VALUE FOR MONEY

 

This week, Value for Money assesses five varieties of tomato ketchup.

Kandee Tomato Ketchup,

€1.47 for 1kg

Highs: This is an Irish-made sauce and is considerably cheaper than the competition. There is plenty of it.

Lows: Not as much as the bottle might have you believe, however; we were less than impressed when we realised that the bottle was only 80 per cent full – although, after tasting it, that might have been a blessing. It has a sharp, artificial flavour and while there may be some good reason why the manufacturers decided to emblazon the front of the bottle “with sugar and sweeteners” as if it were a plus (the others go with vine-ripened or juicy tomatoes or the like) we couldn’t figure it out. It is made with a comparatively small amount of tomatoes and while some of the sauces have pleasingly pure ingredient lists, this is not one of them.

Verdict: Cheap

Star rating:**

Heinz Tomato Ketchup,

€1.99 for 500ml, €3.98 per litre

Highs: This is the most widely recognised brand of tomato ketchup on the market – hardly surprising as it has been selling in shops for over 100 years. It’s not hard to see why it has stood the test of time as it has a pleasingly familiar flavour. The vinegar and tomato flavours are nicely balanced and it is not excessively sweet. The ingredient list is surprisingly simple and wholesome-looking.

Lows: You do pay a premium for the brand recognition and in an era of greater price sensitivity people may find themselves switching to cheaper alternatives. There can’t be a lot of people out there who would show much loyalty to something as everyday and ordinary as tomato ketchup, can there? It also contains a surprisingly high level of salt, although it doesn’t actually taste that salty.

Verdict: The original and close to the best

Star rating: ****

Tesco Tomato Ketchup,

€1.25 for 745g, €1.67 per kg

Highs: It is own-brand products such as this one which are most likely to have the marketing boys in Heinz looking nervously at pie charts and line graphs in the coming months to see if sales are being bit by the downturn. While this is probably not as nice as its more upmarket cousin, it is absolutely fine and a whole lot cheaper. The ingredient list is short and simple and it is very tomatoey – it actually contains substantially more tomatoes than any of the competition.

Lows: While there are a lot of tomatoes in the mix, it doesn’t taste as fruity as some of the more upmarket – and more expensive – products out there. We are also told by Tesco to consume this within six weeks of opening which seems a bit rushed to us, given the size of the bottle.

Verdict: Good value

Star rating: ****

Peter Rabbit Organic Ketchup,

€3.95 for 340g, €11.61 per kg

Highs: A lot was expected of this ketchup given its hefty price and its wholesome appearance. The ingredient list is wonderfully pure and it is the only one which is totally free of added sugar and salt. It is made with organic ingredients and while we are not at all certain this makes it taste any better, it is more environmentally friendly for it.

Lows: While Peter Rabbit is to be commended for dropping the salt and the excess sugar, he renders it a little dull – we found it was slightly like dunking your chips in a tin of tomato puree. The real problem, however, is the frankly ridiculous price. In these cost-sensitive times, it is very hard, if not completely impossible, to justify spending this much on this class of product.

Verdict: Too dear

Star rating: **

Lakeshore Tantalizing Tomato Ketchup,

€1.69 for 280g, €6.03 per kg

Highs: This vibrant, Irish-made sauce is excellent and there isn’t a chip in the country that would not be improved by being dunked in it. It is tangy, surprisingly fruity, and has a lightness not normally associated with ketchup. Its pleasing spiciness will creep up on you – although nothing on the ingredient list explains the spiciness, so we will have to put it down to the “natural flavourings”.

Lows: If we were being really picky, we’d say it was a little too sweet – hardly surprising as it is made with over 20 per cent sugar. If we were being even more picky we’d moan about the wide bottle top which makes it all too easy to drown whatever it is you’re eating in the stuff. It is more expensive than most but it is, we reckon, a price that’s worth paying.

Verdict: Very good

Star rating: *****