All right Money College readers, time to give you a little philosophical lecture on store brands. (Don't worry, this won't be on your final.) On paper, the ideal benefit in buying a store brand is to get a product that tastes just as good, if not better, than the store brand -- while costing you less. Now, things don't always work out that way: Sometimes the name brand is of such great quality it's worth the price.

I figured that would be the case with Heinz ketchup. Why Heinz? Personally, I don't care for ketchup, but even I know Heinz is one of the most iconic food brands in the country. In fact, the H.J. Heinz Co. has ranked first in overall customer satisfaction amongst food manufacturing companies each year for the past decade by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. People love this ketchup.

But just because some fancy-schmancy index says Heinz is tops in satisfaction doesn't mean it's hands down the best-value grocery store ketchup on the market. Store Brand Scorecard tried out three store brand ketchups that the ACSI doesn't rank to see if any of them bested Heinz in taste and price.


Brand Name:
Heinz (The H.J. Heinz Co.)
Cost:
$1.99 at Target; $2.39 at a Chicago-area grocery store
Size: 20 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for one tablespoon) 15 calories (0 from fat), 190 milligrams of sodium (8% recommended daily value), 4 grams of total carbohydrates (1% recommended daily value)
Taste: Thick and goopy, sweet and salty. Ketchup is better than I remembered.

The Big Box Store: SuperTarget
Brand Name:
Market Pantry
Cost: $1.27
Size: 20 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for one tablespoon) 15 calories (0 from fat), 190 milligrams of sodium (8% recommended daily value), 4 grams of total carbohydrates (1% recommended daily value)
Taste: As I've found with many Market Pantry products, this watery ketchup's not bad, but it's not very flavorful either.

The Grocery Store: Dominick's (owned and operated by Safeway Inc., number 52 on this year's Fortune 500 list, and parent to Tom Thumb, Vons and its own namesake grocery retailer, among others.)
Brand Name: Safeway
Cost:
$1.89
Size: 20 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for one tablespoon) 20 calories (0 from fat), 190 milligrams of sodium (8% recommended daily value), 5 grams of total carbohydrates (2% recommended daily value)
Taste: About as thin as Market Pantry, but Safeway has more flavor. The problem is, that flavor is vinegar, and not much else.

The Mini Market:
Aldi
Brand Name: Burman's
Cost:
99 cents
Size: 32 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for one tablespoon) 15 calories (0 from fat), 160 milligrams of sodium (7% recommended daily value), 4 grams of total carbohydrates (1% recommended daily value)
Taste: Only this brand comes close to matching Heinz. It's actually sweeter than Heinz, and there's that vinegar, but this time around it's only a tinge. And unlike Market Pantry and Safeway, this ketchup's actually thick. Some stronger contrast of salt, and this would tie for best tasting.

Greatest Value: Market Pantry and Safeway ketchup just don't cut it. Market Pantry's is too bland, Safeway's is too vinegary, and both brands are too thin. On a scale of 0 to 10, Dominick's Safeway gets a value score of 3 and Super Target's Market Pantry squeaks ahead with a 4 thanks to its low price.

Heinz is one of the strongest brands in the eyes of the American consumers, and with its satisfying taste and decent price, that label is well deserved. But Store Brand Scorecard is all about getting the best value, and in this case, the prize goes to Aldi's Burman's brand.

No, it's not as good as Heinz, but it's a very respectable number two. What really pushes Aldi ahead is what you get for your money -- for 99 cents, a whole dollar less than the cost of a 20 ounce Heinz bottle at Target, you get 32 ounces of ketchup. So Store Brand Scorecard places Heinz second with a score of 8 and Burman's the top ketchup brand with a score of 9. So no, Store Brand Scorecard's method may not be as scientific as the ACSI, but its willing to wager you'll be satisfied saving money buying Burman's.

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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