Cheaper, certainly but own brands can also be healthier! We test the big name products against their supermarket rivals – with surprising results

Cheaper, certainly but own brands can also be healthier! We test the big name products against their supermarket rivals – with surprising results



01:54 GMT, 21 July 2012

Switching to supermarket labels can save you money — but could they improve your family’s health, too

A recent study found own-brand labels were just as nutritious as big-name brands — and often far healthier.

Here, nutritionist Angela Dowden compares the salt, fat, sugar and calorie content of 17 items from a typical shopping basket with their own-brand rivals…


Brand leader: Heinz Baked Beans. 70p for 415g.
Per 100g: 79 cals, trace sat fat, 0.6g salt, 5g sugars
Own brand: M&S Baked Beans. 39p for 410g.
Per 100g: 85 cals, 0g sat fat, 0.65g salt, 3.7g sugars
Nutritionist says: ‘The salt in Heinz beans has dropped and they now beat most supermarket brands in this respect. But we found M&S beans lower in sugar than most rivals, with a low salt content too, making them the healthiest choice.’
WINNER: Own brand

Heinz baked beans

Marks & Spencer own brand beans

Reign over: Heinz baked beans may be steeped in history, but the Marks & Spencer equivalent score higher


Brand leader: Heinz Tomato Ketchup. 1.19 for 342g.
Per 100g: 103 cals, trace of sat fat, 2.2g salt, 23.7g sugars
Own brand: Asda Tomato Ketchup. 86p for 470g.
Per 100g: 102 cals, trace of sat fat, 1.1g salt, 19g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘Interestingly, the Asda own brand contains more tomatoes than the Heinz offering — 157g of tomatoes per 100g, compared with Heinz’s 132g per 100g. And with half the salt and less sugar, the own-brand ketchup is the one to choose. We also found that Aldi’s Bramwell Tomato Ketchup was slightly better than Heinz, with less calories. But Simply M&S contained 145 calories per 100g plus a high 33.7g of sugar.’
WINNER: Own brand

Heinz tomato ketchup

Asda ketchup

Red card: Heinz tomato ketchup may be the nation's favourite, but Asda's version scores higher in the test


Brand leader: Birds Eye Cod Fish finger. 2.50 for 12.
Per 3 fingers, cooked: 185 cals, 0.8g sat fat, 0.6g salt, 0.3g sugar
Own brand: Tesco Breaded Cod Fish Fingers. 1.60 for 10.
Per 3 fingers, cooked: 160 cals, 0.7g sat fat, 0.7g salt, 0.8g sugars
Nutritionist says: ‘Birds Eye has been quite proactive in creating healthier options. However, the cheaper Tesco version is just as healthy, with more fish — 64 per cent versus 8 per cent — and fewer calories. Tesco also beat the Asda version, with two Asda fish fingers containing the same amount of sugar as three of Tesco’s.
WINNER: Own brand


Brand leader: Doritos Cool Original. 1.98 for 225g.
Per 100g: 506 cals, 3.0g sat fat, 1.83g salt, 2.8g sugars
Own brand: Asda Tortilla Chips Cool. 95p for 200g.
Per 100g: 481 cals, 2.3g sat fat, 1.5g salt, 3.3g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘Both versions could be classified as high-fat, high-salt foods and other supermarket brands we looked at were equally bad for you. But the Asda ones are not as high in saturated fat or salt as Doritos and contain a shade fewer calories.’
WINNER: Own brand


Asda cool tortilla chips

Beaten: Doritos is perhaps rather surprisingly seen off by Asda's own tortilla chips


Brand leader: Sun-Pat Smooth. 1.49 for 340g.
Per 100g: 614 cals, 9.4g sat fat, 1.2g salt, 5.1g sugars
Own brand: Tesco Smooth Peanut Butter. 1.23 for 340g.
Per 100g: 620 cals, 9.3g sat fat, 1.1g salt, 5.5g sugars
Nutritionist says: ‘Sun-Pat is used to make three million sandwiches and rounds of toast a year. Supermarket rivals are cheaper, but many contain more sugar. However, this Tesco version is marginally lower in salt. The Tesco brand also lacks a stabiliser additive that’s in the Sun-Pat, making it the slightly “cleaner” option.’
WINNER: Own brand


