One of Costco’s biggest secrets was just revealed

It’s only recently that I’ve discovered just how passionate Costco’s loyal fan base is for…

It’s only recently that I’ve discovered just how passionate Costco’s loyal fan base is for the membership-only retail chain. There are blogs and websites, for example, dedicated solely to the chain and the comings and goings within its product assortment. Social media accounts also promote changes in that product availability, in addition to touting the myriad deals that shoppers quickly pounce on. And then there’s the Costco Kirkland Signature brand.

This in-house Costco product line is so huge, that just a few years ago? The Wall Street Journal was reporting around 25 percent of Costco’s $118.7 billion in annual sales came from Kirkland Signature products. Basically, the line offers generic versions of established products people can buy on the cheap. Moreover, here’s the secret that casual Costco shoppers might not be aware of. Many Kirkland Signature products are actually generic versions made by the same companies behind the original.

Costco’s Kirkland Signature products

A shopping cart in one row of a Costco store. Image source: Voy_ager/Adobe

Here’s how the chain describes its exclusive private label house brand. “In 1995,” a summary from the chain reads, “Costco began the Kirkland Signature line after recognizing a need for better quality goods at a greater value. Our mission was simple: Create an item of the same — or better — quality than the leading brand at a lower price, and do so by controlling every element of the item’s creation, including packaging and transportation.

“The end result: Kirkland Signature products are incredible quality goods at simply excellent prices.”

Along these lines, here’s an example of the secret we alluded to above. Costco CEO Craig Jelinek confirmed that Duracell actually makes the Kirkland Signature alkaline batteries available to Costco shoppers. Likewise, Huggies maker Kimberly-Clark also makes Kirkland Signature-branded diapers, while Kirkland Signature jelly beans are a product of — who else? — the popular Jelly Belly brand.

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Other Costco products

On the beverage front, big names like Starbucks and Ocean Spray are also involved with the Costco Kirkland Signature line. Say you pick up one of the many Kirkland Signature coffee bags available to buy, for example. It will likely declare right there on the package that Starbucks is the source. Likewise, Ocean Spray makes the Kirkland Signature cranberry juice available at Costco.

If other Kirkland Signature products also look familiar, here’s why. Per The Journal, before Costco goes down this road and develops a generic version of a product through its private label? The chain will often turn to a brand name first. They’re given an opportunity to produce the Kirkland Signature version, presumably to keep their hand in the quality even of this ancillary product.

Some companies agree, some decline. Something to consider next time you’re walking down the aisle and one of these items catches your eye.

Meantime, here’s a related pro tip for Costco shoppers. To stay abreast of other Costco-related news, check out CostContessa. It’s one of many sites that blogs about various retailers and their deals, including those found at Costco.