Need to know
- We tested more than 250 food products in our CHOICE labs this year, from tomato sauce to tea, coffee, cheese and biscuits
- Private-label products came out on top more often than supermarket own-label products
- We use a mix of expert judges and crowd-sourced taste tests to inform our results, and we usually take nutrition into account
Our food taste tests are designed to make life easier for you when you're standing in the supermarket aisle. We choose everyday products that we know Australians love to buy and we put them to the test: looking at everything from flavour and texture to price and nutrition.
"Probably the most important aspect of our tests is that the participants are tasting the products 'blind'," says CHOICE food expert Rachel Clemons.
"These days, when we're standing in the supermarket aisles, Australians are so heavily influenced by branding and marketing – when those factors are removed, you get an unbiased assessment of taste, and the results aren't always what you'd expect."
I enjoy it when a top-tasting product also happens to be one of the cheapestRachel Clemons, CHOICE food expert
"Our tea test was one of my favourites in 2019," says Rachel. "More than 170 people on our member panel, Voice Your Choice, participated. They made and drank more than 1100 cups of tea to determine which tasted best.
"I also enjoy it when a top-tasting product also happens to be one of the cheapest, such as Aldi's Beautifully Butterfully Butter and the Community Co A Squeeze Of Tomato Sauce from IGA."
1. Coles Fairtrade Organic Freeze Dried Coffee
We reviewed 14 instant coffees available in supermarkets, from brands including Nescafe, Moccona and Lavazza, as well as supermarket-own labels, to determine which brew created the most popular cup.
In the blind taste test, the Coles organic instant coffee came out on top, closely followed by Moccona and Nature's Cuppa Organic Coffee.
2. Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea Proper Black Tea
Last year, Aussies bought almost 10,500 tonnes of tea from supermarkets, so I guess we like the stuff. And it seems we particularly like the northern British style, with Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea Proper Black Tea topping our blind taste test of 16 supermarket teas with a CHOICE Score of 80%.
Bushells Blue Label came second with a score of 77% and Lipton English Breakfast coming in third.
Need to know if your cuppa made the cut? See our full ranking of Australia's favourite tea bags.
3. Lurpak Slightly Salted Butter
"How different can butters be?" you might ask. But butter is serious business, and a good-quality one will make a big difference to your baking, cooking and snacks.
The flavour and texture of butter can differ depending on whether it's salted, salt reduced or unsalted; how well it's blended; whether it's cultured or not; where it's from and what the cows feed on; among other things.
In our review of 33 supermarket butters from brands including Devondale, Lurpak, Mainland, Pepe Saya and Western Star, it was the popular Danish brand, Lurpak, that came out on top (it's also one of the most expensive ones we tested at $2/100g).
But, proving that you don't always have to pay premium price for premium taste, Aldi's Beautifully Butterfully Butter Unsalted came equal first for taste in the unsalted category and equal third overall.
4. Wonder Wholegrain White Smooth Wholegrain
It's a weekly grocery staple and despite the fact that many of us love our wholemeal, dark rye or artisan sourdough, regular sliced white bread remains a firm favourite for Aussies.
We reviewed 30 supermarket sliced white breads (24 regular, six gluten-free) from brands including Abbott's Village Bakery, Helga's, Mighty Soft, Tip Top and Wonder White to see which loaf rises above the rest for both nutrition and taste.
Regular sliced white bread remains a firm favourite for Aussies
The top scoring bread we tested – Wonder Wholegrain White Smooth Wholegrain (CHOICE Expert Rating 78%) – contains wholegrains, but for all intents and purposes is a sliced white bread like all the others we tested. This is good news for parents who are keen for their kids to eat more wholegrains, but tired of their sandwiches being rejected for having 'bits' in them.
And the top scoring gluten-free breads are two of the cheapest in that category. Aldi's Has No Gluten Free Sliced White Bread (77%) and Coles Gluten Free White Bread (77%) cost $0.80 and $0.90 per 100g, respectively – almost half the price of some other gluten-free breads we tested.
5. Don Traditional Premium Thick-cut Ham off the Bone
English ham, champagne, smoked or honey – there are a ton of packaged hams available in the supermarket aisle, so how do you choose which one is best?
