- Costco has a devoted fan base.
- People swear by the Kirkland Signature brand, which keeps prices low and quality high by cutting out the middleman in the supply chain that can often drive up costs.
- We tested five products from the Kirkland Signature brand and five comparable products from other well-known brands to see how the warehouse’s private label stacked up. Overall, we found that the Costco brand lived up to the hype.
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People love Costco for a lot of reasons. The warehouse’s in-house Kirkland Signature brand is chief among them.
The Kirkland brand carries everything from food to clothes and is practically synonymous with the warehouse store. As one Costco fanatic with a Kirkland Signature tattoo put it, “Kirkland Signature products are like the fruit of Costco.”
The Kirkland Signature brand operates similarly to the private labels of other grocery stores, like Trader Joe’s. By receiving products directly from suppliers, Costco cuts out the middlemen in the supply chain that can drive up costs. Instead, it brands products under its own Kirkland Signature label. The result is a product that is similar to a name brand, but generally a lot cheaper.
We decided to compare five Kirkland Signature products to five similar products from name brands, including peanut butter pretzels, animal crackers, popcorn, granola, and almonds. Since Costco sells items in bulk, we did not include prices in our decisions for this compassion. Rather, we mostly focused on features like the taste and nutritional value.
Overall, Kirkland Signature products beat out the name brands, with the exception of two crucial head-to-heads.
Here’s what we saw:
We started at Costco.com, where we ordered a few products from the Kirkland Signature label. The items came a few days later in large cardboard boxes.
Overall, we picked out snacks that we thought would be easy to match with popular name-brand products.
Next, we picked some similar products at a Duane Reade in Manhattan’s Financial District.
Luckily, we found products that seemed like they would be almost identical to the Kirkland products we had ordered.
With everything purchased, we were ready to get tasting.
1. PEANUT BUTTER PRETZELS — We started with one of our favourite snacks, pitting the Good Health brand against the Kirkland brand. The Kirkland Signature peanut butter pretzels naturally came in a much larger plastic container but was still a surprisingly low $US10.49.
True to its name, the Good Health brand had fewer calories per piece and seemed like the healthier choice overall.
Outside of the packaging, it was difficult to tell the two apart. But one bite made it clear which brand was the winner.
WINNER: Kirkland Signature —The Kirkland brand had a creamier peanut butter filling while the Good Health brand was distractingly salty and seemed slightly overbaked. Costco’s brand was the clear winner here.
2. ANIMAL CRACKERS — A staple in any snack lover’s pantry, animal crackers are difficult to get wrong. We picked up the Stauffer’s brand to test against the Kirkland Signature brand.
Packaging aside, it was clear from the moment we saw the crackers that this was going to be an interesting comparison.
The cookies were shaped completely different. The name brand looked like the more classic animal cracker, with clear outlines of each animal. The Kirkland brand looked more like the animal shape had been imprinted into the cracker with a press.
WINNER: Though slightly more calories than the name brand, the Kirkland Signature animal cracker won us over with its sweet vanilla taste and smooth texture. In this case, classic didn’t take the cake. And at $US11.79, the Kirkland brand was also a great value.
3. POPCORN — Next up, movie theatre-style popcorn from Kirkland Signature and Pop Secret. Naturally, the size disparity in the two packages was enormous. The Kirkland box came with a whopping 44 bags.
But when it came to individual bag size, the two brands were pretty comparable in terms of size.
After we microwaved both bags, they still maintained a similar size.
The Pop Secret bag looked like the popcorn we would actually eat in a movie theatre. The bright yellow buttery colour made us want to sit back and grab a Coke.
In contrast, the Kirkland Signature popcorn was less blatantly buttery and had a more muted flavour overall.
WINNER: Name brand — In this case, Kirkland could not compete with the classic rich favour of Pop Secret, which also had fewer calories per serving size overall.
4. GRANOLA — It was difficult to find identical granola bags to compare, but we ending up going with a bag of Nature Valley oats and honey granola and the almond granola from Kirkland Signature.
Both brands had the granola packaged in bite-sized clumps, but the Kirkland brand had smaller pieces overall.
The Nature Valley granola was a little too sweet and crunchy for our taste.
In contrast, the organic Kirkland granola was rich with different flavours. The addition of different whole grains and nuts added extra layers of flavour we never knew we needed.
WINNER: Kirkland Signature’s Nature’s Path granola was the unquestionable winner here, from ingredients to flavour.
5. ROASTED ALMONDS — Our last comparison was between Kirkland Signature’s dry roasted almonds and the classic Blue Diamond version of the same product.
Both brands were comparable in terms of nutritional facts, so it would all come down to taste.
The Kirkland brand was crunchier than the Blue Diamond brand, but the name brand had other advantages.
The Kirkland Signature brand, though crunchier, tasted somewhat dry. It also had a sour aftertaste that we didn’t enjoy.
WINNER: Name-brand — Costco’s Kirkland Signature almonds could not compete with Blue Diamond’s rich, savoury almonds, which was the clear winner here.
With the exception of its almonds and popcorn, Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand was superior to the name-brand products overall.
The low prices and high quality of the Kirkland Signature products made it clear why the brand has such a strong base of support. Turns out, the brand lives up to the hype.
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