Sunday Times Food Awards

From tuna to ice cream: we put supermarket house brands to the taste test

Supermarket house brands are known budget beaters, but how do they fare when it comes to quality? We asked Sunday Times readers to help us find out

28 January 2018 - 00:00 By Hilary Biller
Vanilla ice cream with canned peaches in syrup.
Vanilla ice cream with canned peaches in syrup.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

HOW WE CONDUCTED OUR TASTE TEST

It's free and fair!

Taste is a subjective thing, we know, but when you gather a group of Sunday Times readers together and ask them to blind-taste house brand products from four of the big retailers, there will be winners and losers.

It's worth noting that there is a difference between no-name and house brands. Pick
n Pay and Checkers offer both no-name and house, or private-label, brands, whereas Spar and Woolworths stock house brands. These brands offer retailers the opportunity to negotiate better deals with suppliers. The guarantee is that it does not mean a compromise on quality. Or does it?

To find out, we presented our readers with eight different house brand products including spaghetti, tinned tuna, tinned peach slices in syrup, mayonnaise, tinned chickpeas, tinned whole peeled tomatoes, vanilla ice cream and baked beans in tomato sauce.

Four samples of each type of the same product were presented to readers on a platter, without packaging or branding. The readers were asked to compare and judge them on appearance, taste, texture, quality and say whether they would buy them or not.

To ensure credibility, auditor Jade Craig oversaw the preparation and plating of the products by chefs from the HTA Cooking Academy as well as the tasting and scoring processes. She also tallied the scores, giving an average for each product.

THE RESULTS

Spaghetti.
Spaghetti.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

SPAGHETTI

Each brand was cooked to package instructions, drained and very lightly tossed in olive oil before serving.

FIRST PLACE: Pick n Pay

Price: R12.99 for 500g

Judges's comments:

  • Ronnie: Tasty and good texture.
  • Tracy: Pale in colour, but tasty.
  • Elizabeth: Thick, nice texture and salty. Very eatable.

SECOND PLACE: Woolworths

Price: R14.99 for 500g

Judges's comments:

  • Gabisile: Bright and very appealing.
  • Salo: Good all-round pasta, I would buy it.
  • Allison: Good taste, bright colour.

THIRD PLACE: Checkers

Price: R12.99 for 500g 

Judges's comments:

  • Kamo: Looks pale, tasteless and undercooked.
  • Salo: A bit floury but good taste.
  • Tunang: Looks like typical pasta.

FOURTH PLACE: SPAR

Price: R10.99 for 500g

Judges's comments:

  • Rubin: Dull colour, sticks to utensils.
  • Vigie: OK, looks brown. Why?
  • Thuli: Tastes like cardboard.
Whole peeled tomatoes.
Whole peeled tomatoes.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

WHOLE PEELED TOMATOES

The tomatoes were served out of the can at room temperature.

FIRST PLACE: Woolworths

Price: R15.99 for 400g

Judges's comments:

  • Gabisile: Rich in colour compared to the other samples. Not too bitter nor too sweet. Firm.
  • Tunang: The best-tasting of all samples.
  • Kamo: Juice is thick, tomatoes are BIG.

SECOND PLACE: SPAR

Price: R11.49 for 400g

Judges's comments:

  • Elizabeth: Quite tangy but watery.
  • Vigie: Tomatoes hard, sauce runny.
  • Theuns: Too much juice?

THIRD PLACE: CHECKERS POT O' GOLD

Price: R8.99 for 400g

Judges's comments:

  • Kamo: So tasteless.
  • Laura: Tastes sour although quantity was good.
  • Ian: Some were yellow. Tasteless.

FOURTH PLACE: Pick n Pay

Price: R10.99 for 400g

Judges's comments:

  • Salo: Mediocre, not sure I'd buy them.
  • Gabisile: Watery consistency with bitter taste.
  • Kamo: Eating them gives you that sting behind the ear feeling.
Canned tuna.
Canned tuna.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

CANNED TUNA

We sampled light meat tuna chunks in vegetable oil.

FIRST PLACE: Woolworths

Price: R24.99 for 170g

Judges's comments:

  • Daryl: Moist, flakes finely with good flavour.
  • Jane: More salty and flavoursome than the others.
  • Salo: I would definitely buy this tuna.

SECOND PLACE: Pick n Pay

Price: R19.99 for 170g

Judges's comments:

  • Sarah: More flakey than chunky, good taste.
  • Alison: Tastes fishy!
  • Tracy: Soft and tasty.

THIRD PLACE: SPAR

Price: R22.99 for 170g

Judges's comments:

  • Sue: Only one with brown colour on the outside of tuna.
  • Ellen: Dark, dry with very compact flakes.

FOURTH PLACE: Checkers

Price: R15.99 for 170g

Judges's comments:

  • Laura: Very dry and heavy.
  • Elizabeth: Salty and very soft.
  • Gabisile: Very salty and oily.
Mayonnaise.
Mayonnaise.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

MAYONNAISE

FIRST PLACE: Woolworths

Price: R29.99 for 750g

Judges's comments:

  • Patricia: Tastes nice, I like it.
  • Ronnie: Good, I'll buy it.
  • Gabisile: Very creamy and would make a nice sandwich spread.

