A little more than a month ago, Store Brand Scorecard suggested to Money College readers the best garlic and cheese croutons for your money to go on your salad. (The victor was the Jewel brand, sold at Jewel-Osco, and which you're likely to find under a different name at Albertsons, Shop 'n Save and other stores owned and operated by Fortune 500 company Supervalu.)
But even with Jewel croutons and some nice greens, you've got to dress things up with a nice dressing. With summer (thankfully) still in session and salad season at its prime, Store Brand Scorecard wanted to see if Jewel would also provide the best value and taste when it comes to Italian salad dressing. Its challengers include a national brand and two other store brands from a big box and mini market. All products were sampled straight up on a spoon and on a piece of bread.
Products were purchased Aug. 15 in the Chicago area. Prices are subject to change depending on date and area of purchase.
Brand Name: Wish-Bone (Unilever)
Cost: $1.88 at Walmart, $2.89 at a Chicago-area grocery store
Size: 16 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 80 calories (60 from fat), 7 grams of total fat (11% recommended daily value), 340 milligrams of sodium (14% recommended daily value), 4 grams of total carbohydrates (1% recommended daily value)
Taste: Rare is the food that goes down too sweet and has a bitter aftertaste, yet Wish-Bone somehow manages this peculiar phenomenon. Still, some herbs and spices give it zest.
The Big Box Store: Walmart
Brand Name: Great Value
Size: 16 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 70 calories (50 from fat), 6 grams of total fat (9% recommended daily value), 310 milligrams of sodium (13% recommended daily value), 3 grams of total carbohydrates (1% recommended daily value)
Taste: Not as sweet, less of that vinegary flavor. This dressing may be dressed down a tad in the flavor department, but it's still sharp.
The Grocery Store: Jewel-Osco (a Supervalu store. The company owns and operates such grocery retailers as Shop 'n Save and Albertsons and is number 47 on the Fortune 500 list.)
Brand Name: Jewel
Size: 24 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 80 calories (70 from fat), 8 grams of total fat (12% recommended daily value), 490 milligrams of sodium (21% recommended daily value), 3 grams of total carbohydrates (1% recommended daily value)
Taste: The Jewel brand is also less sweet than Wish-Bone, a good thing in my book, but that vinegar taste still has too much bite.
The Mini Market: Aldi
Brand Name: Tuscan Garden
Cost: 99 cents
Size: 16 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 100 calories (90 from fat), 10 grams of total fat (15% recommended daily value), 500 milligrams of sodium (21% recommended daily value), 3 grams of total carbohydrates (1% recommended daily value)
Taste: Tasting this dressing actually made me yell "ewww" out loud. Way, way too bitter, and, well, just "ewww."
Greatest Value: Aldi, as has often been the case in these taste tests, is the cheapest when it comes to price and taste. This dressing is a disaster, not worth your change. On a scale of 0 to 10, Tuscan Garden's Italian dressing gets a value score of 2.
I wish that Wish-Bone wasn't so sweet, and the aftertaste not as bitter. I wish it were cheaper, too. But the taste isn't pleasing enough to be worth the price, even at Walmart. Value score: 4.
Jewel, the champion when it comes to garlic and cheese croutons, has to settle for second place here. The dressing is the second most expensive, although you get 24 ounces instead of 16. Ounce for penny, it's equal to buying Wish-Bone at Walmart, and this dressing tastes better on top of that. Value score: 6.
Walmart's Great Value brand is admittedly not as zesty as Wish-Bone, but it's far less sweet and bitter. Maybe that's playing it safe, but the dressing is still the best tasting of the bunch and the second cheapest, too. That makes Walmart's Great Value the winner of this challenge with a value score of 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.
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