We Compared Brand-Name Foods To Their Much More Expensive Artisanal Counterparts

When we think of packaged food goods, we categorize them as name-brand or artisanal. The former goods are the trusted household buys that can be found in just about any old grocery store across the country, and don't cost an arm and a leg to stock up on. Specialty artisanal items are another story completely. These gourmet versions of our pantry staples are small-batch, enticingly packaged, harder to find, and much more expensive — often costing as much as double the name-brand price. But, does the fact that a product is touted as "artisanal" and is made with more expensive ingredients make it superior to its less flashy, mainstream counterpart?
We decided to find out by pitting six artisanal goods against our usual grocery go-to's in a blind taste-test. Ahead, we spoon out fancy and familiar hot sauces, honeys, peanut butters, mustards, chocolate syrups, and even salts in order to determine which products are actually worth the occasional splurge (these definitely don't fit in our budgets as repeat pantry items) and which you're better off saving a buck (or ten) on.
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Name-Brand: Huy Fung Foods, Inc.
$1.76 for 9 oz.

Artisanal Brand: Jojo's
$13 for 6 oz.

Price/Size Difference
$11.24/3 oz.
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Huy Fung Foods' Sriracha
Was very strong on its own, with a pungent and almost overwhelming vinegary aftertaste.

Jojo's Sriracha
Spicy with a smooth and savory edge, with a more complex and layered flavor profile.

Worth The Occasional Splurge?
Yes. Jojo's Sriracha, although a whopping $11.24 more than the store-bought brand and smaller in size, had more going on in the flavor department. If you are looking to purchase a hot sauce that you can use on its own as a dip or even a sandwich spread, then this splurge will serve you well. We'll be saving the cheaper Sriracha for spicing up sauces, soups, or stews.
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Store-Bought Brand: Gunter's
$5.99 for 12 oz.

Artisanal Brand: Bee Local
$13.95 for 8 oz.

Price/Size Difference
$7.96/4 oz.
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Gunter's Pure Honey Bear
Thin consistency with an almost cloyingly sweet honey flavor.

Bee Local's Single Origin Honey
A grainy and slightly syrupy consistency with a sweet honey flavor complimented by an additional floral flavor depth.

Worth The Occasional Splurge?
Yes. Bee Local's honey ended up being worth the nearly $8 splurge, not only because of its more complex flavor profile, but also because of its ethical support. Many artisanal brands are more expensive than mass-produced grocery go-to's because they are local, small-batch, and practice sustainable farming methods.
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Peanut Butter

Store-Bought Brand: Jif
$2.50 for 16 oz.

Artisanal Brand: Big Spoon Roasters
$9.95 for 10 oz.

Price/Size Difference
$7.45/6 oz.
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Jif's Peanut Butter
A very smooth, creamy, and nearly candy-sweet peanut butter base with only partially crushed, whole peanuts mixed in. It tastes like childhood.

Big Spoon Roasters' Peanut Butter
Had a saltier flavor balance with less sweetness and a thinner, more crushed and creamy peanut consistency. Tasted more like a real peanut.

Worth The Occasional Splurge?
Hard to say. Jif's peanut butter packed a sweet nostalgia punch for our taste testers that was hard to beat, while Big Spoon's batch tasted much more natural. With a near $8 price difference at play, splurging comes down to how sweet, salty, natural, or nostalgic you prefer your nut butter to taste. I went with Big Spoon, but my co-workers were ride or die Jif-ers.
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Store-Bought Brand: Gulden's
$1.99 for 12 oz.

Artisanal Brand: Tin Mustard
$8 for 10 oz.

Price/Size Difference
$6.01/2 oz.
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Gulden's Mustard
Had a strong vinegar smell with a very classic mustard flavor and a smooth consistency.

Tin Mustard
The smell was savory and hard to distinguish (almost cheesy?) with a grainier, thicker texture and a smooth, spicy flavor.

Worth The Occasional Splurge?
Yes. Tin's mustard at $6 more a jar (and 2 oz. less) was worth the splurge for our testers. Although Gulden's was a solid and straightforward option, we fancied spreading Tin's more complex take on a sandwich, or even dunking a few pretzels rods right in it.
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Chocolate Sauce

Store-Bought Brand: Hershey's
$3.19 for 15 oz.

Artisanal Brand: Coop's
$12.50 for 10.6 oz.

Price/Size Difference
$9.31/4.4 oz.
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Hershey's Chocolate Sauce
A velvety smooth and lighter consistency with a nostalgic chocolatey flavor that reminded us of childhood chocolate milk.

Coop's Hot Fudge
Much thicker in consistency with an intensely rich chocolate flavor; similar to softened fudge.

Worth The Occasional Splurge?
Hard to say. Many of the testers were fans of Hershey's nostalgic flavor profile, but they also enjoyed the richness of Coop's version because it tasted expensive. For nearly $10 more a pop, Coop's ended up feeling like a dessert all on its own that could be easily eaten off a spoon. But we'd still put a squirt of easy, affordable, and classic Hershey's on our sundae, any day.
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Store-Bought Brand: Morton's
$2.99 for 26 oz.

Artisanal Brand: Jacobsen Salt Co.
$12 for 4 oz.

Price/Size Difference
$9.01/22 oz.
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Morton's Salt
Finely ground consistency that tasted...like salt.

Jacobsen's Salt
Chunkier in size but still light and flaky in texture with a similar salt taste.

Worth The Splurge?
A toss up. In this comparison we failed to pit Morton's salt flake product against Jacobsen's (although it does exist), so texturally the more expensive artisan brand prevailed. In questions of taste, they were so similar. At the end of the day, salt tastes like salt. When used in cooking or baking, is not worth the near $10 splurge, but if sprinkled atop a chocolate brownie, a bowl of piping hot pasta, or a salad? We could see ourselves splurging for that flaky texture.
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Final Takeaway
For almost all of the foods we tested, the specialty goods were more complex in their flavor profiles and therefore seemed better suited for solo consumption as a dip, spread, or even just on a spoon. The go-to grocery brands worked as a solid foundation for building flavor layers like adding it to a sauce, soup, and stew.

Although artisanal food products can come in at over double the price of their mainstream grocery counterparts, the question of "to splurge, or not to splurge?" comes down to personal preference and use. What are you looking to get out of the product, how do you plan to consume it? Do you even feel comfortable splurging on a pantry ingredient in the first place?
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