Which is better: no-name or premium brands? We tasted 17 different products to find the best value
Are no name brands really a good deal? We wanted to find out.
We tested a range of well-known food brands against their no-name competition from Spar, Woolworths, Pick n Pay and Checkers. All samples were tasted “blind”, that is without any labels or packaging, to try to make the results as fair as possible. We wanted to know which products tasted better and where we could save some rands on our food shopping bill.
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes 750g R59.99 (R79.98 per kilo)
Spar Golden Corn Flakes 500g R31.99 (R63.98 per kilo)
The classic cornflakes box is recognisable from a mile away, and we can see why. The texture and consistency of the Kellogg’s was uniform, pale golden and crispy. The Spar version, however, had a mixed texture that meant that some flakes were light and crispy, while others were dense and very chewy.
Verdict: If cornflakes are a regular breakfast for you, spend a little bit extra on the brand name.
2. Tinned tuna
Woolworths Brand Light Meat Tuna Shredded in Brine 170g R26.99 (R158.76 per kilo)
John West Light Meat Shredded Tuna in Salt Water 170g R29.99 (R176.41 per kilo)
Checkers Housebrand Light Meat Shredded Tuna in Water R15.99 (R94.05 per kilo)
Love it or hate it, tinned tuna is a good protein to keep in your cupboard for those loadshedding evenings. The John West tuna had a light pink appearance and a very fine texture, while the Checkers tuna seemed a bit coarser. The Woolworths tuna had much larger flakes, but this meant that the meat was a bit dry in places. In flavour, they were all basically the same – tastes just like tinned tuna.
All three carry a “Dolphin friendly”certification, while the Woolworths tuna is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Verdict: If you’re cooking tuna in a pasta bake or a tuna mayonnaise sandwich, go cheap because you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Woolworths Italian Fusilli 500g R32.99 (R65.98 per kilo)
Mr Pasta* Pasta Screws 500g R14.59 (R29.18 per kilo)
Spar Pasta Screws 500g R16.79 (R33.58 per kilo)
The price difference here was great, and that is clear in the structure and shape of the pasta. The cheaper pasta had a vague twisty shape while the more expensive pasta had a more defined spiral, with lots of crevices to hold the sauce. All were cooked as per the instructions, with the Woolworths being the most tightly wound and the Mr Pasta coming out a bit pap and slushy. The Spar pasta was a good middle ground.
Verdict: Choose a dried pasta somewhere at the middle price point: the expensive one wasn’t worth twice the price and the cheaper option was just disappointing.
4. Lemon biscuits
Checkers Housebrand Lemon Creams 200g R10.99 (R54.95 per kilo)
Red Label Lemon Creams 200g R17.99 (R89.95 per kilo)
Spar Lemon Creams 150g R8.99 (R59.93 per kilo)
All three biscuits look remarkably similar – surely this can’t be allowed? Our tasters spotted the original Bakers Red Label lemon cream from a distance – the nostalgic flavour just cannot be beat. Bakers had the best crunch in the biscuit and a nice balance of lemon and sweetness. Checkers biscuits had a nice sour note in the filling, but the biscuit was a bit disappointing. The Spar biscuits were a good second place, while the Checkers lemon creams were not amazing, but a good price nonetheless.
Verdict: Buy the originals when you see them on special and thank us later.
5. Salted chips
Pick n Pay No Name Plain Salted Potato Chips 120g R14.79 (R123.25 per kilo)
Lay’s Potato Chips Salted 120g R18.99 (R158.25 per kilo)
There is only one winner here, and we think you know who it is. Lay’s was heads above the Pick n Pay chips in flavour, texture and appearance. The Pick n Pay chips were a dark brown colour, and were very light on salt.
Verdict: Lay’s every time: there’s a good reason they are wildly popular across the world.
6. Strawberry jam
All Gold Strawberry Jam 450g R37.99 (R84.42 per kilo)
Checkers Housebrand Strawberry Jam 450g R31.59 (R70.20 per kilo)
These two jams couldn’t be more different in appearance and flavour. The Checkers no-name brand was a darker brownish-red with fewer seeds, which is great if you prefer that. All Gold was a ruby red with lots of pulp and texture, which is good if you want to know that you are eating strawberry jam. Checkers was mostly just “sweet” while All Gold was “fruity”, and one taster said it had a nice wobble.
Verdict: Buy the brand name if you really love a good jam. If not, the cheaper option will be just as good in a peanut butter sandwich or in a layer cake.
7. Cheese Nak chips
Woolworths Cheese Naks 30g R6.49 (R216.33 per kilo)
Simba NikNaks 55g R6.50 (R118.18 per kilo)
These two samples were different, but we loved both of them for different reasons. NikNaks is the flavour we love, with a slightly sweeter flavour and a hint of paprika. The Woolworths Naks had a more mature cheesy flavour, with a great texture.
Verdict: The choice is yours – both are great!
Some of the products really surprised us with their quality and affordability. The ones we would buy again are:
- Checkers Housebrand Strawberry Jam: great value for a product that is almost never eaten on its own.
- Woolworths Cheese Naks taste like NikNaks for adults.
- Checkers Housebrand Light Meat Shredded Tuna in Water: Good flavour for its price.
- Spar Pasta Screws: a great pasta at a midrange price.
*Made for Checkers
This article is not sponsored in any way and Food24 was not paid to come to any particular result. Our taste tests are always unbiased and intended for your entertainment. However, you may have come to this article through various paid-for advertising.