I’ll start by saying that I very rarely, if ever, opt for Tesco Value or St. Bernard products. I’ve suppressed the gag reflex when served a shiny roast St. Bernard chicken; shivered as I imagine its horrific life in a tight, dirty place with the walls closing in; and clamped my facial muscles as I try not to react to its astringent, watery and dry, slimy awfulness.
So when Superquinn sent me a hamper full of their new Essentials range, I was equally dubious. Essentials is their answer to Tesco Value, and the range is huge, containing your usual staples – peas, beans, milk, spaghetti, bread, fruit and veg, sugar, cheese, salt, eggs, cooking oils, tinned veg, meat and chicken, juice, flour, sugar, teabags, eggs, rice – alongside treats such as cheesecake, sponge cake, and chocolate cake. There’s also a range of non-food items, including bleach, kitchen paper, tin foil, washing up liquid, and disinfectant.
Over half the items are under €1, while many are under 50c. It’s great that Superquinn are giving people a choice. It’s certainly a welcome addition to the supermarket, making it more competitive than ever. For many people on a tight budget, Tesco Value and Superquinn Essentials are vital money savers.
There’s only one problem, of course. One glaring, obvious problem: value ranges, particularly for items such as chicken, don’t tend to be as good. I made a bolognaise using Superquinn’s meatballs – the pasta was perfectly fine, the tinned tomatoes were good, and the garlic bread was surprisingly delicious. But the meatballs had the texture and taste of cat food – and I’d know, having eaten cat food for a dare in my teens. In fairness, pre-made meatballs can be peculiar; maybe the Essentials mince is nicer. Tip: for fatty mince, boil it for a few minutes, strain, and fry. It’ll get rid of the fat without losing the flavour.
I liked the thick and creamy yogurt. The fruit was pretty good, nothing wrong with them bananas. The chocolate cake was okay, but I don’t quite get why you’d treat yourself to a cheap cake; surely it’s the whole hog or nothing. That said, it’d be easy to fob off on some kids for a birthday party.
Some other things I would go for: their milk, their sausage rolls, their sugar, their butter, their apple juice, their salt, their cling film, tin foil, bleach. And their water, if I was obsessive or mad enough to buy bottled water – surely the existence of “value” bottled water is an oxymoron.
What do you think of Superquinn Essentials and other value ranges? Do you snub your nose, or do you think they offer an important choice?