/ Food & Drink

Will our taste tests convince you to ditch your fave brands?

Tomato soup

Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Aldi cream of tomato soups have beaten the iconic Heinz Classic variety in the latest Which? taste test. Would you swap a much-loved brand for a supermarket label?

I must admit I was surprised when the results of the latest taste test arrived at the Which? offices. I didn’t think for one minute that a supermarket own label soup would measure up to the nation’s favourite soup brand.

But three supermarket soups were voted tastier than Heinz – which came joint-fourth in the rankings.

Supermarket soups beat Heinz soup

Which? soup taste test resultsTo find the tastiest soup, we pitted 11 supermarket labels and best-selling brands against each other in a blind taste test. The soups were rated on taste, texture, appearance and aroma, according to the palates of 100 members of the general public.

Sainsbury’s cream of tomato came top for flavour and scored 76% overall; Tesco’s version came a close second with 74%; and Aldi’s Soupreme cream of tomato scored 72%.

And because there was a clear distinction between these three and all the rest – we’ve made them Best Buys.

Blinded by big brands

Before seeing these results in black and white, nothing would have tempted me away from Heinz Classic Cream of Tomato soup. Until now, it’s always been my soup-of-choice, bringing to mind a comforting snack on blustery autumn days, with a freshly-baked white crusty roll. On the other hand, if someone said ‘supermarket soup’ I’d imagine a thin, vinegary and unappetising poor substitute by comparison.

This kind of unconscious ingrained bias is the main reason we carry out ‘blind’ taste tests. Not one of our soup tasters could identify any of the soups they were sampling. But are these indisputable findings enough to make me switch the soup I buy?

Even when you consider that all three soups are a lot cheaper than the brands – Aldi’s soup is less than half the price of a can of Heinz – I have to admit I’m not sure I’ll reach for the own-label tomato soup the next time I’m in Sainsbury’s. OK, I will try it; but the pull of my affinity to Heinz might stop me from enjoying it.

Would you switch soups?

This all got me thinking about other brands I wouldn’t dream of ditching. I mean, I’ll happily switch my bank, insurance or energy supplier at the drop of a hat if it means I’d get a better deal, but choose cola over Coke, or generic chocolate over Cadbury’s? Never!

I’m curious to see whether our taste test results would encourage any Heinz Classic Cream of Tomato Soup fans to give our supermarket Best Buys a try. Or will you stick with what you love? And more generally – which brands would you be happy to sacrifice, and which brands won’t you be parted from?

Comments

I keep some cans of soup etc. for use when I get back from holiday and have not been shopping or explored the freezer. After a can of Heinz tomato soup I realised that I had consumed 2.4 g salt – 40% of the maximum daily intake recommended for an adult.

When restocking the cupboard I might pay attention to the salt content of the products on offer or be patient enough to defrost something interesting and healthy than tinned soup.

liam mitchell says:
16 March 2015

ill always eat heinz no matter what yall sayyyyy

hornett says:
19 March 2015

Have you ever tried the other brand as I have not. Its all about the positioning and packaging. What deters you from supermarkets own brands?

Also just found out there’s 4 teaspoons of sugar in a can Heinz tomato soup wow 👎

It’s been a long time since I had any canned soup although there’s the odd tin or two at the back of the cupboard “just in case”. When I was partial to soup, especially in the winter, I always rated Sainsbury’s highly and preferred it to Heinz and M&S [which scored only 55%!]. I am not surprised that Baxters scored low [61%] – their cream of tomato was never their best. I think it was the sugar content rather than the salt content that put me off canned soups; nowadays we make our own, both toothsome and nutritious.

