Once considered the poor cousins to big national brands, supermarket house brands have become a major weapon in the ongoing tug-of-war for your wallet.
Coles and Woolworths stock multiple tiers of house brands (also known as private labels or own brands) while Aldi has famously built its whole business around them.
"House brand products make up a significant – and increasing – proportion of supermarkets' ranges," says CHOICE food editor Rachel Clemons. "They're big cash cows for supermarkets as they get to keep more of the profits and spend less on advertising."
The good news? Not only are house brands usually cheaper, they've also improved in quality – dramatically. Our food taste tests reveal these once-bottom-shelf brands often score very well and sometimes even win, outshining more premium products for a fraction of the price.
Which supermarket has the best-tasting house brands?
To find out, we compared over 70 products from the big three chains – Coles, Woolworths and Aldi – across ten of our recent food reviews.
Who comes out on top for taste? Aldi, and quite convincingly! The European supermarket chain upstaged its bigger rivals with six wins (four outright, two tied) across the ten categories. Woolworths and Coles tied in second with three wins apiece.
Check out the results for the different types of food below.
Premium ice cream
In a huge win for house brands, Woolworths and Aldi scored highest overall in a three-way tie with Connoisseur. They all rated 81%, but the house brands cost less than half of the premium brand.
In a blind taste test of 11 brands (it was a hard day in the office!), our five expert dairy and food judges also fancied Coles Vanilla Bean (which scored 79%), voting it equal second with Sara Lee.
It's an impressive result for the budget brands who beat well-known brands like Maggie Beer, Haagen-Dazs and Weis. And at around half the price, it means you can eat more ice cream for less. Winning!
Aldi aced our taste tests with six category wins - double the others.
Our tests found Aldi does butter better – and cheaper. After sampling 33 different products, our food industry judges scored its unsalted Beautifully Butterfully 83%, putting it in equal-third place and bested only by Lurpak and Western Star.
By comparison, Coles' best contender was awarded 76% and sixth spot, whipping Woolworths' Macro Certified Organic's butt(er) on 72%. Just avoid Woolies' Essentials butter, which scraped together a lowly score of just 58%.
Spending money for jam? Aldi and Woolworths are your best bet. They both scored 74% and equal-second place overall in our taste test of 16 jams – just one percentage point behind winner Beerenberg.
Of the two, Woolies offers the sweetest deal – it's almost half the price of Aldi's per 100 grams. The latter boasts more strawberries (50% vs 40%) but also has more sugar. Just don't grab Aldi's Grandessa Strawberry Conserve accidentally – it scored a hard-to-swallow 36%.
As for Coles, its best jam rated just 62%, but notably, still beat Cottee's and St Dalfour.
In a huge boilover, Coles' $4 coffee not only won best house brand, but tastiest coffee overall.
Our Voice Your Choice members sampled 14 brands and gave Coles Fairtrade coffee a high score of 74%, pouring hot water on big names like Moccona, Nescafe and Lavazza, which cost two to four times the price.
Woolies ranked fourth on 69%, followed by Aldi's Alcafe on 67%. That might sound low, but they still roasted well-established brands Robert Timms, Bushells and International Roast, which all rated even less. Burn!
Coles picked up wins with its bread, cheese and coffee.
In our blind test of 16 tea bags, also judged by our Voice Your Choice respondents, Aldi's Diplomat brand scored 73%, pipping Coles' cuppa by just one percentage point and Woolies' by three percentage points.
To be fair, no supermarket house brands scored a slam dunk (Aldi's ranked sixth overall), but for 100 bags for under $2, all three performed solidly. If you really love your tea time, check out taste-test winner Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea.
In one of the biggest surprises in all our taste tests, Coles came equal-second in the white bread event – with a gluten-free product! It scored 77%, just one percentage point less than 'bread-winner' Wonder Wholegrain White, proving just how far gluten-free food has come in recent years.
In our test of 30 different breads (24 regular types, six gluten-free), Aldi's Baker's Life also rose to the occasion with 73% and a spot in the top five, beating Woolworths' best bake by just one percentage point.
In the clash of the condiments, Aldi Colway (70%) proved the cheapest of the 22 sauces we sampled and one of the superior sauces overall. Our three food industry judges awarded it fourth place and a coveted 'recommended' to boot.
Woolworths (67%) and Coles (64%) also got a fair shake of the sauce bottle in fifth and eighth positions respectively, putting the squeeze on big names like Heinz, Masterfoods and Fountain, which rated lower. Interestingly, it was another budget buy, IGA's Community Co's Squeeze Of Tomato Sauce, that topped the test.
After tasting a whopping 36 different samples, our cheese industry judges voted Coles' Mozzarella (80%) the best house brand, placing it equal-third overall.
Woolworths Mozzarella (76%) claimed sixth spot and had the lowest fat content of the three, while Aldi's Westacre Tasty Light (66%) was cheaper, but far less tasty, in equal 13th place. That said, the Aldi cheese still outscored 15 other varieties including household names Coon and Bega.
Woolworths scored three wins in our house brand taste comparison.
We took this choc-chip challenge to the public, serving up 11 products in a Sydney shopping centre to decide the best bar in town.
Some 578 samples later, the people judged Woolworths to be the best house brand, scoring 72% and equal-second place beside Carman's and only one percentage point behind ultimate winner Uncle Toby's.
In a close field, Coles came in equal-third on 71% and offered even better value with more bars in the box for a cheaper price. Meanwhile, Aldi's Hillcrest bars matched Coles for value, but not on taste, scoring 68%.
Let's be honest – none of the house brands really nailed our pesto taste test, but then again, a lot of products didn't (six scored under 50%). With the lowest price tag, Aldi was the pick of the average bunch, scoring 63% and equal-fourth overall in our blind taste test of 13 brands.
Still, it did a lot better than the others. Coles barely managed a pass for its pesto with 55%, while Woolies left a bad taste in our judges' mouths with a woeful 32%.