If your Dad's anything like Store Brand Scorecard's, he's a master at the grill. And he's also put down many a pretty penny to send you through school. (Thanks again Pops). So for Father's Day, you may think the nice thing to do is to fire up the charcoal and do the cooking this time, except we all know, Dad included, that you're gonna char the hell out of the damn food!
So why don't you do the next best thing and help pay for the Father's Day cookout. Sure you may not have enough beef in your budget to actually buy beef, but maybe you can fork over some cash for the barbecue sauce. And, as Store Brand Scorecard learned in this week's taste test comparing original flavored sauces, you can find a store brand variety that's better and cheaper than the national brand.
All products were purchased in late May in the Chicago area. Prices are subject to change.
Brand Name: KC Masterpiece
Cost: $1.42 at Walmart; $2.49 at a Chicago-area grocery store
Size: 18 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 60 calories (0 from fat), 240 milligrams of sodium (10% recommended daily value), 15 grams of total carbohydrates (5% recommended daily value)
Taste: One of the strangest tasting experiences I've ever had, the original variety starts of sweet and blossoms into a smoky sensation. But there's a funky detour along where the sauce goes sour, and the specks of spices, or perhaps onion, have the same texture as dirt. Definitely not a masterpiece.
The Big Box Store: Walmart
Brand Name: Great Value
Cost: Sales price 85 cents (typically $1.23)
Size: 18 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 50 calories (0 from fat), 440 milligrams of sodium (18% recommended daily value), 12 grams of total carbohydrates (4% recommended daily value)
Taste: Super sweet at the start, this sauce eventually heats up, just enough to make things interesting.
The Grocery Store: Dominick's (a subsidiary of Safeway Inc., number 52 on the Fortune 500 list. Safeway also owns and operates Tom Thumb, Vons and its namesake store, among others.)
Brand Name: Safeway
Cost: Sales price $1.79 (typically $2.19)
Size: 18 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 50 calories (0 from fat), 230 milligrams of sodium (10% recommended daily value), 13 grams of total carbohydrates (4% recommended daily value)
Taste: Anytime your sauce tastes primarily like one ingredient you've got a problem. When the sauce tastes almost exclusively like molasses like this brand, you've got a big problem.
The Mini Market: Trader Joe's
Brand Name: Trader Joe's
Size: 18 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 60 calories (0 from fat), 420 milligrams of sodium (18% recommended daily value), 15 grams of total carbohydrates (5% recommended daily value)
Taste: This Kansas City style sauce is the thinnest of the bunch, but it's the sweetest, the smokiest, and the best tasting.
Greatest Value: KC Masterpiece has a nice start, a decent finish, and a terrible middle. And while it's a decent deal at Walmart, it's still one of the costliest sauces at a typical grocery store. On a scale of 0 to 10, this "masterpiece" gets a less-than-masterful value score of 4.
The Safeway brand costs more than KC Masterpiece at Walmart, less than the national brand at Dominick's. That doesn't help with the value score though since this sauce is far too sweet and molasses-tasting. Value score: 3.
Trader Joe's sauce may be the thinnest, but don't call it the wimpiest. No doubt this stuff would taste good with Pop's grilled chicken. But it's also the most expensive – as expensive as KC at a grocery store. It's definitely better though, so ultimately the value score here is a 7.
Walmart, in the end, wins the challenge. True the Great Value brand isn't the best tasting – in that department, it finishes a respectable second. But for such a low price, this sauce is definitely boss. Dad'll approve. Value score: 8.
Piet Levy's Store Brand Scorecard tests a major label food product and three private label equivalents to see which brand offers the best value for the price. It appears every Monday on WalletPop's Money College page. Send suggestions, including items you want Piet to try, to moneycollege@walletpop.
Best barbecue sauce? We grill the house brands