SECOND PLACE: Pick n Pay

Price: R21.99 for 750g

Judges's comments:

  • Elizabeth: Creamy, tangy taste, rich. Good for salads.
  • Sarah: Very yellow with synthetic taste.
  • Tunang: Looks good. Buttery and oily in taste.

THIRD PLACE: SPAR

Price: R23.99 for 750g

Judges's comments:

  • Patricia: Too tangy for my taste.
  • Sharon: Sour taste, thought I was eating a lemon!
  • Allison: Vinegary and oily tasting.

FOURTH PLACE: Checkers

Price: R19.99 for 750g

Judges's comments:

  • Daryl: Consistency good, very sharp flavour though.
  • Alison: Too sour, needs to be creamier.
  • Salo: Tastes artificial, not my taste.
Baked beans in tomato sauce.
Baked beans in tomato sauce.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

BAKED BEANS IN TOMATO SAUCE

FIRST PLACE: Checkers Pot O' Gold

Price: R7.49 for 410g

Judges's comments:

  • Kamo: The beans are a bit crunchy, which is good. Sauce not too watery nor too red.
  • Vigie: Love it because it does not taste very sweet.
  • Alison: Best-tasting, tangy, would definitely buy it.

SECOND PLACE: Pick n Pay

Price: R8.99 for 410g

Judges's comments:

  • Laura: Beans were soft, not so tasty.
  • Elizabeth: Size of bean is very large, sweet but eatable.
  • Sarah: Beans are 'broken up'.

THIRD PLACE: SPAR

Price: R8.99 for 410g

Judges's comments:

  • Ronnie: Too much sauce, beans small and grainy.
  • Jane: Bean-to-sauce ratio very similar.
  • Daryl: Tastes OK, darker in colour to the other beans.

FOURTH PLACE: Woolworths

Price: R10.99 for 410g 

Judges's comments:

  • Patricia: Sauce not very tomatoey!
  • Vigie: No taste, little sauce and taste of sauce weak.
  • Gabisile: Looks good overall, but tomato sauce is too thin and gives a bland taste.
Chickpeas.
Chickpeas.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

CHICKPEAS

FIRST PLACE: Pick n Pay

Price: R11.99 for 400g

Judges's comments:

  • Salo: Very good all round - taste and texture. Very good. A definite buy.
  • Kay: Tastes OK for me, I will buy it.
  • Vigie: Very good, love it, lovely crunch.

SECOND PLACE: SPAR

Price: R13.99 for 400g 

Judges's comments:

  • Christine: Bit floury and tasteless. Some broken.
  • Ronnie: Nice and soft. Pleasant.
  • Gabisile: Good size.

THIRD PLACE: Checkers Pot O' Gold

Price: R8.99 for 400g

Judges's comments:

  • Salo: Small, taste is OK but soft. Not my favourite.
  • Alison: Lacked taste, and bland. Funny aftertaste.
  • Ronnie: Slightly grainy.

FOURTH PLACE: Woolworths

Price: R19.99 for 400g

Judges's comments:

  • Tunang: Looks like they need a bath and shower, skins coming off!
  • Charmaine: Too hard, don't like the colour.
  • Laura: These had the best taste and texture.
Peach slices in syrup.
Peach slices in syrup.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

PEACH SLICES IN SYRUP

FIRST PLACE: Woolworths

Price: R14.99 for 420g

Judges's comments:

  • Gabisile: Shape of peach holds well, nice and firm.
  • Ronnie: Smaller pieces but nice.
  • Tunang: Softer than other samples and not too sweet.

SECOND PLACE: SPAR

Price: R13.49 for 410g

Judges's comments:

  • Vigie: Lovely syrup, lovely fruit.
  • Allison: Firmer than other samples, good to cook and bake with.
  • Laura: Peaches nice, just the right texture.

THIRD PLACE: Pick n Pay

Price: R14.99 for 410g

Judges's comments:

  • Gabisile: Fruit too mushy and syrup too sweet.
  • Allison: Fruit is soft and did not like taste.
  • Sharon: Peaches soggy!

FOURTH PLACE: Checkers

Price: R12.99 for 410g

Judges's comments:

  • Elizabeth: Slices very small.
  • Allison: Mushy fruit, best for smoothie, not dessert.
  • Patricia: Looks good but too watery, not syrupy.
Vanilla ice cream.
Vanilla ice cream.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

VANILLA ICE CREAMS

FIRST PLACE: Checkers spoonfuls

Price: R48.99 for 2 litres

Judges's comments:

  • Christine: Sweet, above average but not as good as home made.
  • Laura: Tasted cheap but would buy because of my finances.
  • Kamo: Perfect, well balanced.

SECOND PLACE: SPAR

Price: R51.99 for 2 litres

Judges's comments:

  • Alison: Tasty, not too sweet.
  • Easvarie: Tasty, creamy and looks good.
  • Jumara: Thick, creamy and less foamy and aerated than the others.

THIRD PLACE: Woolworths

Price: R57.99 for 2 litres

Judges's comments:

  • Daryl: Synthetic vanilla taste.
  • Christine: Tastes like corn syrup.
  • Kamo: Very sweet and smooth.

FOURTH PLACE: Pick n Pay

Price: R49.99 for 2 litres

Judges's comments:

  • Christine: There's an aftertaste, too sweet.
  • Laura: Smooth but way too sweet.
  • Alison: Artificial aftertaste. Rather sweet.

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