Company: Just about all of them
Growing up in the early 80's, our family didn't have a ton of money. We got by and made ends meet where we could by finding ways to maximize every cent we had. This meant several things: We would rent VHS tapes of older movies instead of going to the theatre to see new ones; We would shop for school clothes at Kmart and other "not as cool" clothing stores, and we would often take a stroll down the Generic Foods aisle on every trip to the grocery store to see where we could save a few bucks. Looking back, I remember being embarrassed at those times. While my best friend's parents had their cupboards stocked with Oreos and Ruffles Potato chips, my parents had ours stuffed with "Chocolate Sandwich Cookies" and "Potato Chips" in a package that suggested "Guess what? You're poor!"
Generic Brands are not really gone (technically). We see them all the time on store shelves. You know, those knock off boxes of Mac and Cheese that aren't made by Kraft, and those boxes of Fruity Ring's Cereal that aren't made by General Mills. Generic brands are everywhere still, but not the Generic Brands I remember as a kid. Now you find them on every shelf...colorful packages with cartoons on them and bright graphics, the only really difference is that instead of a major brand name they are made by a smaller, unknown company, often depending on the retailer. They sit on the shelves right next to their Major Brand competitor, giving you side by side comparison on cost and appearance of the products.
But back in the late 70's and early 80s, the Generic Brands were condemned to their very own aisle, sort of the "Aisle of Misfit Foods", if you will. In one aisle, you could get your generic cereals, chips, canned goods, snacks, paper products....you name it. There were even generic cigarettes and alcohol (my dad was a big fan of the "Beer").
The typical package design that I remember was black and white, simple (plain) box or can, with the product name used as the descriptor. "Ice Cream", or "Cola", or "Potato Chips". That's what made them so cheap....you aren't paying for the fancy package, just the product inside. And like many of todays "Store Brand" products, the items inside often (but not always) were pretty close in taste to the Major Brand items they are mimicking.
I'm an adult now (for the most part), and like lots of other things from my childhood, I can look back now and appreciate it all. I miss those trips to the store with mom, even the dreaded Generic Aisle.
It's funny how little things like a black and white box can make you both long for the days of your childhood and still appreciate what you have today.
Generic items are not gone, but as the once dominant "Generic Brand" they were, I think it's safe to say that they are extinct. Sometimes they sneak in with the more popular "Store Brands"....should you can be so lucky to see them in the wild. If you see any, snap a picture and send them my way! I'd love to see them! I'm curious what's still out there.