Own-brand products named-and-shamed

Supermarket own-brand sales have soared in the recession. Sales of own-label goods are up 50% in the last five years and can be better quality, in some cases, than branded goods.

But food tester Martin Isark - he's tested 100,000 products in 20 years - says some own-brand examples are diabolically bad.

"Belly filler"

Isark, who runs website CanIeatIt, told the Mail that Asda Smart Price Porridge was the equivalent of swallowing tasteless "white sludge". "They [own brands] may be cheap but if they taste awful then they do not represent good value. And there are usually better alternatives that will not harm your wallet."

Asda's Smart Price sliced Brown Bread didn't fare much better ("belly filler"). Likewise Sainsbury's Cornflakes and basics Lemonade, as well as Tesco's Everyday Value sugar-free Cola, plus coffee granules (which scored just one out of ten). Clearly this is a subjective matter of taste, and one person's view will differ from another's. However, it raises an interesting point.

Better scores - much better - were returned for Tesco's Finest Normandy Butter and Sainsbury's Wholewheat Biscuits (ten out of ten). So though some own-label products were considered poor by Isark, many are pretty good and brilliant value.

Cleaned out

For example, why spend £1 upwards on a 500ml bottle of cleaning detergent when Morrisons will sell you their 750ml All Purpose Cleaner for 32p (it used to be 25p). Likewise, Lidl's own Formil-brand washing powder is significantly cheaper than most other makes, and highly effective.

However, there's a sting in the packet: many own-brand product prices have risen sharply as millions of families cotton onto them. Recently analysts from The Grocer claimed price rises on as many as 40% of own-brand products had been seen in the last 12 months.

It claimed more than 150 Tesco Everyday Value products from a total of 353 cost more than they did in 2011 - a 500g bag of grated cheese soared from £2.18 to £3, for example. But retailers point to the rising price of commodities as well as fuel, not to mention population growth, exerting supply-demand pressure.

Poundland foray?

The EU is also expected to examine the own-brands sector, suspicious that some retailers pack too much influence in this area, with smaller branded players suffering as a consequence.

"This may result in unfair trading practices where individual suppliers are forced to accept unfavourable conditions for fear of losing a big - or sometimes even only - client," the EU told Reuters recently.

Poundland is also thought to be considering an own-brand food label adventure. What about your experiences? Which own-label offerings do you rate - and avoid?
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