House brand taste test… Ketchup!

Ketchup Comparison Heinz vs PC

Which ketchup will reign supreme?

I have a soft spot for store or “house” brands. I’m convinced that they are not made in actual houses, but in the same factories used to produce the national brands*. The difference comes when it’s time to slap on the label and by choosing house labels I can save a buck or two and apply it to buying products whose brands do make a difference… Heinz Ketchup, for example.

Which brings me to today’s taste test. We were out of ketchup and I was sorely tempted by a sale at the local Price Chopper with their house brand at exactly half the price of Heinz. It even looked to be in the same upside-down bottle. Could it be the same stuff? Even if not, for half price how bad can it be?

As a marketer I knew I had to have a control, so I bought a bottle of Price Chopper and a bottle of Heinz and compared them side by side. The bottles on closer inspection aren’t identical after all… some slight differences in the waistline as you can see in the photo. But now for the taste. My 9 year old assistant (the true ketchup aficionado) and I went back and forth several times and it appeared to be a dead heat… the two brands identical in taste, color and texture.

But then when we resorted to a larger size taste, one brand clearly pulled ahead. It had a pleasant peppery note that the other lacked. The brown paper labels were peeled back to reveal the brands and it was…. Price Chopper, the winnah!

* Maybe it’s sometimes as simple as that, but usually not. The same assembly lines may be used, but with variances as specified by the customer. For house brands, one of the variations is typically quality control. I once toured a giant vitamin factory and learned that while house and national brands are made side by side, the brands insist on more frequent testing and fewer incidents of defects like broken pills.

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