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Pricepoints: Going crackers over choice

Good news from the National Consumer Agency who published their grocery price survey this week, revealing that supermarket prices have fallen 14pc since January 2009.

The bad news is that in competition terms they found virtually no difference in the price of branded goods between Tesco, Dunnes Stores and Superquinn.

This comes as no surprise to me as writing this column I am used to seeing virtually the same prices for branded goods everywhere, with the occasional exception of the German discounters. The Irish dedication to branded goods is only gradually beginning to change. For real savings on your grocery bill you have to look to the own brands, many of which have comparable quality.

The plan this week was to test cream crackers but I felt there was not enough variation, so I added in some more exotic crackers and a range of cheeses. I did the test with a multi-national panel of visitors, including a Spaniard, two Belgians and a Brazilian.

The crackers were tasted on their own and with three cheeses -- Durrus, Cashel Blue and fresh Parmesan. Disagreement arose over whether the perfect cracker should emphasise salt or sweet, with the salt enthusiasts in the majority. The divergent opinions led to a compromise winner.

McVitie's Cream Crackers, €1.05 for 200g

Crisp savoury cracker with a pleasant creamy taste. Worked well with all the cheeses, neither adding too much or detracting from the flavours. An excellent balancing taste for mild and stronger cheeses. 8.5/10

Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crackers -- Fine Cheese Company, €3.29 for 150g

According to the box these are best suited to harder cheeses such as Parmesan, but we found they worked with all varieties. A solid taste of olive oil and crunchy salt and a crisp biscuity flavour. 8/10

Carr's Water Biscuits, €2.09 for 125g

Originally a ships' biscuit, these are favoured by wine tasters for cleansing the palate between wines. Very crispy and light with a touch of blandness due to the lack of fat but excellent with all the cheeses. 8/10

Jacob's Cream Crackers, €1.09 for 200g

Jacob's invented the cream cracker in the 1880s and are owned by the same parent company as McVitie's. Good crunchy texture, savoury flavour and a reasonable match with the different cheeses. 7.5/10

Tesco Poppy and Sesame Thins, €0.69 for 150g

Crisp, salty cracker with good flavours of poppy and sesame seeds. Very good with most of the cheeses but particularly with blue and stronger cheeses. 7.5/10

Ditty's Irish Oatcakes, €2.90 for 150g

Fine quality oat cakes made by Ditty's Bakery in County Armagh. These were delicious on their own but were a little too sweet for most cheeses, except for the Cashel Blue. Keep these strictly for the saltiest cheeses. 7/10

Aldi -- Savour Bakes Cream Crackers, €0.39 for 300g

Fantastic value. Less sweet than the Lidl version, good texture but a little bland and did not add much to the cheese. 6.5/10

Lidl -- Snacky Cracky Cream Crackers, €0.39 for 300g

Slightly sweet with a mild creamy flavour, good crisp texture. Not bad with the cheese but a little too bland. Great value. 6/10

Tesco Reduced Fat Cream Crackers €0.69 for 200g

This contains half the fat of a normal cracker but much the same calories. Dry and very bland due to the reduced fat content. Not unpleasant with cheese but the overly dry flavour distracts somewhat. 4/10

Barkat Matzo Crackers, €3.99 for 200g

Matzo Crackers are eaten at Passover by the Jewish community. Similar to water biscuits but twice the price and very bland and dry with a slightly unpleasant taste. 3/10