Kirkland Signature Products That Are Better Than The Brand Name Original

We get it. Grocery shopping can be kind of daunting. Sure, it's not brain surgery, but you are expected to calculate flavor, nutritional value, and cost of everything while you're placing it in your cart, then nod sagely as the cashier states your total, as if you expected it all along. Honestly, it takes time and skill to really get on top of your grocery game.

While you're honing your grocery list and on-the-fly math skills, though, why not take advantage of your Costco membership? You can find some great deals there. In fact, some products from the store's in-house brand, Kirkland Signature, can more than hold their own against the flashier, more expensive brand-name competition.

Yes, seriously. Those of you who have gained access to your local Costco are sitting on a potential goldmine, at least where your budget is concerned. In some cases, Kirkland Signature stuff is so good that it actually outperforms similar items with more recognizable names. In fact, there are a few products here that are made by the same companies, making the often more-affordable Kirkland item the obvious choice.

Kirkland Signature extra virgin olive oil

If you can manage it, olive oil is a pretty excellent ingredient to keep stocked in your pantry. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help lower both your cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease when used in place of other fats. A good extra virgin olive oil, which The Kitchn defines as an unrefined, minimally processed oil, also tastes pretty great. Extra virgin olive oil is full of rich flavors that go great with cold dishes. Keep in mind that its low smoke point means extra-virgin olive oil is not the best choice for hot applications like frying.

The problem is, olive oil can get pretty expensive. What's a budget-conscious home cook to do? If you're trying to incorporate a decent olive oil into your pantry without breaking the bank every grocery trip, then consider the Kirkland brand version. According to the Huffington Post, beloved chef and cookbook author Samin Nosrat has revealed that one of her favorite varieties comes straight from the Kirkland Signature brand. Even New York Magazine has included it in their roundup of best olive oils, noting that their USDA organic stuff is pretty tasty. Add those glowing reviews to the prices you can score by shopping at Costco, and it's not hard to see the benefits overall.

Kirkland Signature animal crackers

Animal crackers are tough to beat. These sweet little snacks are a staple of preschools and playrooms, but have you considered buying them from Costco? Turns out, you won't be sacrificing much in quality compared to other, more recognizable versions.

According to Business Insider, the Kirkland Signature brand compares pretty favorably to its competitors. Sure, it doesn't look quite like other brands, with animal shapes that look to have been stamped rather than purely cut out of the cookie dough. But what are aesthetics compared to taste? The Kirkland version actually comes out on top more often than not, with good vanilla flavor and a pleasingly smooth texture.

Of course, depending on what you compare them to, the Costco animal crackers may have a higher calorie count, but simply consider it a reminder to snack responsibly in the first place. Between the taste and the affordable price, these snacks are often a better buy with the Kirkland Signature label slapped onto the container.

Kirkland Signature granola

If you're trying to assemble a health-conscious breakfast but with a slight edge of indulgence, granola isn't a bad way to go. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, oats, which make up the bulk of most granolas, are a good source of fiber and are associated with improved heart health. They may also help control blood sugar and are a healthy food for people looking to lose a little weight.

Yes, granola often comes with some added sugars, but watching your portions can help there. You can still feel good about serving up some nonfat Greek yogurt with just the right amount of sweetened oats, nuts, and fruit that come standard with most granola mixes. It's definitely a better choice than a sweet, buttery pastry, though we're not going to judge you for the occasional indulgence here and there.

Considering both taste and cost, granola is yet another product where Kirkland Signature arguably has a leg up on the original. Over at Business Insider, tasters compared the Ancient Grain Kirkland granola to a similar competitor from Nature Valley. Their conclusion? Nature Valley's offering was a bit too sweet, while the Costco granola was surprisingly rich and complex. It also had a greater and more interesting variety of ingredients, including whole grains that deepened the taste of the granola.

Kirkland Signature peanut butter pretzels

Sometimes, you just want a proper snack. You don't want to fret too much over calories. You simply want the richness of some peanut butter, perhaps paired with a savory, salty pretzel to round things out as you're chowing down.

Compared to the Good Health name brand, says Business Insider, the Kirkland Signature pretzel bites are a superior alternative. It's true that the Kirkland offering had a higher calorie count than the Good Health pretzel bites, but that's admissible compared to other factors. The Kirkland pretzel bites are full of creamy, smooth peanut butter with plenty of flavor. Meanwhile, the competitor can be a bit dry and, according to some tasters, overly salty.

