In 2021, our kitchen experts and CHOICE taste testers reviewed and compared over 450 food items to help you make better choices when shopping at the supermarket. We’ve looked at everything from cheddar cheese and dried spaghetti, olive oil, hummus and more, rating products across a range of factors such as taste and nutrition.
As we often see in our CHOICE reviews, the more expensive products don’t always come out on top in our tests, and this year’s roundup of the best and worst food items is no different. Some private label supermarkets buy more expensive branded products from upgraded Aldi, Coles and Woolies, so it pays to shop around for the best and not to buy just on the brand.
Some of the highlights of our results are listed below, so you can easily sort the duds from the dazzling the next time you read the produce in the supermarket aisles.
- Best: Aldi Deli Originals Hommus (78%) and Black Swan Hommus 76%
- Worse: The Israeli Olive Branch Hommus (36%)
Nothing signals the start of a relaxed meeting like peeling the foil off a good dip. And, when it comes to dips, the mandatory favorite tossed in the cart before a party is invariably hummus. This healthy Middle Eastern snack is essentially a simple harmony of tahini (it’s sesame seed paste) and chickpeas with acceptable additions of garlic, lemon juice, and oil. This year, the experts at CHOICE tested 27 traditional-style hummus dips from brands such as Aldi, Obela and Black Swan.
The quality of hummus varies as widely as its spelling, but there were good candidates to make a solid contribution to your next barbecue.
The quality of hummus varies as widely as its spelling.
At the top was Aldi’s Deli Originals version, which, with an overall CHOICE score of 78%, packs a punch for just $ 1.99. For flavor and texture, it received an 80% score, making it the dip you want to stick your crisps in. A second solid choice is the iteration of Black Swan. It hit a respectable 74% for taste and texture, and even topped Aldi’s nutritional score with 80%.
Interestingly, the worst performer in our tests was also the most expensive. The Israeli Hommus Olive Branch, with an overall score of 36% and a disappointing flavor score of just 26%, is proof that price doesn’t prove quality. Check out all of our hummus reviews.
- Best: Coles Hot Chocolate (78%) and NestlÃ© Aero Hot Chocolate (74%)
- Worse: Woolworths Instant Drinking Chocolate Powder (45%)
A hug in a mug, hot chocolate is as much a treat for kids as it is a pick-me-up at 3 p.m., especially for non-coffee drinkers (although hot chocolate does contain a small amount of caffeine).
Our CHOICE experts recruited 114 Voice Your Choice members with hot chocolate referrals to blind taste 19 supermarket brand versions. Each product has been sampled at least 37 times with an emphasis on the overall taste and intensity of the chocolate flavor. The surprise winner was a $ 3 box from Coles with a score of 78%. Then came NestlÃ©’s Aero hot chocolate with 74%. Unfortunately, the house-brand version of Woolworths was not even in the stage of its competitor’s version, scoring just 45%. Read our in-depth hot chocolate reviews.
- Best: King Island Dairy Surprise Bay Cheddar (73%) and Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar (72%)
- Worse: Dairyworks Natural Extra Old Cheddar Block (55%)
What makes a great cheddar cheese can be a personal matter, but in general it will be creamy, sweet, milky, and slightly salty with a subtle crumbly. To help you decide where your cheddar budget is best spent, CHOICE assembled a panel of expert judges to question the cheese characteristics of 27 aged supermarket cheddars. They looked at taste, aroma, texture, body and appearance, as well as nutritional value. Learn more about how we tested cheddar cheeses.
There wasn’t much between the top two in our tests. Barber’s King Island Dairy Surprise Bay Cheddar and Vintage Reserve 1833 Cheddar were just a slice apart at 73 and 72 percent. They were comparable in price, but the big winner, King Island Cheddar, was 20% more nutritious. However, Barber Cheddar did better in the taste category. The least cracker-worthy cheddar was Dairyworks Extra Sharp Natural Block Cheddar with a paltry 40% nutrition score, which unfortunately was not offset by its low taste score of 61%. But at almost half the price of the winning duo, its affordability can sway your dollar.
