In October 2020 we pitted the big baked bean brands of Branston and Heinz against nine supermarket own-brand alternatives to see whether paying more for a tin of beans gets you a tastier product.
We found just two products worthy of Best Buy status, and neither of the big brands got a look in at the top spot. Nearing the bottom of the table were a few supermarkets you might not have expected to produce below-par beans.
Read on to see which own-brand baked beans we recommend, and the ones to avoid.
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All prices correct as of January 2021.
£0.29 for 420g (7p per 100g)
Aldi’s beans are some of the cheapest around but also promise ‘premium quality’. Too good to be true or a savvy bargain?
£0.29 for 410g (both 7p per 100g)
Asda is known for its good-value everyday essentials, so while these beans are cheap, expectations of quality are high.
£0.75 for 410g (18p per 100g)
It might be best known for its pickles, but Branston also has a variety of beans available in the supermarkets. Should you bring out the Branston for your beans on toast?
£0.32 for 400g (8p per 100g)
Is your local Co-op hiding the UK’s best own-brand baked beans within its aisles? We’ve put them to the test.
£0.85 for 415g (20p per 100g)
The name you think of when it comes to baked beans faces a challenge from the UK’s biggest own-brands. Can it see them off and earn the title of Which? Best Buy beans?
£0.29 for 420g (7p per 100g)
The joint-cheapest tin on test, did our taste testers notice the difference or has Lidl produced excellent-value baked beans?
Available from Lidl stores only.
£0.35 for 410g (9p per 100g)
These aren’t just baked beans. Well, they are, but they are M&S’s branded baked beans, so perhaps expectations are elevated.
£0.30 for 410g ( 7p per 100g)
Morrisons’ beans have a higher level of sugar in them than most of the competition. Will this work for against the Yorkshire-headquartered supermarket chain?
£0.30 for 400g (8p per 100g)
Sainsbury’s beans come in a self-described ‘tasty’ tomato sauce. Our tasting panel are the judges of that, so read on to see how they fared.
£0.30 for 420g (7p per 100g)
For the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, surely the basic baked bean isn’t too much of a challenge? See how it fared.
£0.35 for 400g (9p per 100g)
They’re marked as essential, but are they really a must-have in your weekly shop?
While Branston, Heinz and several of the supermarket chains offer low salt and sugar baked beans, it’s important to note that, per half-tin serving, baked beans are not especially high in salt or sugar. Some of this sugar will come from the concentrated tomato puree used in the sauce, too, so there are far worse foods for added sugar. On average, half a tin of beans contains 177kcal, with M&S containing the most at 184.5 and Heinz the least at 162.
All the products slot into the government’s food traffic light system with an amber rating for salt and sugar if you consume half a tin at a time, but if you’re watching salt and sugar intake for you or your family, consider what you’re serving the beans with to ensure you don’t start overdoing the salt and sugar, particularly if you’re serving them with oven chips and ketchup.
It’s worth noting that we found no correlation between a product’s score and its salt and sugar content, so there is certainly more subtlety to the quality of a tin of baked beans
We conducted a separate taste test between just two varieties: Heinz’s standard Baked Beanz and its no-added-sugar variety. Instead of using sugar in addition to the natural sugar of tomatoes, Heinz uses sweeteners in the form of steviol glycoside to boost the sweetness. This means, per serving, the reduced sugar version of Heinz’s product has 3.9g of sugar compared with 9.8g in the standard variety. This change also has an impact on calorie content, with the reduced sugar variety containing 136kcal per serving, while the standard variety containing 162kcal. It also contains a bit less salt – 0.9g compared with 1.2g.
If you were hoping for a stealthy swap for the kids, they may notice the difference. In our head-to-head test, just 24% of tasters said they preferred the reduced sugar beans to the standard variety. With that said, there wasn’t a huge difference in the scores for flavour, so while it is a noticeable change, it’s not as stark as you might imagine.
The eponymous baked bean is a haricot bean. Most of the brands tested here specify haricot beans in their ingredients list, but the M&S and Aldi tins simply list ‘beans’ as the main ingredient without specifying the type.
For most of the products the next key ingredient was tomatoes or tomato puree, along with water.
After that, it’s sugar and then variations on onion powder, spirit vinegar, paprika, salt and colourings, and some also contain rapeseed oil, white pepper, cloves and cinnamon.
Metal tins can usually go in your household recycling bin. Make sure to give the tin a quick rinse and pop the lid inside. Labels are removed as part of the recycling process, so you don’t need to take them off beforehand.
If you buy a multipack, you can usually recycle the plastic ring joiners and wrappers at supermarket plastic collection points.
The tins were assessed by a large panel of consumers who regularly buy and consume baked beans. The make-up of the panel broadly represents the demographic profile of adults in the UK.
Each baked bean variety was heated in the microwave and assessed by 62 people. The panelists rated the taste, texture, aroma and appearance of each product and told us which one they preferred overall.
The taste test was blind, so the panelists didn’t know which brand they were trying. The order they sampled the beans was fully rotated to avoid any bias.
Each panellist had a private booth so they couldn’t discuss what they were tasting or be influenced by others.
The overall score is based on: