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Heinz loses our taste test – are we ‘brand’ brainwashed?

Ketchup bottles

Do you automatically reach for the Heinz ketchup as you race round the supermarket? Shock news – it might not be as tasty as the own label alternatives – but would you be persuaded to change?

This month we carried out a blind taste test of ketchup comparing branded and supermarket own brands.

Of all the ketchup bought in the UK 60% of it is Heinz – but despite its popularity our consumer panel of 130 scored it poorly. In fact, it came joint second from the bottom out of the 13 sauces tested. Our tasters rated Sainsbury’s, M&S and Tesco ketchups the best.

And when we did the same test with baked beans last year the findings, although not as extreme, were not dissimilar. Heinz came joint 4th behind Branston, Asda and Morrisons baked beans.

Yet despite these findings I still buy Heinz Baked beans and ketchup.

What’s on your plate?

It’s odd as there are some items I always buy branded and others where I don’t really care. And judging by a previous Conversation we ran on this topic, I’m not alone. Our poll asked ‘What do you think of supermarket own-label food?’ – and 76% of you said ‘it varies so I buy according to product.’

I always buy ‘Weetabix’ but am happy to buy a supermarket’s own brand of ‘Fruit and Fibre’. I buy Fairy liquid and washing detergent but buy own brand bleach. And I’m happy to buy own brand pasta but prefer Tilda rice. I always buy own brand cheese as I’ve yet to find a brand that offers a strong, mature cheddar but buy brand yoghurts.

Are brands brainwashing us?

Thinking about it, there doesn’t seem to be any logic to my choices. I think I’m just set in my ways – I know what we like at home so I stick to it. I guess I don’t want to risk buying something that I won’t like which will then go to waste. At least that’s what I think, but maybe I’ve just been brainwashed over the years by clever marketing?

Are you surprised by the findings of our taste test? Do you always buy branded or own brand products or, like me, a mix of both?

Laura says:
17 May 2011

I very rarely buy branded products as I’ve always found own brand ones to be just as good if not better. I don’t like Heinz beans or ketchup, they taste “metallic” to me! The only branded product I do regularly buy is Diet Pepsi – I’ve tried various other brands but none of them taste as good.
I used to know someone who always insisted on buying branded products – until she went on a tour of a washing powder factory where she was shown the same powder being poured into both brand name and own brand boxes!

Ben says:
1 March 2012

a tour of a washing powder factory? why would anybody do that through choice?


Laura, I’ve heard a lot of stories about the same product being put into different branded boxes, but always wondered if there was a difference. For example, in the case you describe, could it be that the two different boxes contained the same powder but with a slightly different proportion of additives? Does anyone know the answer?

Laura says:
1 March 2012

Ben she was a lorry driver who came to pick up from the factory, and the factory manager for some reason thought she’d like to have a look round – she was too polite to say no! Although she said she did actually find it quite interesting in the end!
Clint I really don’t know, never thought of that possibility before but it does make sense!


For years we always used to have nothing but Heinz beans until we read in Which? that Branston had proved more popular for taste in the survey. Feeling it was worth a try, we agreed and were converted to Branston beans.
A couple of weeks ago, the shop only had Heinz so we bought some as ‘Beanz is beanz’.
However, partner ate some the other night & refuses to eat them again!
So it is certainly worth trying different brands occasionally – sometimes you end up being very surprised by the results!
I am now far more willing to deviate from our ‘regular’ brands.

Simon says:
18 May 2011

I switched to Branston Beans after I got annoyed with Heinz for pulling the ‘gay’ kiss advert that wasn’t even a gay kiss. And actually Branston Beans are much nicer, so I’ve never changed back.

Sometimes when you think you’ve switched brand you actually haven’t at all though – HP, for example, is actually made by Heinz anyway. So if you really want to switch brand for any reason you have to read the back of the packet!

Smackthetwit says:
26 May 2011

Of course it’s a change of Brand. If it’s a different recipe it’s a different product, even if the same ‘Big Company’ is behind it. You might as well say that KLM is exactly the same as Air France. Or that Skoda is exactly the same brand as Volkswagen. Or that Cadburys is the same as Kraft ! In any event, it was surely a daft reason you had to try another product ! Most people choose their Brands on taste/price. To make a food choice based on something as irrelevant to the product as ‘gay kissing’ says a lot about you.

fishtaster says:
16 July 2015

Cadbury’s chocolate has undergone a severe degradation in quality since it sold out to Kraft. I used to love it, now I gag on it.


In a similar vein to Simon’s point above, many people don’t realise that almost all of the major pet foods are owned by only three major companies, Nestles, Proctor & Gamble, and Mars.
Marketed under various brands, many complete dog/cat foods are manufactured in the same place with only very slight (often ‘visual’ and more for the owners benefit!) differences. The prices can be hugely different though!


Trust danny to talk about dog food 😉

But you’re right, lots of brands are actually owned by other companies – just have a look at our ‘ethical brands’ Convo – there are lots of surprises in there: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/find-out-who-really-owns-our-ethical-food-brands/

And brands are everything in most foods and products. If they didn’t mean anything, Tesco and Asda would have the monopoly simply due to price.


But Patrick, I AM a Dog (Welsh Springer Spaniel to be exact! 🙂 ) – so dog foods are naturally the VERY top of my priorities 🙂

Seriously, it really is amazing just how many consumers do not realise how much ‘control’ of the market a very small number of extremely large conglomerates have of the market. I may jokingly have highlighted pet food (yummy, yummy…..isn’t it tea time yet?)…..but this is reflected in so many other products where consumers do not realise almost exactly the same product is being marketed under differing brand names.

Sorry, definitely past a little dogs bed time now – more serious thought put aside until tomorrow!

David Smith says:
5 April 2017

Some Cadbury chocolate isn’t even made by Cadbury – it’s made by a third party in Belgium.

kath says:
18 May 2011

I also automatically go for the Heinz when choosing Ketchup, but these days I tend to wait for the deals. I will definately be trying the own branded stuff from now on though. I havent bought Heinz baked beans for years, I always go for the Supermarket value range along with Chopped tomatoes, Sainsburys own Weetabix, crackers, Sainsburys cider (made by Thatchers) cooking sauces, deserts. I could go on all day.


tesco and asda priced goods are the price that named brands used to be, before the named brand manufacturers started making them for asda and tesco
often both supermarket brands are the same thing, just wrapped up in own brand packaging

the illusion that supermarket own brands are cheaper is a common misconception.

supermarket’s increase the price of named brands, then decrease the shelf area given to them, whilst pushing their own brand through increased shelf space, at the price the named brand originally was (hence high inflation on food prices!) – it used to be the case that supermarket’s were always better on price over local independants, hasn’t been this way for a long time, local independants even garages are cheaper than asda/tesco on many named brands.

30,000 square foot superstore and their stocks of so many named brand products are reduced to one or two trays per week, whilst own brand products flood the shelves!

Have you seen an asda lately… this weekend, most of the frozen food/ready meals/pizzas even fish fingers, are the supermarket’s own brand!

Suze says:
18 May 2011

Funnily enough, a few months back I bought Sainsburys own brand tomato ketchup rather than my usual Heinz. However I have gone back to Heinz as the Sainsburys one didn’t seem to keep its flavour as well. Some own brand products are good though e.g. Tesco Garibaldi biscuits and Asda Acacia squeezy honey.