Read our in-depth cheddar cheese reviews.
- Best: Barilla N.5 Whole Wheat Spaghetti (100%) and Coles Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti (100%)
- Worse: (or less better): San Remo Organic Spaghetti No.220 (74%)
You might think that overall there isn’t much of a difference between the brands of pasta other than the label design. In part, you are correct. With just two ingredients, dry durum wheat pasta doesn’t vary dramatically in flavor, so rather than taste, we rated it on performance. In our test of 24 supermarket spaghetti brands, all performed relatively well, with the lowest achieving a non-dishonorable rate of 74%.
So if your spaghetti turns out to be mediocre, you could be to blame. âWhen it comes to long-shelf durum wheat pasta, the cooking process is at least as important as the product itself, which is why it’s so important that the directions on the package are accurate, and we follow them to the letter âexplains Rachel Clemons, CHOICE food expert.
The cooking process is at least as important as the product itself, which is why it is so important that the instructions on the package are correct, and we follow these instructions to the letter.
CHOICE good expert Rachel Clemons
Therefore, our tests take into account not only nutrition, but also the extent to which the package instructions lead to al dente pasta.
Ring the horns because we have perfect goal scorers in this category! Three brands passed 100% in our nutrition and performance tests, these were Barilla Wholewheat Spaghetti No.5, Coles Organic Wholemeal Spaghetti and La Molisano Pastifico Extra di Lusso Wholewheat Spaghetti No.15.
And while there were no bad performers, San Remo Organic Spaghetti No.220 was awarded the lowest score for imperfect pasta at the end of the stated cooking time. Learn more about buying dried spaghetti.
- Best: Cockatoo Grove organic Australian extra virgin olive oil (87%) and Bertolli organic fruity extra virgin olive oil (83%)
- Worse: Woolworths 100% Spanish extra virgin olive oil (52%)
Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich, and delicious, not to mention endless versatility, it enriches everything from salads to cakes and chapped lips. At CHOICE, we’ve looked at 25 extra virgin olive oils widely available in a special lab. Everything is very high-tech, you can read what that entails here.
In a nutshell, however, when we compare extra virgin olive oils, we perform a chemical test to verify that the oil meets the international standard for extra virgin. We also do blind sensory testing to make sure the oils are free from blemishes and have the required fruity attributes.
We perform a chemical test to verify that the oil meets the international standard for extra virgin
But the next time you’re scratching your head down the olive oil aisle, you’ll just have to remember our top two performers, Cockatoo Grove Organic Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil with an overall score of 87% and Bertolli organic fruity extra virgin olive oil, sliding to second place with 83%.
Both had green cut grass notes and a smooth mouth feel and, of course, passed the tests for authenticity. However, Woolworths 100% Spanish extra virgin olive oil only got a score of 52% for its overripe fruit and pineapple notes. Avoid when splashing a salad.
Fruit boxes or poppers are a handy treat for children. But while they seem like an angelic solution to a soft drink, they’re still a “food sometimes”. Remember to be careful with the packaging – just because there’s an apple on it doesn’t mean it’s 100% juice. Drinks labeled “fruit drink” can contain up to 20% fruit juice.
âOne hundred percent fruit juice is fine as an occasional drink, but avoid fruit drinks as they usually don’t contain more than 35% juice with added sugar and water. Still water is still the best drink, âexplains Rachel.
CHOICE compared and reviewed 30 cans of apple and orange fruit based on nutrition categories, label claims and ingredients. While there weren’t any notable bad performers, a few were better than others for not having added sugar, making them a better choice for kids.
It was Golden Circle orange juice with no added sugar; Just Juice Orange Juice; Nudie Just 2 oranges; and Just Juice Apple juice. And while Prima Apple No Sugar Added was true to its claims, it did contain other added sweeteners, such as stevia.