Brand leader: Pizza Express American. 5 for 520g (12 inch).
Per 100g: 225 cals, 3.9g sat fat, 1.33g salt, 4.5g sugars
Own brand: Sainsbury’s Italian Pepperoni Pizza. 4 for 475g (12 inch).
Per 100g: 286 cals, 6.1g sat fat, 1.43g salt, 2.9g sugars
Nutritionist says: ‘Surprisingly, Pizza Express trounces Sainsbury’s version — it’s lower in salt and saturated fat — although it also has far less pepperoni, which might not please fans. Pizzas are a mixed bunch, though — Tesco’s Italian Pepperoni pizza is between Sainbury’s and Pizza Express in the healthiness stakes, while Asda Takeaway Double Pepperoni pizza is marginally better in terms of saturated fat and salt — but it’s not as tasty as the Pizza Express offering.

Pizza - a family favourite, but do you go for brand or own brand

Pizza – a family favourite, but do you go for brand or own brand


Brand leader: Weetabix Ready Brek Original. 1.98 for 500g.
Per 100g: 373 cals, 1.2g sat fat, less than 0.25g salt, 1.0g sugars
Own brand: Tesco Instant Hot Oat Cereal. 1.29 for 500g.
Per 100g: 375 cals, 1.2g sat fat, trace salt, 1g sugars
Nutritionist says: ‘While supermarkets have been under huge Government pressure to keep down sugar, salt and additives in their own-brand lines, with something as healthy as porridge there’s really nothing to choose between them — so why not go for the supermarket brand as it’s cheaper’


Brand Leader: Ambrosia Custard. 70p for 400g.
Per 100g: 100 cals, 1.6g sat fat, 0.10g salt, 11.5g sugar
Own brand: Sainsbury’s Basics Instant Custard. 17p for 385g.
Per 100g: 73 cals, 0.4g sat fat, trace salt, 9.4g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘Cheaper custards tend to contain lower fat dairy ingredients which reduces the cost. The result is a lower level of cholesterol-raising saturated fats. The supermarket brand has 20 per cent less sugar too — making it a winner in the health stakes, despite a rather synthetic taste.’
WINNER: Own brand

Sainsbury's own brand custard scored higher than Ambrosia's

Sainsbury's own brand custard scored higher than Ambrosia's


Brand leader: Ragu Tomato and Basil. 1.98 for 400g.
Per 100g: 40 cals, 0.1g sat fat, 1.8g salt, 6.9g sugars
Own brand: Waitrose Essential Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce. 1.11 for 340g.
Per 100g: 57 cals, 0.2g sat fat, 0.98g salt, 6.3g sugars
Nutritionist says: ‘Ragu is lower in calories but salt can cause water-retention. As there’s nearly twice as much salt in Ragu I’d recommend the Waitrose option for anyone wanting to maintain a flat stomach — or avoid raising their blood pressure. We found Aldi’s Calabrese pasta sauce also had lower sugar and salt levels than Ragu.’
Winner: Own brand


Brand leader: Scan Pork and Beef Swedish Meatballs. 1.99 for 350g.
Per 100g: 210 cals, 4.2g sat fats, 1.6g salt, 1.1g sugars
Own brand: Tesco Swedish Style Meat Balls. 1.99 for 350g.
Per 100g: 325 cals, 8.8g sat fats, 1.6g salt, 3.7g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘The brand leader is healthier, with less than half the amount of artery-clogging saturated fats and less sugar too. Even lower quality Swedish meatballs (which contain pork and sometimes chicken) are never any worse for your waistline and arteries than pure minced beef versions — Waitrose Aberdeen Angus Meatballs contain 8.9g saturated fat and 0.95g salt per 100g.’


Brand leader: Muller Light Strawberry. 60p for 175g.
Per 100g: 51 cals, 0.1g sat fats, 0.25g salt, 7.1g sugars
Own brand: M&S Count on Us Strawberry. 60p for 160g.
Per 100g: 40 cals, 0.1g saturates, 0.15g salt, 4.6g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘The M&S yoghurt has more strawberries than the Muller option — 15 per cent versus 10 per cent — and it’s also a full teaspoon per pot lower in sugar. The taste doesn’t suffer — the M&S yoghurt is delicious.
‘There aren’t any other supermarket own brands of diet yogurt — but M&S beats Shape and WeightWatchers brands in terms of additive count, sugar content and fruit percentage too.’
WINNER: Own brand