Sugar !!!! How can you make a “food” product that contains so much sugar a “Best Buy” ? Would a brand of cigarette be a Best Buy because some expert said it tasted better than the others? Salt and fat have nothing on sugar when it comes to being a health hazard. Please consider campaigning against the evils of sugar in the stuff supermarkets sell as “Food” , and certainly don’t call the stuff “Best Buy”. When testing and comparing other products there have been occasions when the results have read that there hasn’t been a “Best Buy” because certain standards are not met by any of the tested products, so why not food. “Which ?” should campaign against sugar in the stuff that is sold for us to eat, if “Which?” achieved a reduction of sugar in the nations diet it would be the single most important achievement in the associations history.

Many of us eat too much sugar and it is perfectly possible to make palatable soup without it, but please don’t regard it as a poison. Whatever food we eat, some of it is converted into blood sugar, which is needed for various purposes including keeping our brains functioning.

We should restrict our intake of sugar, salt and fat.

The thing that irritates me is the unnecessary use of gluten. Many soups contain wheat flour for no obvious reason: you can thicken soups with potato or other ingredients.

This means I have to wade through the small print in order to discover if the product is safe.

With approaching 1% of the population sensitive to gluten and some seriously affected, it’s time to lobby the food companies to produce soups and other foods that can be enjoyed by everyone. Those who have a nut allergy are often faced with the disclaimers such as ‘cannot guarantee free from nuts’, which is really unhelpful.

Absolutely. “No gluten containing ingredients” doesn’t cut it when there might be cross-contamination.

Who makes the own brands because Tesco, Asda or Aldi don’t. It wouldn’t surprise me if they come out the same food processing plant.

So they might, but not to the same recipe. The texture is quite different, and the amounts of sugar on the label also differ.

Chris says:
27 January 2015

It don’t matter which soup you found better in the taste test because Heinz Tomato soup is no longer being available as the company is discontinuing it. To them it doesn’t matter if it is America’s and Canada’s favorite Tomato Soup or not it will soon if it hasn’t yet disappear from store shelves shortly. Warren Buffet has sure screwed up Heinz and my personal feelings are that he bought it to eliminate it completely. If people still want the Heinz brand Tomato soup they should flood the company with emails and letters. But I don’t think that Heinz or Buffet could care less about what the consumer thinks or wants. Big bucks is their only concern but maybe if people started buying brands other than Heinz they may get a change of attitude towards the consumer where their bread and butter ( BIG BUKS COMES FROM) but I really doubt that Heinz or his worship could really care. Our family has been using the Heinz brand Tomato soup for over 60 years and have tried many others but none come even close to the Heinz brand in taste. We use it for pasta sauces , sauces for breaded pork chops breaded veal cutlets and other stuff besides as soup now what.

Chris, can you provide a link to your claim “Heinz Tomato soup is no longer being available as the company is discontinuing it“.

At least for the immediate just now, it is available from Tesco.

Maybe Chris was not referring to the UK.

I have not make any tomato soup but yesterday evening I made some leek, potato, parsnip and tomato soup to use up the contents of the fridge before going on holiday. It’s surprisingly nice and I did not feel the need to add sugar or much salt. I used to keep a couple of cans of Heinz for when I came back from holiday but now I just take some of my own soup out of the freezer.

Heinz soup is vile, too much sugar

tom says:
26 March 2019

i fully agree

Rosemary Edgar says:
29 December 2017

My husband and I have just had a can of Heinz Cream of Tomato soup. To be perfectly honest we didnt enjoy this new recipe. It was tasteless. We will not be buying this again. Totally fed up with these ‘food experts’ deciding what is good for us. Surley an occasional can of soup won’t do untold damage. I am sorry to say that will be my last Heinz Cream of Tomato soup I buy, even though the Price in Tesco was £2.00 for pack of four.

tom says:
26 March 2019

soup is peng

Stuart says:
5 June 2020

I find Heinz tomato soup delicious, but too acid and too much salt. Choices choices.

There is a version with half the salt and sugar content. It has long perplexed me why anyone would put sugar in soup.

In the June 2020 Which? magazine is a section called Everyday food favourites

2 of the items to get a mention are chocolate biscuits and spreadable butter both of which I have had very recent experience.

