated by the Mexican government, each and every bottle of tequila must feature a NOM, a four-digit ID code that alerts consumers which distillery produced the liquor in question.

Perhaps you've always avoided Kirkland Signature brand tequila because, well ... how could Costco make any sort of palatable tequila? But knowing its generic tequila is as authentic as it comes, you shouldn't hesitate to snatch a case on your next trip to the nearest warehouse.

Kirkland Signature Chocolate (Blommer Chocolate Company)

We can't say we always comprehend the logic behind certain companies agreeing to manufacture Kirkland Signature products. Additionally, since we clearly aren't privy to the structure of these corporate deals — or precisely how Costco makes it financially worthwhile to (insert name brand company) — it's likely more profitable than we're imagining. In other words, it shouldn't take a financial wizard to understand why Blommer Chocolate Company has provided the chocolate for certain Kirkland Signature products since at least 2013 (via Costco).

Now, we can't say with complete certainty which Kirkland Signature chocolate products are made with, or feature, Blommer chocolate. But based on the October 2013 edition of the Costco Connection newsletter, it seems Blommer is the likely chocolate found in Kirkland chocolate-covered almonds, chocolate-covered raisins, and macadamia clusters, among others.

More than anything, Blommer's commitment to impeccable quality and customer satisfaction seems to make it a perfect match for Costco's Kirkland brand. Of course, being a rich, decadent chocolate doesn't hurt its cause, either.

Kirkland Signature Jelly Beans (Jelly Belly)

Determining the name brand behind certain generic Costco products was far simpler than others. And like Kirkland Signature's 2.5-pound, whole bean coffee (by Starbucks) or Kirkland Signature Ocean Spray cranberry juice, Kirkland Signature Jelly Belly Gourmet jelly beans did the research for us. After all, as evidenced by the name — and the enormous logo on the front label — the variety jar of Kirkland-brand jelly beans is manufactured by Jelly Belly.

Now, we do have to wonder whether there's ever a need to purchase or eat jelly beans outside of the brief Easter Time window each spring. Frankly, even during that different-each-year holiday season, it's tough to justify spending our hard-earned pay on what we've generally found to be a lackluster candy.

Still, if there's one food group that calls for the premium, name brand option in almost every situation, it's candy. So if you're determined to obtain a jar of Jelly Belly jelly beans (or, if you prefer, candy beans) but want to pay generic-level prices, take a trip to Costco.

Kirkland Signature Farm-Raised Frozen Shrimp (Kader Exports)

It can be tricky purchasing generic meat, particularly depending on the store. Of course, while some chains have a plethora of skippable generic items — for instance, you shouldn't buy Great Value frozen shrimp from Walmart — Costco doesn't offer many subpar products in any capacity. Now, that comes as no surprise, of course, just as it can't be shocking to learn we've often enjoyed Kirkland Signature's farm-raised frozen shrimp. But that may be, in part, because Costco's generic farm-raised frozen shrimp is produced by Kader Exports (via FDA).

Actually, considering the verifying source for this name-brand-masquerading-behind-Kirkland product is an FDA recall notice from August 2020, perhaps we should be a bit more cautious the next time we purchase a bag of generic frozen shrimp from Costco. Then again, while a salmonella risk is unquestionably cause for alarm, it's a fairly standard food-based concern — and it doesn't appear like anyone became ill (mildly or otherwise) as a result of the potentially-contaminated products. 

On second thought, then, we feel fairly at ease about the general safety of Kirkland's farm-raised, frozen shrimp products. And perhaps you should, too.

Kirkland Signature Foodservice Foil (Reynolds)

Sometimes, we're wholly uninterested in purchasing the name brand version of a product — mainly, those items where the differences between brands tend to be negligible, and the rationale for paying a premium is entirely moot. Take foodservice (or aluminum) foil. In our experience, no kitchen item better encapsulates the idea of all-brands-are-equal like foodservice foil. So if there's an avenue to obtain the so-called superior (at least in name) version of a product, we're immensely appreciative — as in the case of Kirkland Signature Reynolds Foodservice Foil, which is made by (you guessed it!) Reynolds Brands.

Now, this isn't the first Kirkland brand product that clearly spells out its name brand progenitor, of course (nor will it be the last). In that sense, you may already be aware — and take advantage — of the generic Kirkland price for this Reynolds-made product.

But if you've been paying an extra couple bucks to get yourself Reynolds Brands foil through the years, do yourself a favor. Reach for the Kirkland Signature Reynolds foodservice foil — your wallet will thank you for the switch.

