Wednesday 22 November 2017

Smart Consumer: The students have spoken in the great brand face/off

Tina Leonard

Our mission: get 80 secondary school students to blind-taste eight big brand and own-brand food products.

The purpose: to gain an insight into whether the tasters noticed any difference once the packaging -- and any psychological impact -- is removed.

And the result? Most of the sutdents couldn't taste the difference.

That's according to Janice Lau and Conor Cunningham, transition year students at St Gerard's school in Bray, Co Wicklow, who conducted the survey for their project 'Biased Brains', which they are exhibiting at this year's BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Given that research company Nielsen state that 70pc of Irish people buy branded products, Janice and Conor wonder why "many of us are avoiding own-brand products even though they may taste the same."

As the National Consumer Agency's New Year survey on personal finances found that almost one-third were concerned about not having enough money to meet everyday expenses, the fact that these 15-year-olds are looking at ways of saving money on groceries is pretty smart.

The students chose bread, custard creams, crackers, crisps, wheat biscuits, milk, muesli and orange juice.

When it came to the custard creams, bread, milk and even the Weetabix equivalent, many preferred the taste of own-brand by a good margin, and a greater number also thought they tasted the same rather than preferring one above the other.

There were some taste winners on the brand front -- notably Capri Sun, which scored twice as much as the Dunnes own-brand equivalent; Kelkin muesli beat Tesco's, as did Walkers crisps; and Jacob's cream crackers scored higher than Tesco's version, although in that instance the majority thought the crackers tasted the same.

But it wasn't just the taste the students wanted to highlight.

"The difference in cost between Irish Pride and Tesco's bread was 93c, for example," point out Janice and Conor. "If you bought one loaf of the own-brand bread a week, which most students preferred, that would save you €48.36 annually."

Switching your milk to own-brand could save you €20.28 based on just one carton a week, they say. Also, switching your wheat biscuit cereal would save you €1.90 on each box you buy.

As part of their project, Janice and Conor also analysed four grocery bills: two from Superquinn and two from Tesco.

They say: "We substituted the branded products with the own-brands and calculated that the average amount that you could save in Superquinn would be €1,668.16 annually and €1,800.76 in Tesco annually."

Both say they have brought new awareness to their households as a result of their project findings, with Conor adding "my parents were happy to switch some products and no one noticed anything until I pointed it out to them".

"Consume before you assume," these teenagers advise, whose own brains are certainly not biased any more.

Irish Independent

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