On 25th April (some time before the magazine came out) I commented on McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Biscuits and asked what they had done to them, such was my disappointment. I am amazed to see they get 2nd place in the Which? tests. I can only surmise the rest must have been quite awful.

I normally buy the Anchor spreadable but decided to try the Lurpak when Anchor wasn’t available. Both get a mention in the magazine. I did my own taste test to compare the two and thought the Lurpak had a slight margarine taste, surprising since it contains a higher percentage of butter. I am also amazed to see the Lurpak get top spot in the ratings as I won’t be buying it again.

Here is another article that rates the McVities ones well: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/24/chocolate-digestives-best-worst-taste-test-mcvities-supermarket-brands

Tastes differ and since it is not expensive to compare brands you might as well buy what you like. Most people can relate to chocolate digestives and it is not expensive to carry out comparisons.

When we are in a new austerity I imagine fewer people will pay twice the price …and for what? Advertising and marketing costs?

When Which? picks the best supermarket they base it on a trolley of branded products. That seems artificial as most people will, I suspect, include a fair proportion of own brands. I’d like to see a similar comparison made with (mid range where applicable) own brands where they are available.

Thanks for the link wavechange. I think these taste tests prove just how much we have been duped and conned into liking inferior products.

This is the image I posted before of a McVitie’s milk chocolate biscuit:

I actually scraped the chocolate off a biscuit and weighed it. Very surprisingly it did weigh as about 30% of the biscuit. The rest of the biscuit is little more than powder and air. I did force myself to eat them as I hate waste and by the time I got to the last biscuit my disappointment and dislike of them had lessened. I was never tempted to eat two at a time and will never buy them again.

I think if today’s McVitie’s chocolate biscuits were compared to the ones we could buy maybe 20 years ago, their score would be at the bottom not the top.

The things we do in the interests of research. I’ve taken my digital scales to Tesco to find out if their packs of salmon were underweight (they weren’t) and been escorted out of the store for taking photos to send to the council’s environmental health team – which decided there was not a problem but the questionable salad chillers were eventually replaced. I have reported errors in unit pricing in various supermarkets. Yet I have never scraped the chocolate of a biscuit or won a battle against Amazon. 🙂

I haven’t given up with Amazon yet . . .
I meant to post a review from the link you gave that rather sums up my thoughts on McV’s.

Close your eyes and tell me, do you taste any chocolate? Whatever it’s coated with owes little to cocoa.
And, apart from sugar, salt and flour, can you taste anything else?
And the bitter flour aftertaste. Ughh. Like the bitter cooked flour off the bottom of the baking tray.
Chocolate digestives used to be a joy, now they’re so stripped of anything tasty – all cheapness and chemicals – they’re a penance.

It’s interesting to plough through reviews occasionally. There are some interesting comments that are more subtle than the parodies of TV advertising to be found on YouTube.

I expect the ones sold under the Marks & Spencer brand name were manufactured by 2SFG. What really annoys me are biscuits that might seem to be hand-baked but originate from a factory.

I’ve never tried making chocolate-coated digestives.

We don’t have any chocolate coated biscuits so I can’t comment on comparative makes and own-label products. However, I have a terribly sweet tooth that must occasionally be satisfied and have acquired a strong liking for M&S own-label Bourbon Cream biscuits. In my opinion they are as good as Bourbons have ever been and far better than other stores’ own-label products and even the major brands if you can get them [most supermarkets have de-listed McVities Bourbon biscuits it seems (or Peek Frean’s as they were known in their heyday) and stock an inferior brand to compete against their own unpleasant variety].

I have attended many meetings and working groups where biscuits were provided with coffee/tea and the remaining ones gradually consumed by the delegates. By the time the agenda reaches Any Other Biscuits, all that’s left is bourbons and custard creams.

