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Celebrity Taste Test: 8 Foods NOT To Buy

While it's impossible to invite chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali to cook for us at home (unless we are named Martha Stewart or Gwyneth Paltrow), their branded food products promise accessible and affordable substitutes. But according to new taste-test reviews in Consumer Reports' October issue, some of these celebrity-branded products are not as tasty as their labels suggest.

The consumer watchdog found that not all "celebrity" labels (including those tied to famous chefs, actors and restaurants) are worth their price. In fact, about half of the soups, dressings and pasta sauces tested by blind taste-testers earned little more than a shrug, with Consumer Reports saying some had no better quality or taste than mainstream brands such as Campbell's, Kraft, or Progresso.

Based on the report, the following products received merely "good" or "fair" reviews and were ranked at the bottom of their list:

(To see what DID make the list of worthwhile buys, check out the accompanying article.)
Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressings

  • Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette. Consumer Reports calls this dressing, "salty and sour, with dehydrated herb notes. Hard-to-identify oil and balsamic character detracted from the overall quality. Left an oily feeling in testers' mouths." Price: $4 (16 oz.)
  • Emeril's Balsamic Vinaigrette. "Moderately salty, with sour and dehydrated herb and onion notes," says Consumer Reports. "Lacked identifiable olive oil and balsamic flavors." Price: $2.60 (8 oz.)
  • Delmonico's Restaurant Balsamic Vinaigrette. CR says this dressing "lacked identifiable olive oil and balsamic flavors" and was "moderately salty." Price: $4.67 (12 oz.)
Pasta Sauce
In general, the pasta sauces tested weren't horrible, but these three ranked at the bottom of 12 others tested.
  • Emeril's Home Style Marinara. If you like your pasta sauce to be sweet, this may be for you, but CR says the product has a "tomato-paste-like flavor" and a "highly processed impression." Price: $3.88 (25 oz.)
  • Newman's Own Marinara. Smooth and thick, with a tomato-paste-like flavor, a big dehydrated oregano taste, and a touch of heat. Like Emeril's sauce above, this one also had a "highly processed impression." Price: $2.85 (24 oz.)
  • Muir Glen Organic Tomato Basil. We might debate the inclusion of John Muir, the tomato company's namesake, as a celebrity -- but since CR included it, we will do so as well. And this one earned another "highly processed impression" from CR's taste testers, who also called it a "chunky, thick, sweet, dark-red sauce, with tomato-paste-like character and the intense flavor of dehydrated herbs, especially oregano." Price: $4.55 (25.5 oz.)
  • Muir Glen Organic Tomato Basil. "A moderately thick, dark-red soup that tastes mostly like tomato paste and strong dehydrated seasonings, including oregano. Very slightly sweet. Large and small tomato pieces. Highly processed impression; harsh, bitter notes." Price: $2.72 (14.6 oz.)
  • Nathan Pritikin Reduced Sodium Minestrone. Pritikin was famous for being among the first to promote fitness and healthy eating. Their soups are primarily fat-free and have reduced sodium, but CR says this particular flavor, while only containing 290mg of sodium, is "highly processed ... with mushy whole-wheat pasta spirals, almost tasteless mushy vegetables, and a metallic off-note." Ouch. Price: $2.25 (15 oz.)
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new bookPsych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at and on Twitter/farnoosh.
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