As the cost of bread rises due to soaring wheat prices, writer Piper Terrett looks at the best value for money loaf you can currently buy.
You may have noticed that the price of sliced bread has risen sharply over the past 18 months. Many supermarkets put an extra 20p on the price of a standard loaf in 2018 due to rising wheat prices, which was fuelled partly by Brexit-related uncertainty.
According to trade magazine The Grocer, wheat prices soared 38% in the six months following the vote to the leave the EU, hitting families in the wallet.
For example, prices for an 800g seeded loaf can vary from around 80p for Tesco's own brand multi-seeded bread to £1.50 for a Hovis loaf – that’s over 75% more for the branded version.
Given that my family get through so much bread at home – my almost four-year-old seems to survive on it – I wondered which loaf offers the best value for money.
To provide some objectivity and prevent bread wastage, I asked a fellow mother, Becca, to help me with my test.
We compared four 800g seeded loaves from different supermarkets to see which performed the best on price, quality and shelf-life, by making sandwiches and toast.
We decided to compare the longevity of the bread over four days.
Included in the trial were:
- Hovis Seeded Sensations loaf from Asda (£1.50);
- Co-Op Farmhouse seeded loaf (90p);
- Asda’s Extra Special super-seeded loaf (84p);
- Aldi’s Farmhouse Batch super-seeded loaf (75p)
These were all purchased on 22 September and stored on the kitchen counter or a bread tin, away from direct sunlight.
The best before dates listed were 26 September for the Aldi and Co-Op ones, and 28 September for the Asda and Hovis loafs.
Thick or thin? How the slices compared
We started by opening up the loaves and comparing each slice.
Becca often buys the Hovis loaf as she likes it, and it comes up automatically to buy again on her online shopping app.
I often purchase the Co-Op one as it’s from our local village store and my go-to when we’ve run out of essentials.
“The Co-Op slice looks more orange than brown,” Becca noted. She also thought the Aldi bread slices were a good size and noticeably bigger than the Asda ones.
But when we moved onto the toasting test, it became obvious that the Aldi bread was much thinner than its competitors.
“It’s like wallpaper,” said Becca.
“I’m worried about putting jam on it, in case it breaks.”
Slices of the Asda super-seeded loaf were also thin and ‘not as tasty’, Becca reported, suggesting customers who bought this, and the Aldi loaf, might be getting less value for money.
The Co-Op farmhouse loaf was more wholemeal in look and taste than the Hovis loaf and had fewer seeds.
In comparison, the Hovis bread was packed with seeds – some a little too big for me, such as pumpkin seeds – but was lighter in colour and very soft.
The sandwich test
Making sandwiches helped separate the wheat from the chaff. I had high hopes for the Aldi super-seeded loaf at the outset.
Everyone always tells me to shop at Aldi, but the bread was falling apart before Becca even finished making a sandwich from it, although the texture was soft.
The Hovis loaf demonstrated its superiority, making a melt-in-the-mouth sandwich, while the Asda loaf was noticeably thin but pleasantly crunchy.
Meanwhile, the Co-Op bread produced a soft wholemeal-style sandwich, making you feel it was a healthy option.
“I feel vindicated in my choice of the Hovis loaf,” said Becca.
But she was also impressed by the Co-Op loaf priced at 90p, which is 40% cheaper than the Hovis bread – and said she might buy it in the future.
What’s more, while she was disappointed by the thinness of the Asda and Aldi loaves, she said she might still consider buying them anyway to save cash.
“I might buy the Aldi or Asda loaves if I had a lot of people staying over and had to make a lot of sandwiches, and so wanted to save money,” explained Becca.
At 75p, Aldi’s seeded loaf is exactly half the price of the Hovis one while, at 84p, Asda’s offering is 44% cheaper.
It might not sound much but if, like me, you get through two loaves a week, over a year you could save a lot of money by switching from a brand loaf to a store’s version.
You could save £78 by swapping the Hovis loaf for the Aldi one, £68.64 by buying the Asda loaf and £62.40 by switching to the Co-Op bread.
While Becca’s two young children prefer a white loaf, she buys a seeded Hovis loaf for herself and her husband because she likes it, it feels healthier and tends to last longer.
Shelf-life is also partly why I favour a seeded loaf.
Even in the past when we’ve had time to make bread, the seeded and half wholemeal/half white loaves lasted longer than a white loaf which, without preservatives, often goes off in a day or two, and ends up going to waste.
It’s not what you want when you have young children and are on a budget.
So how did these loaves fare?
Four days after we’d purchased the bread, we compared notes again. Becca kept the Asda and Hovis loaves, while I had been using the Aldi and Co-Op loaves.
While we’d initially complained about the Aldi slices being thin, I’d noticed they appeared to get thicker as I progressed through the loaf.
What’s more, I’d been surprised to find my son had gobbled up an entire sandwich made with the Aldi bread for his packed lunch, when I’m normally lucky if he’s eaten half of one made with the Co-Op loaf.
After four days, the Co-Op loaf was still good for making toast and sandwiches, while the Aldi loaf was surprisingly fresh and soft. A big surprise was that Becca now favoured the Asda loaf over her usual Hovis.
“For usual use, I like Asda’s best as it is cheaper,” she said.
What’s more, her husband couldn’t tell the difference between the two although in terms of taste, Becca preferred the Co-Op loaf.
She reckoned that day four was most likely the last day that the Asda and Hovis loaves could be used for sandwiches.
Nevertheless, I felt that the Aldi loaf would still make a good soft sandwich on day five, but that by then the Co-Op loaf would be best reserved for toast-making.
So which loaf was the best value for money?
Weighing up price with quality and shelf-life, Aldi’s Farmhouse Batch super-seeded loaf surprised us by taking the top spot, despite some initial misgivings about the thinness of the slices.
It tastes good, is the cheapest of the four at just 75p – half the price of the Hovis loaf (£1.50) – and was still really soft after four days.
This is how we ranked the loaves:
- Aldi (75p)
- Asda (84p)
- Co-Op (90p)
- Hovis (£1.50)
At just 84p, Asda’s super-seeded loaf came a respectable second as a cheaper challenger to the Hovis loaf, while the Co-Op bread came out top in terms of taste.
Our small experiment certainly demonstrates it’s worth shopping around for a good value for money loaf, and not just sticking with well-known brands from habit.
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