That’s just bad meeting management, Wavechange. In my experience the meeting organisers would snaffle the bourbons and custard creams before the other delegates arrived and leave ten biscuits for an attendance of twelve. No left overs!

I read that article and dismissed it as pretty pointless. “Everyday food favourites”? Really? Do lots of people have a daily diet of pizza, choccy bics, alcohol free beer, oily butter, ice cream and fish fingers and chips? If so, no wonder we have an obesity problem. I buy whole fish, proper butter, no beer; ice cream, pizza, chips occasionally. What was the point of the article?

Spreadable butter contains less saturated fat than ordinary butter, so is a more healthy option. I presume that alcohol-free beer is popular for those who will be driving.

I agree with the Everyday food favourites malcolm. The only everyday ones for me are the spreadable butter and ice cream. I don’t agree with the Lurpak rating and would never buy the cheap vanilla gloop in the article.

I have tried delivered pizza and ready-made from the supermarket but think them yuk and wonder how people can rate them so highly. I occasionally buy an Italian base and make our own with herbs, sheep’s milk feta cheese, salami/chorizo, mushrooms, olives and a light drizzle of olive oil. No tasteless mozzarella or soggy tomato.

I have tried oven chips and again think yuk. They are dry, cook on one side only unless you keep flipping them over so they will never see the inside of my freezer again. As I don’t have a deep fryer, chips are reserved for eating out so it will be a long time before we eat them again. I did consider an air fryer but they still use oil and will emit oily steam that has to go somewhere and I would rather it didn’t destroy my new kitchen.

Hubby likes fish fingers occasionally, so there is a packet of them in the freezer, but I do check the ingredients carefully before buying.

I used to think Anchor butter was the absolute best when it was made in New Zealand, but it lost something when production was moved to the UK. For ease of use, I don’t mind the spreadable version.

We first discovered a liking for alcohol-free lager when driving around Europe some years ago now. Served up ice-cold they went very well with lunch. They were a lot more palatable than alcohol-free beers and lagers available in the UK.

Like Alfa I don’t eat chips at home. Not having had fish & chips for months I bought frozen versions. Maybe I did not choose the right products but I am not planning to repeat the experience.

Britain has been called the ‘Fat Man of Europe’, so it’s possible that the diet suggested is followed by more than one might imagine. But poor diets are also inextricably linked to income. We rarely enjoy a pizza, for example, and when we do, an average pizza does us for two meals.

But pizza, biscuits and chips are examples of highly processed foods, which bait us into enjoying them more, as they contrive to entice through varying flavours and sweetness, but the one thing we do know of highly processed foods is that they’re bad for us.

We’re omnivores, and our ancestors probably survived on nuts and berries for the most part. I doubt pizza was ever considered fifty thousand years ago. Wonder what the stone age equivalent of MacD’s would have sold?

I think if you make your own from scratch they are less baiting than the bought equivalent.

It is a long time since I had any Pringles crisps, but they are one of the worst junk food baiters we have ever found. You eat one, it doesn’t quite deliver so you have another one, then another one expecting the flavour hit that never comes. Before you know it, they are gone leaving you dissatisfied but wanting more.

Not sure about MacD’s but a T-Rex leg or rib might have sold well in a KFC.

I’m convinced that the current obesity problem is largely because food that is easy to eat is so readily available and many eat out more frequently than in previous generations.

It’s easy to demolish a packet of nuts but having to crack each one takes longer. One of the reasons I make biscuits is that it takes effort, so the results of a baking will last a week.

Processed food can contain plenty of sugar and salt. Heinz and others may feel the need to put sugar in soup but I don’t do this and I would be surprised if many do.

The gaudy flyers that come through our letter box from various takeaways, pizza sheds, and retailers like Iceland and Farm Foods heavily feature bargains based on low prices for rubbish food, but big profits must be made on all the sides and toppings also offered as enhancements and which for many are presumably irresistible. Perhaps they make pap and pulp palatable.

