Supermarket budget ranges are just as nutritious as big-name brands, at a fraction of the price, according to research.
The finding, from a study of Britons’ favourite foods, including cereals, ketchup, pizzas and crisps, will bring comfort to millions of cash-strapped shoppers who have switched to ‘own labels’ as prices soar.
Professor Barbara Livingstone, who supervised the study by honours student Gemma Faulkner, said: ‘It is important these days when the price of food is going through the roof for people who might feel guilty about buying own brands to know they are not nutritionally inferior.’
The University of Ulster researchers bought own-brand versions of 32 of the UK’s most popular foods from six supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer.
Items included sausages, ham slices, beef burgers, poultry, fish, bread, cereal, fruit pies, confectionery, dairy products, frozen chips, baked beans and tomato ketchup.
In each case, they went for the most basic own-brand, such as the Tesco Value range, Sainsbury’s Basics and Waitrose Essentials.
They also bought a basket of the same foods made by big-name manufacturers. The food was bought in February 2010.
Researchers then analysed the products’ nutritional value, factoring in the fat, salt, sugar content and calories.
They also worked out how many calories shoppers were getting for every pound spent and compared the own-label with the big-brand versions.
This revealed the branded meat, poultry and fish-based dishes to be better nutritionally, perhaps because they contained less fat.
But own-label dairy products, such as rice pudding, custard and ice cream, beat the big names on nutrition.
Other cases where dearer was not necessarily better include ketchup, with Asda’s version being the most nutritious of all those tests, despite costing around a third of the price.
Overall, there was little or no difference in the nutrition of the two ranges – despite the vast differences in price, the European Congress on Obesity in Istanbul heard.
Looking at just the own brands, Sainsbury’s was the most nutritious, and Waitrose, which is famed for its quality, the least, although the differences were small. When it came to value for money, Asda came out top.
John Noble, of the British Brands Group, which represents manufacturers of branded goods, said consumer preference was made up of a range of influences.
He added: ‘Healthy eating is one, the product that they are most familiar with might be another.
‘It might be that they buy particular products because they are widely available. Taste is also a factor.’