Branded basil pesto – are you being ripped off?

By Dagmar
In Shopping - compare
Apr 17th, 2015

Here we go again. I was doing a small shopping in a supermarket when going home from work today. There I was standing in front of the shelf with various brands and sorts of pesto. I used to buy Sacla out of habit and ignore other products, partly because I knew its taste and I knew what I wanted from it. I think I have tried some other product once in a distant past but its bland taste did not impress me that much. So I kept buying the brand with taste of which I was familiar and which I liked. Now I know why it was.

I am rather frugal, I admit it. I see no reason why paying more for something of probably lower quality and subsidizing the annoying adverts everywhere I look. I am not a brand-o-holic. I just want to buy a good product and I want to pay a reasonable price for it. That was also the reason why I kept buying the Sacla products when on promotion – knowing they are too expensive for the actual content.

Below is the reason why I have decided to write this article and to bring these two products and their differences to your attention. Which one would you put into your shopping basket based on their contents?

Sacla pesto

Morrisons pesto

I guess you know by now what is what. But imagine that: 11% difference in the basil content?! In the first product you buy primarily a cheap sunflower oil. Have you realized that?

The endless list of ingredients can be confusing. So again I have created a simple table of the ingredients, comparing between them and their position on the list. It is a ‘law’ that the ingredients are listed in a descending order regarding their amount in the final product. So the ones most abundant in the product are on the top and those on the bottom are only in trace amounts. In the table below you also have a comparison of the price and calorie content – weight per weight.

pesto table

Shocked? I was. It was not only because of such a different content. I was astonished when I have put the numbers together in relation to the pricing. The branded product apparently is of a lower quality but it is 2.5 times more expensive than the supermarket’s own product which has a higher content of proper ingredients and does not cheat with sugar and salt in the middle of the ingredients list. Almost half of the jar of the cheaper Morrisons Pesto is basil, but in Sacla Italia product you pay over twice as much for primarily the cheap sunflower oil. I also do not know why it was important to highlight that it was a seed oil. All sunflower oil comes from sunflower seeds.

Have you noticed where is the Extra Virgin Olive Oil positioned in the branded product? How much salt and sugar they put into it that the olive oil is far behind? Was it worthy at all to include the olive oil in their recipe? They could have saved quite a lot of money by leaving this ingredient out and nobody would miss it there as it is hardly detectable by our palates which are already overwhelmed by the sugar and salt.

What are the Flavorings btw? I have no idea.

If you wondered what the suspicious acidity regulator in the supermarket’s own product is, let me tell you that the glucono-delta-lactone “…is entirely plant-based. It is prepared by microbial (bacteria or yeast) fermentation of a carbohydrate source. Additional processing or chemical reactions are not involved in manufacturing glucono delta lactone.”  Therefore, if you like beer, wine, tempeh (fermented soya) and similar products of bacterial or yeast fermentation, this one should not make you raise your eye brow either. This compound basically merges two of the Sacla’s ingredients: glucose and lactic acid. It only does not add to the calorie and sugar content as much because it is at the end of the ingredients list of the cheaper product, leaving more space for the proper ingredients higher in the list.

The strategy of the brand

The apparent strategy of the Sacla brand is the enhanced flavor and the advertisement that it was made in Italy. You know what? I do not care. I want a quality product. The fact that the sunflower oil and basil was put together in Italy is not relevant to me. I would actually prefer a local British product. It is also known that Italy exports more olive oil that it actually produces on its land so here is another question about the origin of the ingredients.

I would like to go back to the enhanced flavors and write a few words about it. We are conditioned to like and prefer certain flavors and their intensities. The food industry knows it and it likes to add sugar and salt to products. Or even more fat (sunflower oil perhaps?). They know it appeals on our taste buds more than a product without these enhancers (add the mysterious flavorings) so we will keep buying their product. But these taste preferences can be changed within several days or weeks and one can start sensing more subtle tastes and flavors and enjoy them as much as they once did the enhanced products. Now it is time for me to get used to a milder flavor of a cheaper supermarket’s own pesto, which is of a higher quality and which does not deceive my taste buds while sucking money out of my purse.

About "" Has 48 Posts

Graduated at London Metropolitan University: BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition in 2014. Working as a research assistant at the MRC, The University of Cambridge.

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