Plus, like so many other Kirkland Signature items up for grabs on Costco shelves, their peanut butter pretzels are simply a better deal. You can get a respectably sized plastic jug of them for a good price per weight, making it a smart choice for your wallet as well as your taste buds.

Kirkland Signature vodka

A little tipple, taken sensibly and in moderation, isn't such a bad thing. Vodka, that chameleon of liquor that plays so well with many other flavors, is often at the center of a beloved mixed drink. A well-made martini or cosmopolitan can be a little delight at the end of a day, after all.

Now, let's say you're going to be making drinks for a party. Or maybe you just want to have a bit of extra vodka on hand to see if it really works when mixed into pie dough. Heck, it could be that you're just trying to be responsible and manage your bank account while still enjoying an occasional drink. Could it be that Costco's Kirkland vodka is the answer?

Quite possibly, yes. Rumor has long had it that Grey Goose brand vodka and Kirkland Signature vodka are the same, though that's probably not true. This doesn't mean that the Kirkland stuff isn't worth your while, however. Tasters have routinely preferred it over more hyped brands. Consider snagging a bottle next time the urge strikes you.

Kirkland Signature batteries

One of the greatest open secrets of Costco is the fact that quite a few of its products are made by the same companies that manufacture the name brand stuff. The only real difference between the Kirkland Signature product and another is little more than packaging and, of course, price.

Amongst the aisles of Costco, this maxim applies not only to food and drink but also some household necessities — namely, batteries. Most people tend to steer clear of store-brand batteries for fear that the cheaper price means they'll be shorter-lived and generally unreliable. 

No so for the Kirkland Signature batteries. Why? Because they're made by Duracell. Yes, according to Costco CEO Craig Jelinek in an interview with Atlanta's WSBTV, the batteries in his store are just the same as the name brand. If you trust the more expensive Duracell, you'll get practically the same experience buying the ones with the Kirkland label instead.

Kirkland Signature parmigiano reggiano

Cheese is serious business. At its best, cheese can be a beautiful melange of salty and savory, sometimes with the odd sweet flavor thrown in if you've hankering for something a little different. A poorly-made cheese can be a huge disappointment once you know just how complex and tasty this stuff can get.

Parmesan is one of those cheeses that can make a situation pretty complicated. The powdery stuff that you sprinkle on your spaghetti or pizza is one thing, but it's distinct from the real deal: parmigiano reggiano. That's not just a matter of taste. It's the law.

According to Today, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio regulates just what can be called "parmigiano reggiano." Essentially, any cheese bearing that name must be produced in Italy. Anyone who stamps inauthentic cheese with the consortium logo can face a serious lawsuit. Kirkland Signature's stuff is the real deal, logo and all. That means you can get some pretty choice cheese for a decent price. Okay, you can buy the terrifying 72-pound wheel of cheese and gently break your wallet and arteries all at once, but you can also purchase more sensible portions.

Kirkland Signature tuna

Tuna isn't the easiest thing to buy. Some have argued that, over the years, the fish on sale in cans and packs throughout grocery stores has declined in quality, becoming a watery shadow of its former self.

That's the opinion of Costco's Executive Vice President Tim Rose, anyway. In an interview with Money magazine, he decried the sad canned tuna of the time, which sometimes seemed to be more water than fish. Rose, who heads the foods division of his company, went to Bumble Bee Tuna and struck a deal for a better product.

Yes, that means that the water-packed albacore tuna with the Kirkland Signature label is actually the same as Bumble Bee. When it hit shelves in 2002, the "superior quality" brand sold by Costco was admittedly more expensive than its name brand competitor. However, tasters argue that it's actually pretty great tuna for the price, which only worked out to a nine-cent difference anyway. Next time you want a really excellent tuna salad, then, strongly consider reaching for the Kirkland Signature stuff first.

Kirkland Signature balsamic vinegar

If you're not already familiar with the world of vinegar, then you may be shocked by the variety of this sour stuff that's out there. You probably have plain white vinegar, at least, which comes cheap and is handy for non-culinary uses like cleaning or making baking soda volcanoes. But what about apple cider vinegar? Rice vinegar? Red wine vinegar? Or white wine vinegar?

