Today’s edition of name brand vs. store brand introduces a handy tool: nutrition labels.
Once in a while, a recipe calls for corn syrup. Should I buy Karo, or will any store brand do? What about when I just need a little sweetener for my waffles? Pay up, or safely skimp?
Since I am limited to buying a specific brand of “maple” syrup, since my husband has a solid favorite, I’ll examine the corn syrup question in detail. The same principles could be used for evaluating “maple” syrup, or actual maple syrup.
The first tip for this post comes from my mother: she mentioned that when she had both Karo corn syrup and a generic bottle, she noticed the generic was more runny than the Karo. Then she looked at the nutrition labels.
These photos were taken by me in a store on Monday.
The first thing to notice about these syrups is the serving size. The serving of the store brand syrup is double the Karo syrup. Then, notice the calorie count. The store brand, with double the serving size, is 30 calories short of double the calories. Isn’t that a good thing, though? Not necessarily. The store brand was actually marketed as a “light” syrup–there were no generics that were not “light,” so this is the best comparison available. Also, when thinking of “light,” most people don’t think of 13% fewer calories. This isn’t really light, but it’s not quite regular.
Notice that, although the sugar is almost double on the store brand, the total carbohydrates are the same, even though the serving size is double. I suppose this might help the store brand be “light,” but it does indicate that the syrups are significantly different.
Although the ingredients are cut off the store brand picture (I had a one-year-old in the cart while I was snapping these photos), there is enough label to see that it includes high fructose corn syrup. I’m not an anti-HFCS campaigner, but it’s definitely a strike against corn syrup to include HFCS.
The verdict: Buy Karo corn syrup. There might be some other name brand that is acceptable, but Karo is the brand where I shop. Using store brand corn syrup could be problematic in baking, and the (unimpressive) monetary savings are not worth the reduced quality.
Have a product you would like me to compare? Let me know in the comments below.