CHOICE puts own brands through their paces

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 9th September 2010

Consumer group CHOICE has conducted a review of supermarket own brand foods, comparing them to various popular branded equivalents in terms of nutrition and taste.

“The rise in supermarket-own brands has been phenomenal in Australia, with Coles and Woolworths leading the charge, closely followed by the popular discount chain, Aldi,” wrote CHOICE author Rebecca Gatto.

“Private labels now account for almost a quarter of all grocery sales, and there are few supermarket categories that don’t offer a prominently displayed home brand – often keenly priced to fly of the shelves.”

CHOICE tasted a variety of foods, including the most popular branded item and representatives from Woolworths Home Brand, Aldi, Woolworths Select, Coles Smart Buy and Coles own brands. The team tasted canned peaches, cornflakes, canned tuna, Tim Tams and chocolatey counterparts, pasta and pasta sauce, icecream, ham, cheddar and baked beans, with significantly mixed results.

Of the branded items, Kelloggs Corn Flakes were unbeaten in the taste test, John West a clear favourite in tuna, and Arnotts Tim Tam took equal top spot, alongside Coles Chocolate Surrenders.

Other top taste scorers for the own brand team were Home Brand Tasty Cheddar, Aldi’s Corale Baked Beans, Woolworths Select and Coles prepackaged ham, Woolworths Home Brand Vanilla Icecream, Woolworths Organic pasta, Coles Napoletana pasta sauce and Home Brand sliced peaches.

Heinz’s taste test results were embarrassing, with tasters rating the iconic bean last of the five baked bean brands on offer. Primo Premium leg ham came last of the four hams tasted, and SPC’s peach slices were second-last in a field of six.

However, nutritional value and price complicates the question. CHOICE’s full analysis, with traffic light values on fat, sodium and sugar, plus price per 100g, shows that Coles’ top-tasting Napoletana sauce has over four times the fat content of second-place getter Dolmio, and that Heinz’s bottom-scoring baked beans are actually, nutritionally, the best of the lot.

Overall, CHOICE reported that despite similar pricing, the Coles Smart Buy products “consistently rated poorly for taste, while Woolworths Home Brand rated well for both taste and value across several categories.” Aldi consistently offered good value for money but was “hit and miss” on taste.