It can quickly get pretty dizzying, but try to make a bit of room in your pantry for what may be one of the tastiest vinegars to grace your salad dressing: balsamic vinegar. According to Costco Connection, balsamic vinegar is a dark, intensely flavored vinegar made out of grape must. For the uninitiated, grape must is a concoction of unfermented grape juice that gets slowly cooked into a syrup. Then, the mixture is fermented until it becomes a delicious sour and sweet vinegar prized by chefs worldwide.

Thanks to Costco, you can get a darn good balsamic vinegar without traveling all the way to Italy or an imported goods store. Tasters like those at The Orange County Register routinely place the Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinegar of Moderna at the tops of their lists, noting that it's a respectably complex balsamic that outcompetes its more expensive grocery store brethren.

Kirkland Signature chocolate-covered almonds

So, if the Kirkland Signature products measure up pretty well to savory things like olive oil and treats like animal crackers, then how do they do in the arena of sweets? Chocolate especially can be a tough nut to crack. Sure, anyone can make a bland, gummy chocolate bar or carelessly cover fruit and nuts with something resembling a chocolate coating. Can Costco manage to stick out in a good way?

The Kirkland Signature chocolate-covered almonds are actually pretty good, as it turns out. The whole almonds at the center of each individual treat are crunch and savory and could conceivably make you think you're eating something slightly healthier than straight chocolate. The coating itself is good and chocolatey, melting into a smooth consistency.

According to Inside Costco, the Kirkland Signature chocolate products get their key ingredient through Costco's cocoa program, which focuses on fair pricing, a traceable production chain, and high-quality products.

Kirkland Signature beer

Beer appears to be one of those flavor arenas where people can easily fall into an argument. On one side are the old school beer drinkers who perhaps don't worry so much about the specific type of hops in the brew or how the mash was cooked and fermented. On the other side is the growing tide of craft beer drinkers. Many of them love to debate the particulars of every single detail of their brew. All too often, these groups butt heads about the heart and soul of beer. Should it be simple and accessible? Should it be complex and created with an abundance of care? Why can't we just get along?

The conflict may be overstated, but if this still rings true for your group of friends, seriously consider the Kirkland Signature beers. Yes, you are buying them from Costco, but they're actually made by larger breweries like Gordon Biersch. 

These drinks have been getting surprisingly good reviews. They won't be jaw-dropping if you get nerdy about IPAs, sure, but reviewers at The Takeout were actually pleased with the taste of both Kirkland's IPA and its American Pale Ale. Is it an ultra-expensive one-off from your local microbrewery? No, not really. But it's a step above the watery stuff you've been swilling at parties.

Kirkland Signature organic fruit snacks

Fruit snacks have been a mainstay for the busy parent lifestyle for a long time now. They're handy to have on hand for hangry toddlers, even if they sometimes get squished a bit at the bottom of a bag or backpack.

So, let's say you're one such busy parent. Maybe you're also interested in organic foods, with the hope that you'll be feeding your child a bit of healthy food along with the hit of sugar that comes with each snack. That's all well and good, but it's clear that a food with the organic label is going to be more expensive. According to the USDA, organic food is subject to federal regulation that dictates factors like soil conditions and fertilizer use, with specific prohibitions on genetically modified organisms and artificial preservatives.

Kirkland Signature products might present a solution. The Krazy Coupon Lady compared Kirkland's organic fruit snacks to the popular Annie's brand and found that shoppers can save a significant ten cents per ounce if they buy the Costco snacks. Also, unlike Annie's, the Kirkland Signature snacks list an actual fruit product, apple juice concentrate, as its first ingredient.

Kirkland Signature coffee

If you're not already in the know, this revelation can be rather staggering. Prepare yourselves, for the truth is that the Kirkland Signature coffee is roasted by none other than Starbucks, says MoneyWise.

Yes, Starbucks. Whether it's a staple of your morning or an occasional, slightly guilty pleasure, Starbucks has become ubiquitous in most Americans' lives. You can even buy sacks of their whole bean or ground coffee. When you're in Costco, that same coffee just happens to come under two different labels.

It's pretty easy to pick out just which coffees on the shelf were roasted by Starbucks. Look closely on the front of the bag, and you should see a label clearly stating that Starbucks has had a hand in the preparation of the beans. Currently, their medium roast House Blend (regular and decaf) and dark roast Espresso Blend are practically Starbucks roasts with a Kirkland Signature cost.