Healthy, wealthy and wise

Store brands vs Premium labels-- CHOICE finds a mixed bag

A CHOICE study of a range of supermarket food products has found "store brands" in some food categories can be just as healthy as premium labels – and they're often much cheaper at around half the cost.

Several budget store brands also did well in our taste test, with the notable exception of Coles Smart Buys which rated consistently poorly.

CHOICE looked at more than 160 food items and compared budget Woolworths Home Brand and Coles Smart Buys against higher end Woolworths Select and Coles brands, Aldi products and other leading labels.

"While the ingredients may have varied between the brands, for almost half the products we compared there was little difference in the nutrition content," says CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

"In fact depending on the product, supermarket private labels can be lower in unhealthy nutrients such as fat, saturated fat, sugars and sodium."

Examples include Aldi and Woolworths Home Brand low-fat mayonnaise which had the lowest sodium levels and Woolworths Home Brand plain water crackers which was the only cracker to score a nutrition "green light" for saturated fat content.

The study found a basket of 30 leading brand items cost $125.48, compared to $65.88 for the same basket of Coles Smart Buy products, $65.30 for Aldi and $63.51 for the equivalent Woolworths Home Brand items.

"Market leader brands only topped two categories for taste so it's certainly worth giving cheaper private labels a go," says Zinn.

"But it’s still important to compare the nutrition panels to determine if the supermarket brand product is a healthier choice and when we should stick with the big brands.

"Some budget store brands can also pack a punch when it comes to sugar or fat content, which shows yet again that consumers would benefit from traffic light labels for fats, sugar and salt on the front of food packs.”

Australian consumers are spending more on supermarket store brands than ever before, with private label purchases now accounting for more than 22% of all grocery sales.

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