The general health condition of the UK population is lamentable despite efforts over recent years to encourage better eating and home cooking – you could spend all day every day – nibbling snacks – continuously watching TV programmes showing it, but still the popular choice is bad for you as well as being relatively expensive.

Salt and sugar, apart from their preservative properties are great taste enhancers. The down side with commercially produced foods is, everyone’s taste differs according to the amount of sugar and salt they are used to consuming.

Over time It’s possible to build up a tolerance so that more is needed to maintain the required amount to suit each individual taste, resulting in high blood pressure and/or type 2 diabetes in later life.

In a nutshell, the more sugary foods you eat the more you crave and although you may feel temporarily satisfied the less satiated and nourished your body becomes and the harder it is to cut down or give up altogether after you receive the inevitable red light warning from your local GP.

The amount of salt and sugar in most foods will not act as a preservative and the added sugar can even increase the rate of spoilage. As you say, they are there to make food more palatable. Bread is interesting because it contains plenty of salt but does not taste salty. Try making bread without salt and you might not do it again.

I understood sugar has the capacity to extract sufficient moisture from certain bacteria’s DNA, thereby destroying it but unfortunately does not have the same effect on mould.

Preserving with sugar relies on lowering the ‘water activity’: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-salt-and-sugar-pre/ Achieving this requires food to contain a lot of sugar and little remaining water.

There are some bacteria that will grow at very high sugar concentrations, for example Zymomonas mobilis, which is used to produce a traditional Mexican fermented beverage.

That news about salt in bread surprised me, Wave, and when I looked into it I found that when tested some bread was found to have more salt content than seawater of equivalent weight.

I was curious about what the salt did. Scientific American provided an answer:

“Salt acts as a natural antioxidant in the dough and not only adds taste but especially helps bring out the flavors and aromas present in the flour and other ingredients.
Next to its role in boosting the flavor of your bread, salt plays a role in tightening the gluten structure and adding strength to your dough. It helps the loaf to hold on to the carbon dioxide gas that is formed during fermentation, supporting good volume.
Salt slows down fermentation and enzyme activity in dough. The salt crystals draw water away form their environment (salt is ‘hygroscopic’). When salt and yeast compete for water, salt wins and the yeast is slowed down.
Because of its moisture maintaining properties, salt can prevent bread from getting stale but it can also (this is especially true in humid environments) absorb moisture from the air and leave you with soft crusts and soggy bread.”

Well, when you add a poisonous gas and a highly reactive metal to your food, what can you expect? 🙂

Thanks Ian. I have added that to my reading list to follow up if I have the time. I’m not entirely convinced of the explanation for prevention of staling because that’s mainly down to ‘staling reactions’.

I shall continue to put salt in my bread rather than sodium and chlorine, which seem to be out of stock at the moment. 🙂

Regrettably one of my favourite occasional treats is dripping – on toast for breakfast. But you need a decently fatty beef joint to produce it. The combination of the fat and the jelly gravy in the bottom of the dripping jar, spread on hot toast and sprinkled with salt is hard to beat. A hangover from childhood food when stuff was scarce, I expect.

Gosh that takes me back. My grandma always did a huge roast every weekend and there always was toast and dripping for tea during the week. I wouldn’t have thought beef joints today would have enough fat on them.

Dripping butties. Standard fare where I was drug up, although I never tried one.

When I worked on a farm as a teenager I would go round the town with the farmer for about an hour every morning delivering produce to traders. It was arranged that the final call was to the primary school kitchen which usually bought tomatoes and cucumbers in season and eggs all year round; we nearly always came away with a generous wedge of bread and dripping or some other by-product of the school dinners.

Constant dripping wears away stone but it also helps the world keep going.

Bread and dripping was a regular breakfast when I was young, sprinkled with salt – yum. 😋 Roast beef or lamb were rarities so I think the dripping came mostly from sausages and bacon and maybe the butcher.