Store Brands Rival Heinz and Hellman's in Taste Test
It's hard to resist the siren song of the big national brands. All that pretty packaging beckons from the store shelves, the last chance to close the sale after millions have been spent on advertising and marketing to make those names well-known and trustworthy. (See also: Market Clones: Pay Less for Pricey Products)
In the past decade retailers have gotten into the branding game, too, with their own branded products, many of which are produced by the very same companies that produce those national brands. Trader Joe's, for example, has built its business this way. Costco, Target, Walmart, and even Whole Foods all have their own store brands, which can be 10% to 30% cheaper than comparable national brands.
Savory Store Brand Condiments Win Big
For its October 2013 issue of the magazine, Consumer Reports conducted a taste test of store brands and national brands across several grocery store categories. The store brands did pretty well, in general. While none are exact copies of the big brands, most were rated by testers as high quality, the equal, or nearly so, of the big players.
The big winners, however, were store brand ketchup and mayonnaise. In a blind taste test of Consumer Reports staffers who said they preferred the national brands, 45% chose Target's Market Pantry brand (13% had no preference; 41% chose Best Foods/Hellman's or Heinz).
Consumer Reports' testers pitted Heinz ketchup against the store brands and found one "near-twin" (Target's Market Pantry brand ketchup) and another high quality substitute (Sam's Club). Both were ranked "Just As Good" by the tasters, and both are at least 30% cheaper than Heinz. Avoid, however, substituting with Whole Foods' 365 brand ketchup. Tasters thought it was "thin and dark," and, in general, Whole Foods' 365 brand products do not offer consumers much in the way of savings.
Before I switched to Vegenaise, Best Foods (Hellman's back east) was my favorite, and it's America's leading brand. But in Consumer Reports' test, three store brands were rated "near-twin" (Market Pantry, Walmart's Great Value, and Costco's Kirkland Signature). Whole Foods' 365 brand mayo joined those three as "Just as Good." Again, the store brands are as much as 25% cheaper than Best Foods/Hellman's.
The next time you visit the market to stock up on pantry staples like ketchup and mayo, consider reaching a little lower on the shelf for the store brand. You'll see the difference in your pocketbook, but you probably won't taste the difference on your sandwich. You may even prefer it.
What are your favorite store brand substitutes for the big national brands?