Kirkland Signature Imported French Brie (Isigny Sainte Mere)

In some ways, we'd have to imagine a non-U.S.-based company has more incentive to partner with Costco (and slyly produce a Kirkland-brand product) than a domestic one might. After all, the logistical challenges of exporting foods into the U.S. are daunting enough on their own. Any opportunity to ease the transition into American markets, then, may be welcomed with open arms. In that vein, it's no surprise the France-based Isigny Sainte Mere produces Kirkland Signature Imported French Brie for Costco.

With more than 120 million members worldwide (via Costco), there's no shortage of potential new (and recurring) customers for Isigny Sainte Mere to obtain through its Kirkland Signature production. Additionally, the fact the French dairy cooperative doesn't have to compromise on any brand credit when its brie is sold under the Kirkland name only further illustrates the appeal. The company's logo is square in the middle of every circular package, after all.

As for consumers, you never know when you'll be able to indulge in the unparalleled creaminess of brie cheese — let alone an authentically imported variety. So we can't deny it's nice having Kirkland's imported brie as a standard, affordable option to turn to.

Kirkland Signature Cranberry Juice (Ocean Spray)

Not unlike our initial confusion surrounding Starbucks' decision to partner with Costco (and produce some of its Kirkland Signature coffee products), it wasn't quite clear why Ocean Spray would want to supply the wholesale store's line of generic cranberry juice. But in all honesty, one look at the Kirkland Signature Ocean Spray cranberry juice label seems to tell the entire story.

After all, while the Kirkland Signature logo is plainly visible on the bottle along the top edge, by and large, the overall design of Costco's generic brand is eerily reminiscent of a regular old bottle of Ocean Spray. Actually, upon further inspection, the perceived similarities may just demonstrate that any professionally staged collection of cranberries looks the same to a non-critical eye.

Either way, it doesn't really matter whether the Kirkland-brand cranberry juice design is too similar to the original name brand. Because if Ocean Spray, Costco, and its consumers are happy, then who are we to make a fuss?

Kirkland Signature Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (Ti Point Vineyard)

Who actually makes Kirkland wine is a question many consumers have found themselves asking through the years. Of course, while some speculation is bound to lead nowhere, other hunches are right on point. This includes the presumptive origin of Kirkland Signature Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which, according to Reverse Wine Snob, is produced by the New Zealand-based Ti Point.

Now, if you remain unconvinced about the vineyard of origin for the generic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from Costco, consider the eye test. In other words, take a long look at the logo on the Kirkland Signature bottle of the white wine, then compare it to the logo on Ti Point's own Sauvignon Blanc, as seen on Wine-Searcher.

Does the plus-sign-and-oval illustration being replicated on both bottles definitively prove Ti Point produces Kirkland's similar white wine? Maybe not. But we see no reason to dismiss the notion — and, frankly, wholeheartedly accept that the name brand vineyard is behind Costco's popular Kirkland product.

Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend (Townsend Farms)

Uncovering the name brands hiding behind some of Costco's popular Kirkland products was more revealing than we'd initially expected. For one thing, while numerous Kirkland Signature items proudly wear the successful company producing it on its (sleeve) label, others only revealed themselves through less-than-ideal circumstances. This includes Townsend Farms, the company responsible for supplying the fruit for Kirkland Signature Three Berry blend — a fact only confirmed after a recall was issued by the FDA in 2019.

Now, while any FDA recall gives us pause, we were particularly shaken to see the 2019 Townsend Farms recall was due to a possible Hepatitis A contamination. Frankly, this makes it tough to be particularly enthused about purchasing a generic bag of berries from Costco — even several years later.

Everyone deserves a second chance, of course. But the disturbing nature of the Townsend Farms' 2019 FDA recall haunts us. So while we never considered ditching Costco entirely, we can't say we'll reach for a bag of Kirkland (or Townsend Farms) three berry blend any time soon.

Kirkland Signature Batteries (Duracell)

Before we go any further: no, batteries are not a food, and batteries aren't the first item to spring to mind when kitchen-based needs are discussed. But it's not as though batteries are useless in a culinary context — and, quite frankly, are often found in kitchen junk drawers across the U.S. Of course, while Kirkland Signature batteries don't come right out and say they're manufactured by Duracell, Costco's CEO Craig Jelinek did, telling WSB-TV as much in 2016.

While Jelinek was somewhat forthcoming with the fact Duracell makes Kirkland batteries, he was also quick to note Costco didn't "advertise (the batteries), it's just a brand." This allows the chain to control its overhead costs battery-wise, keeping the price low while concurrently increasing the profitability of each package of batteries.

Frankly, it always helps to have batteries on hand at one's house. After all, you never know when you'll lose power — which, thanks to climate change, may happen more frequently in coming years (via The Boston Globe). But with Kirkland Signature batteries, you can ensure you'll have plenty of high-quality, long-lasting batteries if the need arises, and never end up crawling in the dark.