A Tale of Two Olives


For my Food Purchasing, Handling and Storage class, I was tasked with comparing two brands of the same or similar product, with regard to price, packaging, appearance and taste. I chose to compare a store brand and a name brand jar of Pimento-stuffed Manzanilla Olives. Which one prevailed? Read on to find out.

Product, Price and Serving Size

Pimento Stuffed Olives: Wegmans brand on the right, Pearls brand on the left.
Pimento Stuffed Olives: Wegmans brand on the right, Pearls brand on the left.

I compared two glass jars of green olives, both with a net weight of 5.75 oz. (163 grams):

  • Pearls brand Pimento Stuffed Manzanilla Olives priced at $2.29 (=39.8 cents/oz.)
    • serving size = 4 olives (14g), with 12 servings per container (1 olive = 3.5 grams)
  • Wegmans brand Spanish Manzanilla Olives with Pimento priced at $1.69 (=29.4 cents/oz.)
    • serving size = 5 olives (15g), with 11 servings per container (1 olive = 3 grams)

The Pearls brand olives were more expensive per ounce, but they were also larger and heavier than the Wegmans brand olives. The Wegmans brand offered more (but smaller) olives per serving.

Packaging

The Pearls brand offered slightly superior packaging. However, there were many similarities among the two packages:

  • clear glass jars of the same (or very similar) shape and size.
  • jars topped with round, metal, twist-off lids.
  • label affixed to the outside of the glass jar, wrapping around about two-thirds of the jar.

The Wegmans brand packaging excelled in only one area – the label clearly featured the name of the product in large letters (olives), while the Pearls brand label featured the name of the brand (Pearls), not the product. I had to look carefully at the Pearls brand label to find what kind of olives were in the jar.

However, the Pearls brand had a few other distinct packaging advantages, as follows:

  • Pearls brand package featured a black lid with the color logo of the Musco Family Olive Company – an open hand with all five fingertips topped with a black olive. The black lid inferred a high-end “black-label” product and contrasted well with the green colors on the balance of the package and label. The Wegmans brand lid, however, was plain gold, with no logo, resulting in a mono-chromatic color scheme package.
Pearls brand olives twist-off top.
Pearls brand olives twist-off top.
  • Pearls brand lid was heavier and more tightly sealed than the Wegmans brand lid. I had to really work to get the Pearls brand lid off the jar, and it made a comforting “suction” sound when removed, inferring a more safe/sanitary seal.
  • Pearls brand jar clearly displayed a recycle logo. I could find no such logo on the Wegmans brand jar.

Appearance

The Pearls brand product was clearly superior in appearance as compared to the Wegmans 20160213_183821brand product.  The only similarities were in the brine, which was somewhat cloudy with a green tint, and the “olive” green color of the product.

The Pearls brand olives appeared plumper, juicier, and consistently spherical in shape. They were larger than the Wegmans olives, and more uniform in size. Also, the Pearls brand pimentos were so large that they were hanging over the edges of the olive opening, and they looked bigger and had a brighter red color than the Wegmans brand. The Pearls brand olives were all whole, smooth and thick.

Unlike the Wegmans brand olives, none of the Peals brand olives were broken, squished, oddly shaped, shriveled, thin-skinned or a without a pimento. Many of the small, shriveled and dull-looking pimentos had popped out of the Wegmans brand olives and were free-floating in the brine. Overall, the Wegmans brand olives looked unappetizing.

Taste

The Pearls brand olives had a far superior taste as compared to the Wegmans brand olives. They both were salty as expected, but that’s where the taste similarities ended. Specifically, the Pearls brand olives

  • were denser/firmer to the tooth and meatier, requiring me to bite into them, versus the Wegmans brand olives which were pliable and easily fell apart in my mouth;.
  • had a more appealing texture and luxurious density, versus the Wegmans brand olives which were unpleasantly spongy;
  • seemed juicier, versus the Wegmans brand olives which seemed dry, even though both were in brine;
  • were stuffed with plump, flavorful pimentos which added taste and texture, versus the sad, shriveled and unappetizing pimentos in the Wegmans brand olives, which added neither taste or texture.

Conclusion

I easily preferred the Pearls brand olives to the Wegmans brand olives. They were superior in packaging, appearance and taste. The price was higher, but well worth the additional expense, especially if I planned to serve the olives whole, i.e.: as a garnish, on an olive tray, or in a salad.

If, however, I was serving the olives as part of a larger recipe, in which they were chopped, diced, or sliced, or cooked in such a way as to mask the inferior quality (ie: soup or stew), I may not be as adamant about using the higher cost product. Still, even in “simple” dishes such as egg salad or olive bruschetta, I would think that the inferior taste of the Wegmans brand product would be too much of a drawback to make the decreased cost worthwhile in the long run.

Many times, the store brand of a product is comparable to the brand name. This wasn’t the case with these pimento-stuffed olives.

Life is short – buy the better olives!

***

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