Close second: Hellmann's Mayonnaise was beaten by the Marks & Spencer alternative

Close second: Hellmann's Mayonnaise was beaten by the Marks & Spencer alternative


Brand leader: Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise. 1.87 for 400g.
Per 100g: 720 cals, 6.0g sat fats, 1.5g salt, 1.3g sugars
Own brand: Simply M&S Mayonnaise. 1.25 for 413g.
Per 100g: 700 cals, 5.3g sat fats, 0.95g salt, 2.5g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘There’s a clear winner here in terms of the salt content — M&S. It contains a similar amount of calories and fat to Hellmans, although most of it is unsaturated, so won’t block your arteries. Aldi’s Bramwell Mayonnaise also beat Hellmans, with less saturated fat and lower salt levels than Hellmans. The Asda SmartPrice version also had very low levels of saturated fats — 4.1g per 100ml.’
WINNER: Own brand


Brand leader: KP Original Salted Peanuts. 1.99 for 300g.
Per 100g: 590 cals, 8.6g sat fats, 1.3g salt, 5.3g sugar
Own brand: Essential Waitrose Large Peanuts. 2.39 for 500g.
Per 100g: 603 cals, 9.5g sat fats, 1g salt. 3.8g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘Peanuts, even salted ones, are a healthy snack in moderation as they contain lots of vitamins and healthy monunsaturated fats of the type found in olive oil. But it’s easy to overdo it when they contain about 150 calories per handful. The Waitrose peanuts have less salt than the branded rivals.’
WINNER: Own Brand


Brand leader: Kellogg’s. 1.04 for 500g.
Per 100g: 356 cals, 0.5g sat fat, 1g salt, 22g sugar
Own brand: Lidl. 59p for 500g.
Per 100g: 357 cals, 0.4g sat fat, 0.6g salt, 18.3g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘Supermarket bran flakes are mostly lower in sugar and salt than the brand labels, but the added vitamins and minerals in the Kellogg’s make it a better choice for family breakfasts.’

Kellog's bran flakes

Lidl's own brand bran flakes

Triumph: Kellogg's Bran Flakes trump the Lidl version


Brand leader: Patak’s Tikka Masala Sauce. 1.76 for 500g.
Per 100g: 94 cals, 1.4g sat fat, 0.75g salt, 3.9g sugar
Own brand: Waitrose Tikka Sauce. 1.69 for 350g.
Per 100g: 179 cals, 3.9g sat fat, 0.58g salt, 7.9g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘Curry sauces can have huge variations in terms of their impact on your waistline, but you can save over 125 calories a serving just by opting for brand leader Patak rather than Waitrose.’


Brand Leader: Warburtons Sliced Wholemeal Loaf. 1.20 for 800g loaf.
Per 100g: 231 cals, 0.7g sat fat, 1.08g salt, 3.8g sugar
Own brand: Asda Supersoft Golden Wholemeal Loaf. 1 for 800g loaf.
Per 100g: 234 cals, 0.4g sat fat, 0.7g salt, 3.6g sugar
Nutritionist says: ‘Salt levels in bread have fallen by about a third over the past decade. But there’s still room for improvement and main brands seem to be lagging behind the supermarkets. In this case, the Asda wholemeal loaf has one third less salt — making it better for your blood pressure, as well as your purse.’
WINNER: Own brand


Brand leader: Kingsmill Great Everyday White, Medium. 1.25 for 800g
Per 100g: 95 cals, 0.1g sat fats, 0.4g salt, 1.5g sugars
Own brand: Sainsbury’s Medium White. 69p for 800g
Per 100g: 86 cals, 0.2g sat fats, 0.28g salt, 1.6g sugars
Nutritionist says: ‘As with wholemeal bread, the supermarket white loaf is lower salt. And it doesn’t contain preservatives like the Kingsmill loaf, either. Kingsmill has calcium proprionate in it, which stops mould forming. It shouldn’t cause any health problems as it’s an e-number (E282) that’s been heavily vetted for safety, but if your family eats a lot of bread, why would you expose your children to an extra additive you don’t need’
WINNER: Own brand

The Nutritionist’s Verdict . . .

‘In many cases, supermarket own brands are actually healthier than the instantly recognisable big-name brands. If you want to save money — and give your family the best — you are often better off going for cheaper supermarket label goods.’