College basketball fans, we're getting into the thick of the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Championship Tournament. Chances are between bracket bets and beer money, it's been a costly couple of weeks. But there are ways to watch the games and cut some corners.
If you can't watch a game without a bag of chips, consider going with a cheaper store brand. But since the only thing that tastes worse than your favorite team's crushing defeat is a bad batch of off-brand potato chips, Store Brand Scorecard sampled Lay's and three store brands. One each from a big box store, grocery store and mini-market, respectively; crunching costs, serving sizes, and nutritional stats to proclaim one brand as the undisputed Potato Chip Champion.
Brand name: Lay's
Cost: $3.99 (bought for $3.59 at Target)
Size: 11 ounces
Nutritional Facts: (For about 15 chips) 150 calories (90 from fat), 10 grams of fat (16% recommended daily value), 180 milligrams of sodium (7% of recommended daily value).
Taste: Light in taste and packing the greatest crunch in the bunch, Lay's are coated with just enough salt to make you lick your lips, but not too much that you start gasping for water. The brand's a winner for a reason.
The Big Box Store: Target
Store Brand name: Market Pantry
Size: 11.5 ounces
Nutritional Facts: (For about 17 chips) 150 calories (60 from fat), 10 grams of fat (15% recommended daily value), 160 milligrams of sodium (7% of recommended daily value)
Taste: These chips look a bit, well, earthier; several have black ridges crusting along their edges. But if you want a pure potato taste in your chip, this bag's for you. Not as crisp as Lay's nor quite as salty tasting, and for those reasons, it's not as satisfying.
The Grocery Store: Jewel-Osco (a Supervalu Inc. store. Supervalu, a Fortune 100 grocery retail company, also owns Albertsons, Acme, Shaw's and other grocery stores and pharmacies).
Store Brand name: Jewel
Size: 5 ounces
Nutritional Facts: (For about 17 chips) 150 calories (90 from fat), 10 grams of fat (15% recommended daily value), 160 milligrams of sodium (7% of recommended daily value)
Taste: The crunch factor is slightly subdued compared with Lay's, but the saltiness is about equal, with a pleasing potato-packing aftertaste. In the words of Dick Vitale, "Awesome Baby!"
The Mini-Market: Aldi
Store Brand name: Clancy's
Size: 11 ounces
Nutritional Facts: (For about 15 chips) 150 calories (80 from fat), 9 grams of fat (14% recommended daily value), 180 milligrams of sodium (8% recommended daily value)
Taste: This is certainly one of the saltiest batches, on par with Lay's, but not nearly as much crunch. And I'm calling a foul on the off-putting aftertaste.
Greatest Value: Technically Clancy's gives you the most chips for the price – but they're also the clear loser in the taste category. On a scale of 0 to 10, Store Brand Scorecard gives Clancy's a value score of 5.
The best eating experience goes to Lay's, aided by that great crunch, light texture and supreme saltiness. That said, Lay's costs the most and we're trying to save some money here. Value score: 8.
Well-priced Market Pantry is the best option for folks wanting the potato packing the most punch, and they're the healthiest too. But the salt factor just isn't up to snuff. Value score: 7.
This leaves the Jewel brand the value winner in this challenge. The chip crunch isn't loud and proud like Lay's, but the chips themselves have a more potato-like flavor, and the salt-per-chip ratio is pretty much perfect. Pity the bag's so tiny, but buy two of them and you're still paying less than you would for an 11-ounce bag of Lay's. Value score: A mighty 9. Slam dunk for Supervalu.
Store Brand Scorecard taste tests a major label food product and three private label equivalents to see which brand offers the best taste for the price. Store Brand Scorecard will appear every other Tuesday starting in April. Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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