Understanding Branded vs. Generic Crop Protection Products
Whether you’re looking to buy peanut butter, pain relievers, or crop protection chemicals, a branded product from a company you know over a low-cost, no-name generic feels like the safe choice. But what’s the real difference between generic and branded crop protection products?
If the branded product is 3x more expensive, is it 3x more effective? As a farmer, having a firm grasp on your input costs allows for greater profitability and long term viability.
What is a Generic Crop Protection Product?
A generic crop protection product is manufactured and sold by a company other than the original manufacturer, but contains the same Active Ingredient(s) (A.I.). Generic chemicals usually enter the market 12 -20 years after the initial discovery of the active ingredient(s) once the original product’s patent expires.
Most major crop protection molecules available today have had their initial patents expire and farmers have more choice than ever with all of the generics entering the market. We’ve pooled this resource to help answer farmers’ most common questions on understanding and using generics.
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Are Generic Products Held to the Same Level of Regulatory Scrutiny as Branded Products?
Yes! Whether you are an Australian, Canadian or American farmer, the regulatory agencies follow the same regulation, guidelines and review process for a generic product or for the original branded product registration.
In fact, exacerbated by the global supply disruption many branded crop protection companies are registering and purchasing active ingredients from generic manufacturers of their A.I.s to make up shortfalls from their own production facilities due to the Russian gas crisis, hurricane related plant closures and overall supply chain flexibility.
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Do Generic Products Work as Well as the Equivalent Branded Products?
From a regulatory standpoint, generic versions of branded products must have the same A.I. components to be registered by the government regulator. The A.I. that carries the pesticidal activity but the co-formulants including surfactants and adjuvants have a big impact on performance e.g. by improving the penetration of the pesticide, allowing targeted application, etc.
To ensure our product efficacy and performance is as good or better than the branded product, we invest millions of dollars every year conducting laboratory (stability studies, physico-chemical testing (e.g. viscosity, pH, density, etc.), formulation testing (e.g. emulsion stability, persistent foaming pourability, suspensibility, etc.) and field trials comparing an FBN product to its branded counterpart. Figure 1 below shows some of the results of those trials. Ensuring our product recipe is close to the branded product also makes it easier to receive registration for a product.
Source: FBN Canada field trials conducted with 3rd Party contract research organizations in 2022
Why Are Generic Products Priced Lower Than Branded Products?
Generic products are generally priced lower than their branded counterparts for several reasons, including:
Branded manufacturers predominantly are large multinational corporations. Funding all of those people, facilities and R&D require them to extract greater revenue from their products through higher prices. As well, it requires a lot of R&D and failed attempts to develop even one successful product.
It costs >$260M USD and takes over 11 years (2) to bring an active ingredient to market. To justify such a substantial investment, branded companies need to extract high prices and profits.
By making our own products, FBN cuts out several middlemen within the value chain passing that savings on to our farmers.
Generic manufacturers typically do not have rebate programs. Instead, they pass those savings up-front in the price rather than as an end of season payment.
Branded products often will charge a brand premium for their products extracting extra value for the recognition of their company and their product.
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Are Generic Products Identical to the Branded Products?
Not always. Generic products usually mirror branded products as closely as they can. However, they are not always identical and can have different uses on the label, different concentrations of A.I. and other differences.
The label is the best place to find the specifics on a product. Compare more branded and generic products labels for free with CDMS Label Database or on FBN.com.
Here are the basics on generics vs branded products:
A generic product usually is a similar product as a branded product but made by a different company.
Generic active ingredients are held to the same regulatory standards as branded active ingredients.
Branded companies may purchase a.i. from the same manufacturing plant as generic companies.
FBN invests in field trials and lab work striving for efficacy and performance to match or exceed that of the branded product.
Generic chemicals tend to cost less than their branded equivalents.
Competition is good for farmers! Generic products give farmers more options and lead to lower input prices.
When choosing to use generic products as opposed to branded products it's about understanding what you get for the higher price you pay. Is the brand premium you pay worth the extra cost for you? If you’re interested in exploring cost-saving and performance-enhancing strategies and don’t want manufacturer bundles, generics might be for you.
The number one rule of thumb when considering generics: read your labels (you can find thousands of chemical labels here). Knowing what’s in your products will give you the information you need to pay for ingredients, not logos.
FBN Crop Protection Generic Alternatives
Learn more about some of the generic alternatives we offer on FBN Direct®:
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Selecting Crop Protection Products for the 2023 Season
Here are a few ways to get started with crop protection products for the upcoming season:
Get It Done: Get great deals on some of our most popular products like:
2023 Crop Protection Guide: Learn more about the FBN portfolio of crop protection products in the new 2023 Crop Protection Guide with info on branded vs. generic alternatives, tank mixing, and more.
Understanding Adjuvants to Optimize Crop Protection [Video]: Neil McCormick, Global Product Development Manager, Biologicals & Adjuvants at FBN®, discusses how to best utilize adjuvants to better optimize crop protection on your operation in this educational Farmer2FarmerVI presentation.
* This is an updated post originally published in 2016 with new content written by Rob McClinton, Director of Product Development - Global Crop Protection at FBN on December 2, 2022.
1. Siekman, Darrel & Lowell, Sandell. “Comparing Generics vs Name Brand Pesticides”. University of Nebraska: Cropwatch Extension. 10/27/2008. Available here: http://cropwatch.unl.edu/archive/-/asset_publisher/VHeSpfv0Agju/content/888243
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