We looked for products that deliver predominantly on taste (it accounts for 90% of the CHOICE Expert Rating), but we also take a look at their nutritional panels to see how they fare on the 'good for you' front. In our test, six ham products achieved a CHOICE Expert Rating of 70% or more, with Don Traditional Premium Thick Cut Ham off the Bone coming in first with 76%. Next up was D'Orsogna Premium Sweet Honey Leg Ham with 74%. The Aldi Berg Smallgoods Shaved Honey Ham came in third.
6. Arnott's Tim Tams
If there's one thing that really tickles our fancy here at CHOICE, it's finding cheaper products that perform as well as (or even outperform) big-name brands. So, we were keen to put OG Arnott's Tim Tams against Aldi's very similar Just Divine biscuits.
The Arnott's bickie took out 61% of the votes, and most of our testers could tell the difference between the two – so the Aldi product wasn't so convincing that it evaded detection.
But the Aldi version actually didn't do too badly compared with the original – 39% of the vote is not to be sneezed at. And a number of our testers were duped by the impostor Tim Tam.
In short: we think Aldi's product is not a bad buy. Just don't expect it to be exactly the same as Arnott's Tim Tams. And for less than half the price per biscuit, you can eat twice as many, right?
7. Perfect Italiano Mozzarella
Sometimes it's just super handy to have a bag of shredded cheese on hand for quick pizzas, pastas and toasties. So we blind taste-tested and reviewed 36 supermarket shredded cheeses – cheddar/tasty cheeses, mozzarellas and blends – from brands including Aldi, Coles, Woolworths, Devondale, Mil Lel and Perfect Italiano so we could tell you which one is the grate-st (sorry).
Five shredded cheeses achieved a CHOICE Expert Score of 80% or more, meaning they delivered on both nutrition and taste in our expert panel blind taste test.
The top cheeses were: Perfect Italiano Mozzarella (84%), Mil Lel Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (83%) and in equal third place with a score of 80%: Coles Australian Mozzarella Cheese Shredded, Devondale Mozzarella Cheese and Mil Lel Shredded Baking Blend.
See our shredded cheese review.
We put Milo in a head-to-head taste challenge against Aldi NRG Maxx to see which one tastes best. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
8. Nestle Milo
It's one of the nation's favourite drinks and we caused quite a stir earlier this year when we polled Australia on whether your Milo or your milk goes into the glass first (the consensus is Milo first, for the record).
We then put OG Milo in a head-to-head taste test with its Aldi alternative: Aldi's NRG Maxx. In total, 41 CHOICE staff (including a few CHOICE kids) took our blind test and voted for their favourite chocolate milk drink.
In a convincing win, Nestle's product took out 66% of the vote and most people could easily tell which sample was the original Milo.
But a full third of testers liked the Aldi product, so considering it's half the price of original Milo, it could be a good option if you're trying to stretch the family budget.
9. Uncle Toby's Chewy Choc Chip Muesli Bars
Muesli bars are surely one of Australia's favourite snacks, with choc-chip one of our most popular enduring flavours.
We called on the public to rank their favourite of 11 snack bars from Aldi, Be Natural, Carman's, Nature Valley and more – all oat-based muesli bars, granola bars or oat slices of the chocolate variety – to see which ones raise the bar for taste and nutrition.
The one that scored the best on both fronts was Uncle Toby's Chewy Choc Chip, which was less than 600kJ per serve and nut-free (good for those with a nut allergy), making it a tasty treat that's also suitable for lunchboxes. Carman's Dark Choc Cherry & Coconut Bars came second, followed by Woolworths Chewy Muesli Bars with a Choc Drizzle.
10. Community Co A Squeeze Of Tomato Sauce
Not only did Community Co A Squeeze Of Tomato Sauce rank as the best in our tests of 22 different supermarket sauces, it was also one of the cheapest products we tested ($0.30/100ml) and is made in Australia from at least 98% Australian ingredients.
Our experts said, "It's thick and shiny. Strong acid on the front palate. Nice flavour. A sauce that is well balanced. Sweet and umami [savoury] with a slight tang."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.