Not All Celebrity-Endorsed Foods Are Star Quality, Consumer Magazine Says

Sep 6, 2011 2:59pm
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Mario Batali was one of three chefs whose foods received the highest taste-test rating. (Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Celebrity-endorsed foods may cost two or three times as much as other brands, but that does not mean you’re getting star treatment, says a new taste test from Consumer Reports.

Among 26 foods tasted by trained sensory experts, only three products received Consumer Reports’ highest rating of “excellent”: Mario Batali Marinara sauce, Giada De Laurentiis Tomato Basil pasta sauce and Wolfgang Puck Tomato Basil Bisque.

Tod Marks, senior editor with Consumer Reports, said the group tested products from television chefs, including Batali, who owns 17 restaurants and co-hosts daytime talk show The Chew. The tested products also included those of famous restaurants, such as those of Chef Puck, and products with celebrity names, like director Francis Ford Coppola, and actors Paul Newman and Paul Sorvino.

Consumer Reports tested for characteristics such as flavor and texture, freshness of ingredients, based on an “objective criteria.”

“For a lot of items, people get caught up in a name. And if there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s don’t be swayed by a fancy name or package. Let your taste buds be your guide,” Marks said.

Marks said some celebrities use “great” ingredients while others can skimp on quality.

“Just because you’re paying an A-list price, doesn’t mean you get an A-list product,” he said.

“Giada’s is very inexpensive, balanced, fresh tasting, and had a buttery taste. Turns out it did have butter and we loved it,” Marks said.

Giada De Laurentiis Tomato Basil pasta sauce is sold exclusively at Target.

Ten products were rated “Very Good” including Lidia’s Marinara from Lidia Bastianich, and Rao’s Homemade 8 Star Balsamic Vinaigrette, from the exclusive New York City restaurant. Half of the products tested were only rated average, with some no better than cheaper mainstream brands such as Kraft, Campbell, and Progresso, according to Consumer Reports.

Some items were noticeably more expensive than national brands, and sometimes for naught.

Consumer Reports found the Original Soupman Tomato Basil, based on a “Seinfeld” television character, costs 36  cents per ounce while Progresso soup costs 11 cents per ounce.

A half-cup of Ragu is 42 cents while Rao’s marinara sauce can cost $1.41, according to Consumer Reports. For two tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette dressing, Kraft cost 18 cents while that of Delmonico’s,  a steakhouse in New York City, costs 39 cents. Delmonico’s also ranked lowest among the dressings tested.

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