If you’ve ever bought what appears to be a familiar brand, only to be disappointed by the quality of their product, you’re not alone.
Numerous brands have either been sold to other, larger companies or have simply licensed their name out for products that they had little to no hand in producing. For example, if you’ve recently purchased a JVC television, it was likely actually made by a Chinese television company called Shenzhen MTC.
While a change in ownership does not necessarily mean a drop in quality, it can lead to consumer confusion.
To offer another example, Dual was once one of the most popular turntable manufacturers in Germany. After the company went bankrupt, it was sold to other companies, and the name was licensed over and over again. This meant that, for a time, there were three separate companies selling electronics under the Dual name and logo, all of considerably varying quality—making it difficult for consumers to tell which product more closely resembled the one with which they were familiar.
This issue is a big irritation for TikTok user Pete (@earlypete). In a video with over 177,000 views as of Saturday, the TikToker warns users about noting the difference between PYREX and pyrex—two products that appear to have the same name, but behave completely differently.
“Pyrex is probably one of the best examples of companies using established brand names to market much lower quality products,” he says.
@earlypete Using pyrex the wronf way or using the wrong pyrex can be dangerous! Always research before you shop! There are still companies that make BS glass that is heat safe, and you can find and identify vintage stuff pretty easily! Safe cooking my friends! #food #cooking #buyerbeware ♬ original sound – Early Pete
“Historically, PYREX used borosilicate glass, which can withstand rapid changes in temperature,” Pete explains. “Now, in North America, they use the much cheaper soda-lime glass, which, when exposed to rapid changes in temperature—the thing pyrex is famous for—it will explode.”
While explosions are not guaranteed with tempered soda-lime glass, Pete is correct that there is generally a difference between PYREX and pyrex products, and that some of the former are made with borosilicate glass.
However, this doesn’t tell the whole story, as there is some dispute about whether seeing PYREX or pyrex is an accurate method of knowing the chemical makeup of the glass. Given that Pyrex has not been made of borosilicate glass in the United States for at least 30 years, LIfeHacker advises to “simply assume you aren’t” using borosilicate glass if you buy any Pyrex product in the U.S.
Regardless, this confusion has led to consumer issues from customers expecting their tempered soda-lime glass pyrex products to be as temperature resistant as they remember them being from when they were made with borosilicate glass.
“…More than 300 complaints filed by ConsumerAffairs.com readers detail frightening stories of these dishes spontaneously shattering during temperature changes, propelling scalding glass shards and food 15 feet or more, sending some consumers to the hospital with tendon and nerve damage and serious burns and leaving others with property damage and, at the very least, a ruined dinner and a huge mess in their kitchen,” reads a 2008 article by Joseph S. Enoch.
That said, World Kitchen, one of the companies that produces pyrex using tempered soda-glass, questioned some of these claims, as noted in a 2019 Gizmodo article.
“At the time, World Kitchen denied any responsibility in the incidents, stating that ‘reports of explosions comprise an extremely small percentage of the 370 million Pyrex dishes on the market, and are often the result of the consumer failing to read the instructions or of a consumer mistaking a competitor’s product for a Pyrex dish,’” writes Adam Clark Estes.
“There’s nothing wrong with soda lime glass. It’s actually more durable in a break test,” Pete tells the Daily Dot in an email. “However, Pyrex is famous for one thing and one thing only—and it’s an attribute their products no longer have (in North America at least)…[Now, they’re] deceptively trading off a legacy brand’s attributes and good reputation and providing you with a much cheaper product.”
But PYREX/pyrex is not alone in this behavior, as Pete details in a follow-up video.
@earlypete Replying to @Snarfelle many brands have formed lower end sub-brands that use deceptively similar logos and names to try and trick you into overpaying for a cheaper lower end product #buyerbeware #kitchenknives #food ♬ original sound – Early Pete
“Look at this—J.A. Henckels,” he says, pointing to a box of cookware. “Is that the really nice German knife maker? Is this going to be a quality product? No! Because there is a huge difference between J.A. Henckels International and the actual Henckels brand, with the two little men.”
“One is a good quality brand that makes knives and pots that will last you a lifetime, and the other is overpriced garbage that someone is tricking you into buying by using an established brand name,” he concludes.
The difference between these two brands is a little easier to spot, as Andrew Palermo explains for Prudent Reviews.
“People often confuse Zwilling and Henckels because they’re both owned by Zwilling J.A. Henckels, the renowned cutlery and cookware company,” Palermo states. “Despite this shared ownership, Zwilling and Henckels are two separate brands with distinct kitchen knife collections.”
“The key differences between Zwilling and Henckels knives are that Zwilling knives have forged blades, are more expensive, and are made in Germany and Japan,” Palermo adds. “Henckels knives have stamped blades, are affordable, and are made in India, China, Thailand, and Spain.”
“These products aren’t inherently bad, but the companies are charging you for the brand name (or a very similar sounding name) while providing you with the equivalent of culinary fast fashion,” Pete detailed. “People are familiar with, and a little more skeptical of, the fashion world brands like Polo or Marc Jacobs, which have plenty of cheaper lines with slightly different names and logos, but someone unfamiliar with the culinary world may not be aware of the exact same thing goes on.”
“Companies do this because there’s a lot more money in being a mass-market brand than there is in being a higher-end specialty brand,” Pete added. “I bought two Zwilling knives when I was a young chef over a decade ago, and I haven’t spent a cent with the company since then. Brands don’t want to sell knives every 10 years when they can instead sell 20 knives a day at every Walmart in the country.”
In the comments section of both videos, users shared their dismay at this apparent deception.
“Almost every brand has a premium and budget brandlines that are deceptively similar. It’s part of the illusion of choice In consumerism,” a commenter stated.
“That’s why I always check the box for ‘brand used under license’ or something of the sort,” shared a second.
“You must never buy something just because of a name!!” exclaimed a third.
“This is the sort of thing we would always talk about when I was a chef—what brands were a great deal or what brands to avoid, etc., and now that I cook or talk about food online as a full-time job and to a much more general audience, it’s something I really like to bring to peoples’ attention,” Pete told the Daily Dot.
“[These companies] are still providing you with a product—it’s just one you’re massively overpaying for because it has this legacy brand name on it,” he continued. “In Nova Scotia where I’m from, we have an expression called ‘greasy’—shout out to the Trailer Park Boys. I don’t think what these companies are doing is illegal or even inherently evil, I just think it’s really greasy to deceptively trade on the attributes of a former product or much higher-end line of your products, and market your lower-end mass market and stuff for an inflated price as a result.”
The Daily Dot reached out to Instant Brands via email, and Zwilling via website contact form.